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Paul_Hochman
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First Impressions

McCarthy not only sets up an absolutely unique world in the very first pages, but also establishes the voice of the book. What were your first impressions of The Road upon opening the book?
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Re: First Impressions

[ Edited ]
I was peeking through it last night and I was very surprised to see that McCarthy wrote The Road in a very modernist style - minimal punctuation, no quotations or apostrophes, etc - which reminded me instantly of Faulkner, but the structure of the pararaphs and narrative also reminded me of Hemingway. Very coincidental since I'm reading Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! for my Modern American Lit class and some Hemingway short stories on the side. :smileyvery-happy:

The style fits so well with the apocalyptic landscape - very bare bones, only using what is at minimum needed to tell a story.



PaulH wrote:
McCarthy not only sets up an absolutely unique world in the very first pages, but also establishes the voice of the book. What were your first impressions of The Road upon opening the book?

Message Edited by pedsphleb on 03-29-200701:27 PM

Melissa W.
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: First Impressions

True. McCarthy is often compared to Faulkner. Do you find the lack of punctuation to be troublesome? It can take some getting used to, but in my opinion, its overall sparse effect aids the story.
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Re: First Impressions

It depends on the style. The Gertrude Stein version of "no punctuation" makes my head hurt, but I don't have too much trouble with Faulkner and Joyce (I have more trouble with narrative twists and turns in Faulkner, requiring requent backing-up). So I'm thinking the McCarthy will be enjoyable.



PaulH wrote:
True. McCarthy is often compared to Faulkner. Do you find the lack of punctuation to be troublesome? It can take some getting used to, but in my opinion, its overall sparse effect aids the story.


Melissa W.
I read and knit and dance. Compulsively feel yarn. Consume books. Darn tights. Drink too much caffiene. All that good stuff.
balletbookworm.blogspot.com
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Bill_T
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Re: First Impressions

[ Edited ]
I'm more used to this quirk of style than I once was (it took me a couple of tries to get going with Blook Meridian) -- I guess now I know what to expect. But it still requires me to get into "McCarthy" mode when I begin.

For me a big adjustment was the fact that the dialog is never set apart with quotation marks. It's a simple thing, but it has a big effect.

Combined with the minimal punctuation, it sort of makes the whole book seem...quieter. Like the author isn't adding anything for emphasis that he doesn't have to.

Message Edited by Bill_T on 03-29-2007 04:40 PM

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bentley
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Re: First Impressions (Possible Spoiler - Pages 1 - 36)

[ Edited ]
I was struck with how similar McCarthy's style is to Faulkner. (I know others have spoken about this as well). There is a little bit of the stream of consciousness in his writing style too (like Joyce). I did not see the Hemingway style as much but maybe I just missed that comparison. Every word counts and is meant to be powerful. Perhaps this is the comparison being made to Hemingway.

Being so similar to Faulkner, yet a contemporary writer, may have been another reason Oprah chose this book. She was very enamored with Faulkner and featured multiple Faulkner books awhile ago. I also thought it was interesting that The Orchard Keeper was published by Random House; and that McCarthy’s editor there was Albert Erskine. Albert Erskine I learned was also William Faulkner’s editor for a very long time. Not that the connection couldn't have just ended there.

I have noticed that there are no chapters just one continuous story. The mood is as dark and cold and gray as the landscape that is being described. The only color and passion and warmth seems to be the love of the father and son.

Some of the quotes that moved me or I found most beautiful or like the first one the most chilling were the following:

Page Three:
"When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world"

Page Four:
"Barren, silent, godless."

Page Five:

"He knew only that his child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke."

Page Twelve:

"You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget."

Somehow McCarthy seems to make you feel like you are on the road with the father and son seeing everything through their eyes and experiencing a chill right down your spine. His imagery is beautiful though frightening. This is not a warm feeling type of book so far..you feel as gray and as dark and as cold as the landscape..the only true warmth is the love of the father and son and their devotion to each other. I loved the coca cola section.

I guess these are my first impressions since I am just starting out with the book and have not read anything else by McCarthy.

