Saturday, February 13, 2010

(Book #6) Cormac McCarthy - The Road

'The Road', by Cormac McCarthy, has been on my reading list for a while now, probably since winning the Pulitzer Prize a few years back. It intrigued me that a tale of a post-apocalyptic world would be hailed as an award-winning piece of literature, as it seems like a genre that is often formulaic and overused. Now, I have never read anything by McCarthy before, so I don't exactly have his other works to compare this one to, and perhaps that’s OK. I was a little surprised by the writing style itself, which I am told is usual McCarthy (but please correct me if I am wrong!), which was very simple and almost overly careful in the writing, leant to the story itself, a tale of a man and his young son struggling for survival in a desolate world.

The book really focused on the story of the journey of these two nameless characters through their world, and left much of the context left up to the imagination. What happened to this world was never outright explained, but simply implied. We are left to imagine possible explanations for much of what is happening, but again we can infer quite a lot from what little there is there as well as projecting onto the characters from what we as a reader know of human nature.

The title 'The Road' are two words that follow you through the entire book, and they present every page or two and carry with them the weight of the story. The Road is the journey that we are following but the destination, if there is one, is not clear. It is the hope of the characters, that somewhere down the line will be rest without paranoia, but it is also the source of the fear itself. When I finished the book, I couldn't help comparing it to Frodo and Sam stumbling through Mordor in 'The Lord of the Rings', only those characters had a very defined destination and goal, whereas these characters are living only for their own survival through the expanse of desolation.

This story is as bleak as the world in which it takes place, but through the subtleties of metaphor and because of our deep seeded hope, we are compelled to keep turning the pages. For me, it wasn't until the last few pages when the ideas, themes and tropes all fell into place and tied the story up beautifully, if beauty can indeed be found in such a story.

I would like to note that this was quite the remove from the post-apocalytic world of The Stand that I read earlier. In that book, everything is explained in excruciating detail, what the characters are thinking and the history and story of everything that is encountered, whereas this book was very focused on the characters and their deep personal plight and struggle just living day to day. How does a family survive when there is literally almost nothing left and how do you keep your humanity in that struggle?

In December the movie adaptation of this book came out, and after reading this, I can't honestly say that I have much interest in seeing it. This is not to say that the story was not worth reading, it very much was, but the subtlety in the story is less about the events that occur and more about the moments of human nature that are shared between the father and his son. A lot of that might be extremely difficult to capture potently in a film without adding a lot of unnecessary filler. But perhaps someday I'll have a watch just to compare in detail.

Until next week…

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