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paulgoatallen
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JULY FEATURE #2: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Okay, as I wrote earlier, Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize winning The Road is going to be released this fall as a major motion picture starring Viggo Mortensen and being a huge fan of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, I vowed to read this book before then. 

 

And I've done it. Wow. I can see why this is such a polarizing novel – people seem to either really like it or abhor it. It's been a few days since I've finished The Road and I'm honestly still digesting it. For me, it was like reading really good, really dark poetry. McCarthy's descriptions of the wasteland that the nameless man and his son have to travel through is  just brilliant: "cauterized terrain," "cold, autistic dark," "ashen scabland".... it's actually beautiful in a macabre kind of way. I love writers who really put thought behind every single word and that is exactly what Cormac has done here – "The nights were blinding cold and casket black and the long reach of the morning had a terrible silence to it." (p. 129)

 

Aside from the narrative's terrible beauty, I also liked how Cormac never really unveiled to the reader what had exactly happened or how. Just that it did. And no names for the main characters. And no specific location markers. Brilliant. The lack of names made me identify with the male adult protagonist for some reason – he could've been me.

 

Yes, there were some gruesome images but I don't think they were in any way sensationalized – if in fact the world did end this way there surely would be cannabalism, etc. so in my mind this was extremely realistic.

 

 I loved that.

 

More on this book after I've digested it some more!

Paul 

 

 

"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
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DinosaurBess
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Re: JULY FEATURE #2: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I'm not sure about the polarizing -- I liked the book, neither hated nor loved it. But perhaps that's just because of its subject. I can't love horrifying books.

 

McCarthy's writing is fabulous, I agree. Rare is the book whose author uses such amazing literary devises to not only create vivid pictures in their readers' minds, but also to inspire emotions in their readers. I found myself not just seeing an ashy wasteland, but also feeling the hopelessness and emptiness (too much to put into suitable words, really). Has anyone read any other books that are written with improper English and grammar but are still powerful, even because of the irregularities?

 

As for never revealing things such as names and what actually caused the destruction of the world, I agree that it was best. Those were part of the past world and have no meaning, anymore. Not knowing enhances the feeling of the lost past and terrible change. (Does anyone have a better way to write that?)

 

I'll have to do some digesting, too. Thanks, Paul, for bringing this incredible book to the board!

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dhaupt
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Re: JULY FEATURE #2: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

[ Edited ]

 S*P*O*I*L*E*R

 

If it weren't for the brilliant writing of Mr. McCarthy I wouldn't have finished the book. it was an amazing look at how life should not be if there were an apocalyptic event, I hope I'm one of the first to go if that's the reality of it. I know I live with my head in the sand but I like it that way, I need the happy ending that's why I read fiction. If I wanted hard core reality I'd watch the news, or Jerry Springer ;-). Now I'm not opposed to a fair amount of dark stuff, I mean we are talking the end of the world here, but there was no light at the end of the tunnel in this novel, no good any where and it just really made me wonder would we really all turn on each other like that. It was really hard to read.

When we get to the cannibalism and how women had children for food, that was pretty much it for me but I kept reading hoping, hoping that they would find sanctuary, somewhere.

Well like they say, life's a bitch then you die!! 

 

 

Well I'll be on vacation next week and I live in the boonies where there is only dial up so I'll check back in when I get back to work on the 14th.

Every one have a safe and fun 4th!! 

Message Edited by dhaupt on 07-02-2009 04:50 PM
Message Edited by dhaupt on 07-02-2009 05:17 PM
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paulgoatallen
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Re: JULY FEATURE #2: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Dinosaur Bess and Debbie:

Okay. I've fully "digested" The Road and decided to blog about my thoughts on B&N.com's  Unabashedly-Bookish. I'd love to hear if you agree with me or not!

Paul 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As a kid growing up in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, it seemed like the end of the world was not only inevitable but imminent. The Vietnam War (and all of its related protests) was in full swing, the steaming pile of political defecation that was Watergate hit the rotating oscillator forcing Nixon’s resignation, more than 900 People's Temple followers inexplicably committed mass suicide in Jonestown, the energy crisis and economic recession were making daily existence for most an ulcer-inducing nightmare,  disco was – strangely  enough – at its height (cue the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack!), and let’s not forget the elephant in the room, the Cold War. As a kid, the specifics of these historically momentous events were mostly lost on me. (I do, however, vividly remember my attractive – and much older – next-door neighbor, Tina, frequently going braless while wearing a red, white and blue “Spirit of ‘76” t-shirt. I always thought she was making some kind of cool political statement but looking back on it now, I realize it probably had absolutely nothing to do with her opinion of government policy.)