PS: Some folks might be interested in this url:
http://www.cormacmccarthy.com/Biography.htm

Message Edited by bentley on 03-30-200704:20 PM

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Paul_Hochman
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Re: First Impressions (Possible Spoiler - Pages 1 - 36)

Excellent post here, Bentley. The connection between Faulkner and McCarthy's editor is fascinating. As you delve further into McCarthy's other works, I'm sure you'll see more and more of an influence from Faulkner.
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Re: First Impressions (Possible Spoiler - Pages 1 - 36)

Interesting thoughts. I have to respectfully disagree though, with the statement that, "There is a little bit of the stream of consciousness . . . " Joyce analogy.

To the contrary, McCarthy gives us the words that the man and the boy say to each other, and the reader is left to ponder the thoughts under the words. With few exception, there is very little opportunity to enter the consciousness of the man or certainly of the boy. When we do gain entry, we get short, to-the-point, succinct snippets, but no verbose, long sentence "streaming" like listening to Leopold Bloom's thoughts.

I believe that the conversation style, short, no unnecessary words, is beautifully congruent to the thinking method of a child, or to the conversation style that a man and a child might have. It makes the reading almost effortless despite the lack of quotes and punctuation. It makes the spoken word clean and uncluttered, like the thoghts of a child.

Almost painfully frightening and sad to read, the novel is gorgeous.

SVD
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: First Impressions (Possible Spoiler - Pages 1 - 36)



svd wrote:
Interesting thoughts. I have to respectfully disagree though, with the statement that, "There is a little bit of the stream of consciousness . . . " Joyce analogy.

To the contrary, McCarthy gives us the words that the man and the boy say to each other, and the reader is left to ponder the thoughts under the words. With few exception, there is very little opportunity to enter the consciousness of the man or certainly of the boy. When we do gain entry, we get short, to-the-point, succinct snippets, but no verbose, long sentence "streaming" like listening to Leopold Bloom's thoughts.

I believe that the conversation style, short, no unnecessary words, is beautifully congruent to the thinking method of a child, or to the conversation style that a man and a child might have. It makes the reading almost effortless despite the lack of quotes and punctuation. It makes the spoken word clean and uncluttered, like the thoghts of a child.

Almost painfully frightening and sad to read, the novel is gorgeous.

SVD




Thanks for sharing your thoughts, svd. I agree that the "succinct" dialogue between the father and son limits our "opportunity to enter the consciousness of the man or certainly of the boy", but I think we can get closer to both characters by observing their actions. The man's gift of the Coca Cola (Pg. 20) to his son certainly illustrates his feelings of love. Are there other actions in the early part of the novel that can define the motivation and character of both the father and son?
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bentley
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Re: First Impressions (Possible Spoiler - Pages 1 - 36)

Regarding Stream of Consciousness:

There are many instances where the father contemplates and thinks to himself and those thoughts are part of this novel and not spoken.

William Faulkner was also famous for the use of stream of consciousness which I take as being "a literary technique which seeks to portray an individual's point of view by giving the written equivalent of the character's thought processes." That is definately part of this novel. James Joyce also used this technique but in a somewhat different style.

Cormac McCarthy definately is reminscent of William Faulkner and the use of various literary techniques that Faulkner was also famous for using. I see many instances where we enter the consciousness of the father. Of course, I respect everyone's opinions on the above.

I loved on page 54 (also early in the novel) when the father looked at his sleeping son..."So, he whispered to the sleeping boy. I have you."
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Re: First Impressions (Possible Spoiler - Pages 1 - 36)



bentley wrote:
Regarding Stream of Consciousness:

There are many instances where the father contemplates and thinks to himself and those thoughts are part of this novel and not spoken.

William Faulkner was also famous for the use of stream of consciousness which I take as being "a literary technique which seeks to portray an individual's point of view by giving the written equivalent of the character's thought processes." That is definately part of this novel. James Joyce also used this technique but in a somewhat different style.

Cormac McCarthy definately is reminscent of William Faulkner and the use of various literary techniques that Faulkner was also famous for using. I see many instances where we enter the consciousness of the father. Of course, I respect everyone's opinions on the above.

I loved on page 54 (also early in the novel) when the father looked at his sleeping son..."So, he whispered to the sleeping boy. I have you."




