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"The Road", by Cormac McCarthy

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 9:50 pm
by Shelley
Well, Ken, I took your advice and picked up this light-hearted romp by the same author who brought us, among other fluff, "No Country for Old Men".

No doubt, the guy can write: beautiful imagery, unusual words (some of them made-up, I bet), moods conjured . . . But what horrible imagery; what a bleak mood. Once you realize just how bad an encounter with others can be, your fear for the father and son increases more and more. You realize how hopeless it all is, and think it just cannot possibly end well.

By the way, why do you think he leaves out the apostrophe in all the contractions formed with "not" (didnt, wouldnt, wont, isnt, etc.) and kept the apostrophe in for everything else (they'd, we'll, that's, etc.)? Is it a british english thing?

I read this in a day -- there is a lot of one-word dialogue, so you get to turn the pages really fast. I placed it geographically along the Appalachian Trail and the Smokey Mountains by some hunch and, although McCarthy describes the road's features with map-like precision -- every bridge, river, wood, city is noted, he gives few clues as to the location. Even knowing the protagonists are traveling south and descriptions of changing (now dead) foliage don't help. They pass a billboard that says "See Rock City", so a quick google confirms my hunch, but really -- it could be anywhere. Later he mentions carcasses of magnolia trees which further confirms my hunch, but I still wondered. Toward the end, I thought they were in California. That was frustrating, but didn't detract from the story at all. To further confuse me, a lot of what little food they had came out of "tins" instead of "cans" and I therefore began to believe the novel was taking place in the U.K. If "Rock City" is supposed to be the one in Tennessee, USA then using the word "tin" is a mistake (I think). Don't get me wrong, though: I was not obsessing on location all the time.

When I saw "Road Warrior", I had to leave the movie theater in the middle because I was too upset by the future world it depicted. "The Road" paints the same ghastly future in much more realistic terms. This book is sure to become a movie, but I bet the book's already better.

Re: "The Road", by Cormac McCarthy

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 11:08 pm
by russcable
Shelley wrote:Is it a british english thing?
Cormac McCarthy was born in Rhode Island and raised in Tennessee. I haven't read the book, but I found an excerpt on the web and he switches from tin to can in the same sentence and several times over a few paragraphs which just seems very odd to me.

Re: "The Road", by Cormac McCarthy

Posted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 12:10 am
by Shelley
Thanks russcable -- that answers the location question clearly. I don't know anything about McCarthy -- even forgot to read the bio on the book jacket. I've already returned the book to the library so can't explore his using "tin" and "can" interchangeably right now.
Along the same pre- / post-apocalyptic themes, "World War Z" provides a less well-written but pretty fun read about surviving in a living nightmare. "The Road" is more plausible fiction, but "World War Z" has more action.
I have to admit, though, the more best-sellers I read, the more I hesitate to waste my time.

Ok, I read the Wikipedia articles about Cormac (Charles) McCarthy and his books. Didn't realize he won a Pulitzer for "The Road". I probably should not have compared his novel to "World War Z" (Max Brooks) -- they are really not the same type of story. I'll read a best-seller if it has won a prize: that's usually a pretty good recommendation. Sometimes, though, I'll pick up something just to see what all the fuss is about, and I'll finish it wondering what all the fuss is about. It's disappointing. Fortunately, they are often short. Maybe that's why so many people buy them!

Re: "The Road", by Cormac McCarthy

Posted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 1:10 am
by gdwdwrkr
Shelley, have you read Liberal Fascism? It's a best-seller and I didn't think it was a waste of time.

Re: "The Road", by Cormac McCarthy

Posted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 8:55 am
by Tony Farg
"Is it a british english thing?"

Not in my view...just "style" I think

Re: "The Road", by Cormac McCarthy

Posted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 7:08 am
by Ken Greenwald
Shelley, I assiduously avoid reading books and seeing movies with subject matter that is overly down or violent. I guess I'd rather be laughing or enjoyable engrossed than being whacked in the gut in my leisure time, and so I normally avoid books like The Road. In this instance my book group made me read it so I had no choice, and it took me about a week or so to recover from it. (>:)

So, since you responded to my negative recommendation, let me provide you with this positive one. Once in a while I am forced to read something on the emotionally draining side - my book group again - which turns out to be worth it. And such was the case with A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (author of The Kite Runner, which I haven't read but now plan to). It's a magnificent, beautifully crafted story. In, fact I would say that it is the finest novel that I have read in years. I just finished reading it and am also in recovery, as I was with that damn The Road, but this time I feel that this emotionally draining material was well worth the journey. I learned of the life, the good and the ugly (with a lot of ugly) that people have had to endure in a country (Afghanistan) that I know very little about. It was informative. It was sad. But it was beautiful. Try it. You'll like it!

I also read McCarthy's earlier book All the Pretty Horses, the tale of the adventures of a couple of Texas teenagers who travel on horseback down into Mexico. It was just a good story, well told, and involved nothing of the pain we were dealt in The Road and, from what I here, also in No Country for Old men. This book is the first in his 'Border Trilogy' and I meant to read the other two, but never got around to it (but think I will). Cormac McCarthy is a fine storyteller and when his subject matter doesn't get too dark, I like what he has to say.

Ken - March 19, 2008