The lack of female undergarments in my neighborhood during the Bicentennial notwithstanding, Armageddon was everywhere –  on the news, in the papers, and it inevitably became a popular motif in movies, books, and television shows. Some of my most beloved movies growing up were post-apocalyptic – Planet of the Apes (based on the Pierre Boulle’s 1963 classic La Planète des Singes), THX 1138, Damnation Alley (based on Roger Zelazny’s 1969 novel), Mad Max, and Logan’s Run, to name a few… And the books! This era was arguably one of the most prolific for landmark apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic novels and stories: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (1960), A Clockwork Orange  by Anthony Burgess (1962), "A Boy and His Dog" by Harlan Ellison (1969), Lucifer's Hammer  by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (1977),  The Stand  by Stephen King (1978), Colony  by Ben Bova (1978), the list goes on and on…

Is it any wonder that now, as a middle-aged man, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction is one of my favorite genre fiction categories? And as a longtime fan of end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it novels, I couldn’t be happier than I am in 2009: the last few years have produced a wildly unique bumper-crop of post-apocalyptic works. Victor Gischler’s sardonic Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse (2008) envisions humanity’s rise from the ashes after a confluence of disasters – a worldwide flu epidemic, an earthquake of unparalleled magnitude, a devastating terrorist attack and an ensuing world war – brings about the global destruction of civilization. And what does the remnants of humankind eventually found its new world upon? Religion? No. Government? No. Try Jack Daniels and dancing girls! And then there’s David Oppegaard’s brilliant debut novel The Suicide Collectors   (2009), which is set in a world where 90 percent of the Earth’s population has inexplicably fallen into a deadly depression and committed suicide and the few survivors are slowly succumbing to the growing darkness and killing themselves as well. (It’s a real “feel good” read...)

      :smileywink:

But, thus far, the post-apocalyptic masterwork of the 21st century – and, in my opinion, one the very best post-apocalyptic novels of all time – has to be Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006). And although this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has been out for years, I had been reluctant to read it. Numerous friends and family members have had major difficulties with this book. One family member, who reads just as much as I do, said that reading The Road made her want to slit her wrists. Another stopped reading after a particularly gruesome scene involving cannibalism. One regular to BarnesandNoble.com’s SF/Fantasy forum said simply that he abhorred it. It was comments like those that made me hesitant to pick up this obviously divisive novel. But with the much-anticipated motion picture starring Viggo Mortensen coming out this fall, curiosity got the best of me and I finally read it last week…

...and I absolutely loved it. I think that I will cherish this book until the day I die – and hopefully read it several times again before that moment comes. Reading The Road was like digesting profoundly moving, unfathomably dark poetry from a master wordsmith. McCarthy’s stark yet lyrical description of the wasteland that the nameless man and his son have to travel through was nothing short of brilliant: “cauterized terrain,” “cold, autistic dark,” “ashen scabland,” etc. And there is no wasted language in The Road. Every single word, every single image, is significant in some way. Here’s just one example: “He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.”

Granted, The Road didn’t necessarily bring anything new thematically to the apocalyptic fiction canon but what it did do was create a deeply disturbing, intensely intimate – and downright unforgettable – story not so much about survival at world’s end but of courage and hope and, most of all, the tremendous power of love. Yes, McCarthy envisions humanity at its very worst but amidst all of that darkness and depravity, there is the faintest of light – that glorious, beautiful potential inside of us all to transcend, to positively affect those around us, to fight back against adversity, to Dream. McCarthy’s nameless protagonist says it best: “You have to carry the fire… It’s inside you.”

So, with (American) society clearly still dealing with the repercussions of the Bush administration, the conflicts in the Middle East, 9/11, global warming, the automobile industry bailout, etc. it seems apparent to me that – like the '60's and '70's – we’re entering another era of stellar end-of-the-world novels. And if McCarthy’s The Road is any indication, this could be a new Golden Age of post-apocalyptic literature: except without the disco music.
"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
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Ryan_G
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Re: JULY FEATURE #2: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I just finished the book and while I want to take a day or two to really put my thoughts in order I do have a few things to say now. 

 

One I'm absolutely flabbergasted that I waited this long to read it.  I'm not sure when the last time a read a book that was written so simply but so beautifully.  There was not one wasted word in the entire book and that made it feel all the more real to me.

 

I do agree with Paul that having no names, locations, or causes behind what happened made it even better for me. It was more personal I felt like I was actually there obseving everything that happened.  It didn't feel like a book, if that makes sense.  It felt as though I was the man rather than reading about the man.

 

Thirdly I must say that I ended up coming out of this happier and more assured of my own humanity than I did going in.  The fact that a bond between a parent and a child can be so strong and surrive such horrific events made me glad to be human.  It reaffirmed for me how strong people are.