I assume you're reading the paperback, right, Bentley? I've been referencing the hardcover, which obviously must be paginated differently. Where about in the frame of the story is the line you referenced?
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bentley
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Re: First Impressions (Possible Spoiler - Pages 1 - 36)


PaulH wrote:


bentley wrote:
Regarding Stream of Consciousness:

There are many instances where the father contemplates and thinks to himself and those thoughts are part of this novel and not spoken.

William Faulkner was also famous for the use of stream of consciousness which I take as being "a literary technique which seeks to portray an individual's point of view by giving the written equivalent of the character's thought processes." That is definately part of this novel. James Joyce also used this technique but in a somewhat different style.

Cormac McCarthy definately is reminscent of William Faulkner and the use of various literary techniques that Faulkner was also famous for using. I see many instances where we enter the consciousness of the father. Of course, I respect everyone's opinions on the above.

I loved on page 54 (also early in the novel) when the father looked at his sleeping son..."So, he whispered to the sleeping boy. I have you."




I assume you're reading the paperback, right, Bentley? I've been referencing the hardcover, which obviously must be paginated differently. Where about in the frame of the story is the line you referenced?




Yes it is the Barnes and Noble paperback version with Oprah's book club oval on the cover.

It is two (2) pages after the notable paragraph which begins:

"The clocks stopped at 1:17. A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions."

The exact paragraph begins two pages later as: "No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later."
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Re: First Impressions (Possible Spoiler - Pages 1 - 36)



bentley wrote:

PaulH wrote:


bentley wrote:
Regarding Stream of Consciousness:

There are many instances where the father contemplates and thinks to himself and those thoughts are part of this novel and not spoken.

William Faulkner was also famous for the use of stream of consciousness which I take as being "a literary technique which seeks to portray an individual's point of view by giving the written equivalent of the character's thought processes." That is definately part of this novel. James Joyce also used this technique but in a somewhat different style.

Cormac McCarthy definately is reminscent of William Faulkner and the use of various literary techniques that Faulkner was also famous for using. I see many instances where we enter the consciousness of the father. Of course, I respect everyone's opinions on the above.

I loved on page 54 (also early in the novel) when the father looked at his sleeping son..."So, he whispered to the sleeping boy. I have you."




I assume you're reading the paperback, right, Bentley? I've been referencing the hardcover, which obviously must be paginated differently. Where about in the frame of the story is the line you referenced?




Yes it is the Barnes and Noble paperback version with Oprah's book club oval on the cover.

It is two (2) pages after the notable paragraph which begins:

"The clocks stopped at 1:17. A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions."

The exact paragraph begins two pages later as: "No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later."





Right. Found it. That paragraph also has the beautifully painful line, "Their birth in grief and ashes" within it. This brings to mind the legend of the phoenix, but to me it symbolizes the "birth" of the father and son's relationship. Do you interpret it that way or am I stretching?
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bentley
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Re: First Impressions (Possible Spoiler - Pages 1 - 36)

PaulH wrote:







Right. Found it. That paragraph also has the beautifully painful line, "Their birth in grief and ashes" within it. This brings to mind the legend of the phoenix, but to me it symbolizes the "birth" of the father and son's relationship. Do you interpret it that way or am I stretching?




Response:

I never had made that connection but after thinking about it...it is an excellent one which certainly fits. It could mean the birth of the father and son's relationship or the fact that the son was born after the world's catastrophe and is like the baby phoenix rising from the ashes as hope for mankind. But then again...maybe we are both stretching it but I guess that is the fun in reading a novel.

One other thing worth discussing in the same vein is the boy's and father's symbolism in their "carrying the fire". I think this symbolism is similar. What is your take on that? The boy seems to think that they are the good guys because they carry the fire, etc. Maybe the fire of their soul and spirit and the capacity to love has not been diminished and has not been extinguished??
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Re: First Impressions (Possible Spoiler - Pages 1 - 36)



PaulH wrote:


bentley wrote:

PaulH wrote:


bentley wrote:
Regarding Stream of Consciousness:

There are many instances where the father contemplates and thinks to himself and those thoughts are part of this novel and not spoken.

William Faulkner was also famous for the use of stream of consciousness which I take as being "a literary technique which seeks to portray an individual's point of view by giving the written equivalent of the character's thought processes." That is definately part of this novel. James Joyce also used this technique but in a somewhat different style.