 

Those are my initial thoughts after finising the book less than ten minutes ago.  I will hopefully be able to add more later after I've "digested" fully what I've just experienced.

"I am half sick of shadows" The Lady of Shalott

http://wordsmithonia.blogspot.com
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pen21
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Re: JULY FEATURE #2: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I wasn't sure The Road was the book for me. I had heard that is was a depressing read.


I agree that it is, but it is so much more. The language was stark and blunt.
Not one name was in the book. No indication of where they were.
But anything different would have only cluttered the prose.
The father and son had such a bond. The son had such hope in spite of all the events
occuring around them. I agree that it is a book to be read many times over my life time.

 

I don't understand all the criteria for a Pulitzer book. But this book deserved it.

Humanity does have a chance.


This is a book that I recommend as a must read.

 

pen21

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Sensitivemuse
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Re: JULY FEATURE #2: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I've read this book and I recommend it to anyone who hasn't just to give it a try. It's in some parts, disturbing, but yet it's like as if the father/son bond keeps you going. I admit, yes it's bleak and depressing but if you consider what's been going on in the book you can hardly be Happy go lucky right?

 

It's true, I am still trying to figure out what happened. With descriptions he's written he does drop a few hints but you're still trying to guess what and why.

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Ryan_G
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Re: JULY FEATURE #2: The Road by Cormac McCarthy (THIS MAY CONTAIN SOILERS)

**THIS MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS** 

 

I have a massive headache right now so I'm not sure how coherent this post will be.  I went to bed thinking about the "violence" in the book last night so I wanted to get something posted before I completly lost my train of thought.

 

I think the reason why the baby on the spit scene was so effective and sticks in the mind is the simplicity of the writing.  It's very mater of fact and stark about the situation.  I think if it was done in a over the top graphic manner like "she flayed thin strips of cruchy skin off the newborn baby" i'm not sure it would have been as effective.  We are all used to graphic blood and guts in movies and books so we tend to tune out and not pay as much attention to them.  What we aren't used to anymore is clean, sterile descriptions of violence.  It's the matter of fact way that causes this to stay with you. 

 

My head is really hurting so I will end this here and see what others have to say on this.

"I am half sick of shadows" The Lady of Shalott

http://wordsmithonia.blogspot.com
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Sensitivemuse
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Re: JULY FEATURE #2: The Road by Cormac McCarthy (THIS MAY CONTAIN SOILERS)

****SPOILER ALERT*****

 

oh ew....yeah I remember that part...the one that got me was the one where they were in the house and saw those people all huddled together and the dead one on the bed with the legs cut off. Couldn't get that image out of my head for a while....

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paulgoatallen
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Re: JULY FEATURE #2: The Road by Cormac McCarthy (THIS MAY CONTAIN SOILERS)


Sensitivemuse wrote:

****SPOILER ALERT*****

 

oh ew....yeah I remember that part...the one that got me was the one where they were in the house and saw those people all huddled together and the dead one on the bed with the legs cut off. Couldn't get that image out of my head for a while....


Ryan and Sensitive:

Yes, these sequences were absolutely gruesome but I didn't feel as though they were included just for shock value. I mean, if you imagine what the world would be like if this future really did come to pass then I'd think scenes like these wouldn't be out of the ordinary... That's what really moved me – the fact that these occurances didn't horrify the man: he was aware that this went on and tried to guard his son from the reality of things....

Paul 

"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
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DSaff
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Re: The Road by Cormac McCarthy (possible spoilers)

I am one of those who didn't really like the book. I found it dark and depressing. As someone who grew up knowing where the fall-out shelters were, who had parents who had to practice the drills of getting under their desks, this book was an all too real account of what could happen. As I read The Road, I wanted to get to know the father and son. I wanted to struggle with them, to encourage them, but I never felt the connection. Instead, it was like I was simply there to observe. Some of the scenes were horrifying (baby on spit, people in basement waiting to be eaten, cannibals hunting, etc.) but protrayed what I picture it would be like if an apocalypse really happened. Chaos, depravity, degradation, hopelessness, unhappiness, despair - just a few words that seem to describe the scenes. I must say that I felt many of those emotions reading the book, and perhaps that was the author's aim.

 

Funny, this book was given to me as a Mother's Day gift - my kids are always trying to find new and different books for me - so I read it. My daughter-in-law has also read it and enjoyed it. It shows the difference in generational reactions to the books, I think. There are so many things that baby boomers remember that simply aren't part of life today; so many fears.