Cormac McCarthy definately is reminscent of William Faulkner and the use of various literary techniques that Faulkner was also famous for using. I see many instances where we enter the consciousness of the father. Of course, I respect everyone's opinions on the above.

I loved on page 54 (also early in the novel) when the father looked at his sleeping son..."So, he whispered to the sleeping boy. I have you."




I assume you're reading the paperback, right, Bentley? I've been referencing the hardcover, which obviously must be paginated differently. Where about in the frame of the story is the line you referenced?




Yes it is the Barnes and Noble paperback version with Oprah's book club oval on the cover.

It is two (2) pages after the notable paragraph which begins:

"The clocks stopped at 1:17. A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions."

The exact paragraph begins two pages later as: "No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later."





Right. Found it. That paragraph also has the beautifully painful line, "Their birth in grief and ashes" within it. This brings to mind the legend of the phoenix, but to me it symbolizes the "birth" of the father and son's relationship. Do you interpret it that way or am I stretching?


To Bentley, regarding again "stream of consciousness" at the risk of beating this one to death!

Point well taken, and I will concede that there are instances when the text itself is the written words of the father's thoughts.

I believe, though, that when the term "stream of consciousness" is commonly used, it usually implies a certain rambling. It certainly does for Joyce. For Faulkner I'm admittedly far less familiar.

In any case, I do respect and enjoy reading your insight.


SVD
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: First Impressions (Possible Spoiler - Pages 1 - 36)

[ Edited ]

bentley wrote:
PaulH wrote:







Right. Found it. That paragraph also has the beautifully painful line, "Their birth in grief and ashes" within it. This brings to mind the legend of the phoenix, but to me it symbolizes the "birth" of the father and son's relationship. Do you interpret it that way or am I stretching?




Response:

I never had made that connection but after thinking about it...it is an excellent one which certainly fits. It could mean the birth of the father and son's relationship or the fact that the son was born after the world's catastrophe and is like the baby phoenix rising from the ashes as hope for mankind. But then again...maybe we are both stretching it but I guess that is the fun in reading a novel.

One other thing worth discussing in the same vein is the boy's and father's symbolism in their "carrying the fire". I think this symbolism is similar. What is your take on that? The boy seems to think that they are the good guys because they carry the fire, etc. Maybe the fire of their soul and spirit and the capacity to love has not been diminished and has not been extinguished??




the symbolism of "carrying the fire" is definitely worth exploring and merits it's own thread, Bentley.

Message Edited by PaulH on 04-03-200709:30 AM

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bentley
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Re: First Impressions (Possible Spoiler - Pages 1 - 36)



To Bentley, regarding again "stream of consciousness" at the risk of beating this one to death!

Point well taken, and I will concede that there are instances when the text itself is the written words of the father's thoughts.

I believe, though, that when the term "stream of consciousness" is commonly used, it usually implies a certain rambling. It certainly does for Joyce. For Faulkner I'm admittedly far less familiar.

In any case, I do respect and enjoy reading your insight.


SVD



SVD, of course you are correct. I was the one who mentioned Joyce in the same line as stream of consciousness and should have said Faulkner even though both used that technique, but differently. I also enjoy the discussions as well and enjoyed your comment because it made me think about the literary technique in a different way. What is your take on some of the symbolism so far? And please keep in mind that this is the very first book that I have ever read by McCarthy so I am very new to his writing and am "definitely" not an old fan of his. However, I feel that he is a brilliant writer after reading this book though the book made me feel out of sorts and has challenged my mental status quo about mankind.
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Re: First Impressions (Possible Spoiler - Pages 1 - 36)

Bentley,

This is my first McCarthy novel as well. After reading The Road, I too am highly motivated to read at least one of his earlier works. To say that I was impressed with his writing would be a gross understatement. I couldn't put the book down while I was reading it, and I can't stop thinking about it now. The writing style, the story, and the imagery are so very powerful. In fact, I woke my wife up Sunday at 1:00 am in bed sobbing loudly as I read the final scene (I don't usually cry like that!)

More specifically, I admit that I didn't think of the Phoenix allusion when I read the passage, but now that the moderator has raised the issue, it seems almost too obvious to argue! I agree, then, that the arguable point is in fact, "What or who was born?" I agree that one possibilty is the relationship itself, as the moderator has suggested. I think, though, that it is far more romantic to believe that it was the boy himself that was born of the ashes, more so than the relationsip between the father and the boy. The boy's thoughts and motivations seem worthy of creating a new life, or allowing life to be reborn. He is genuinely good, and genuinely giving. He desires to share his food with others, and to help others. In doing so, he is light, or fire against the cold and gray background.

Regarding, "Carrying the fire." Throughout the story, the presence of fire is more than bright and warming, but also life enabling, and comforting to others. So, if the boy carries the fire, then he too is enabled to sustain life and warm others. On a less obvious level, here again the Phoenix allusion might be hitting us over the head.

McCarthy also reminds us on so many occasions that a fire takes work to build, and it is delicate, and it goes out easily, and it needs to be re-kindled. Isn't this like the boy?

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER:
In the end, the boy proves himself to be "fire". He is selfless and warms others and wants to sustain life. He selflessly leaves blankets over his father's body to warm it. He desires life and energy by willingly cooperating with the man who finds him, and trusting him.

svd
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bentley
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Re: First Impressions (Do not read this response if you have not read novel) Spoiler


svd wrote:
Bentley,

This is my first McCarthy novel as well. After reading The Road, I too am highly motivated to read at least one of his earlier works. To say that I was impressed with his writing would be a gross understatement. I couldn't put the book down while I was reading it, and I can't stop thinking about it now. The writing style, the story, and the imagery are so very powerful. In fact, I woke my wife up Sunday at 1:00 am in bed sobbing loudly as I read the final scene (I don't usually cry like that!)

More specifically, I admit that I didn't think of the Phoenix allusion when I read the passage, but now that the moderator has raised the issue, it seems almost too obvious to argue! I agree, then, that the arguable point is in fact, "What or who was born?" I agree that one possibility is the relationship itself, as the moderator has suggested. I think, though, that it is far more romantic to believe that it was the boy himself that was born of the ashes, more so than the relationship between the father and the boy. The boy's thoughts and motivations seem worthy of creating a new life, or allowing life to be reborn. He is genuinely good, and genuinely giving. He desires to share his food with others, and to help others. In doing so, he is light, or fire against the cold and gray background.

Regarding, "Carrying the fire." Throughout the story, the presence of fire is more than bright and warming, but also life enabling, and comforting to others. So, if the boy carries the fire, then he too is enabled to sustain life and warm others. On a less obvious level, here again the Phoenix allusion might be hitting us over the head.

McCarthy also reminds us on so many occasions that a fire takes work to build, and it is delicate, and it goes out easily, and it needs to be re-kindled. Isn't this like the boy?

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER:
In the end, the boy proves himself to be "fire". He is selfless and warms others and wants to sustain life. He selflessly leaves blankets over his father's body to warm it. He desires life and energy by willingly cooperating with the man who finds him, and trusting him.

svd




If you have not read the book please do not read this response.
SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER:

Hello Steve (svd),

I enjoyed reading your comments and I wouldn't feel bad about what you experienced while reading The Road. I have been out of sorts since I started and completed reading it. I think we all have a mental status quo as it relates to the world and mankind. We believe in the continuum of life and all that IT entails. We believe in a future for our children and a tomorrow. The Road changed our way of thinking and got us out of the groove. And the boy that the son so desperately wants to find is found and that gives the boy hope as well. What is really nice is that he trusts the man at the end and the man proves to be trustworthy and leaves the blanket with the father. And the new family from the sound of it still has some spiritual understanding and beliefs based upon discussions that the new mother figure has with the boy. The boy was indeed the lucky one like the father believed. Yet survival is still going to be an uphill battle..yet the spirit of the soul survived in the little boy and the others he found or who found him.
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Re: First Impressions

I also was reminded of Hemingway when I started reading the book. It brought back memories of "A Farewell to Arms."


I was peeking through it last night and I was very surprised to see that McCarthy wrote The Road in a very modernist style - minimal punctuation, no quotations or apostrophes, etc - which reminded me instantly of Faulkner, but the structure of the pararaphs and narrative also reminded me of Hemingway. Very coincidental since I'm reading Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! for my Modern American Lit class and some Hemingway short stories on the side.
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