 

With all that said, I wanted to join this discussion to learn what I may have missed. What made people like this book? It should be interesting to find out. :smileyhappy:

 

DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
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Liago
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Re: JULY FEATURE #2: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I really like this book. We all hope that in a near world ending even humanity would band together to survive but this offers up that alternate viewpoint, one we may be scared to look at eachother and admit. But I also find hope in it, bonds still being formed, those that know no other world than this still making better choices. I found the writting to be beautifly morbid, to mean while what is being described is a dark depressing landscape the writting vividly brought this to life for me.

 

I will be interested to see if the movie can capture the raw emotion of the story, as well as how well the boy will be portrayed. From the trailer I wonder how much of the story will be focused on the flashback of the mother. But with big names and good actors it couldbe good.

 

http://www.apple.com/trailers/weinstein/theroad/

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paulgoatallen
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Re: The Road by Cormac McCarthy (possible spoilers)


DSaff wrote:

...I wanted to join this discussion to learn what I may have missed. What made people like this book? It should be interesting to find out. :smileyhappy:

 


Donna:

I completely respect your opinion – most of the people I know who have read The Road have similar feelings. What made me like this book? As I stated in my blog, it's the underpinnings of it all – the love and courage and hope that drive the man and his son on. After everything they've been though, after everything they've seen, they still push on towards that faintest of light... For me, it's the embodiment of everything that is good about being "human" – interestingly enough, in a book about everything that is bad about being human...

Paul 

"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
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DSaff
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Re: The Road by Cormac McCarthy (possible spoilers)

[ Edited ]

I totally agree with you on this Paul. The only thing that kept me reading through some of the rough spots, was the hope the father had for his son. This was absolute and complete love in its purest form. This man gave his life to try to spare his son the horrors some had created in this new land. BTW, your blog was well-done and really brought me here. :smileyhappy:

 


paulgoatallen wrote:

DSaff wrote:

...I wanted to join this discussion to learn what I may have missed. What made people like this book? It should be interesting to find out. :smileyhappy:

 


Donna:

I completely respect your opinion – most of the people I know who have read The Road have similar feelings. What made me like this book? As I stated in my blog, it's the underpinnings of it all – the love and courage and hope that drive the man and his son on. After everything they've been though, after everything they've seen, they still push on towards that faintest of light... For me, it's the embodiment of everything that is good about being "human" – interestingly enough, in a book about everything that is bad about being human...

Paul 


 

Message Edited by DSaff on 07-12-2009 04:45 PM
DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
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dhaupt
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Re: The Road by Cormac McCarthy (possible spoilers)

Paul, It was a great article in Unabashedly and I can see your point, but I still hated all the inhumanity in the book and I found very little light.
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Ryan_G
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Re: The Road by Cormac McCarthy (possible spoilers)

I think it's the inhumanity that showcases the humanity and love between this father and son.  Without the inhumanity to contrast against, this beautifuly written story about the love between a father and son would not have been as effective.  For me this story was more about the relationship between the father and son as opposed to a story about post apocalypse times.  The setting of the book is what brings forth the beauty and love of this bond.

dhaupt wrote:
Paul, It was a great article in Unabashedly and I can see your point, but I still hated all the inhumanity in the book and I found very little light.

 

"I am half sick of shadows" The Lady of Shalott

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Liago
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Re: The Road by Cormac McCarthy (possible spoilers)

I agree completely, McCarthy is able to show the best and worst humanity has to offer shocking you with both sides of the coin.
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dhaupt
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Re: The Road by Cormac McCarthy (possible spoilers)


Ryan_G wrote:
I think it's the inhumanity that showcases the humanity and love between this father and son.  Without the inhumanity to contrast against, this beautifuly written story about the love between a father and son would not have been as effective.  For me this story was more about the relationship between the father and son as opposed to a story about post apocalypse times.  The setting of the book is what brings forth the beauty and love of this bond.

dhaupt wrote:
Paul, It was a great article in Unabashedly and I can see your point, but I still hated all the inhumanity in the book and I found very little light.

 


Very true Ryan. It was a great bond between father and son, but I still hated it.

 

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pen21
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Re: JULY FEATURE #2: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The one thing I have been wondering is how can the movie portray the blunt, stark style that the author used in this book. Like I said in my post I wasn't sure about reading this book. The book impressed my very much. But I will approach the movie in the same way. I would not like the movie if it concentrates on the horrors. I would want the movie to be about the hope for humanity. The bond between the father and the son is the hope for humanity. For me the book was able to ride that line of describing the horrors of the world but showing how the bond between father and son was still strong and sure.

 

What do others think about how the movie will portray this book?

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paulgoatallen
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Re: JULY FEATURE #2: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

pen21:

I'm very curious to see the movie – and what changes are  from the book. Whatever the alterations are, it's going to be dark – the trailers that I've seen are all in shades of gray.... no color at all. I can't wait!

Paul 

"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky