Reading McCarthy's prose is like entering some strange and alien world. The familiar distorts and becomes oddly foregrounded. Words you've never seenReading McCarthy's prose is like entering some strange and alien world. The familiar distorts and becomes oddly foregrounded. Words you've never seen and may never see again blend into a stark but rich textual background (many not to be found in standard dictionaries, either: 'gryke', for example).
The Road, as told by McCarthy, therefore becomes something more than it's plot, where the world you know is transformed into something far bleaker, more sinister, and for all of that more hopeful and transcendant than just about any of the other novels thusfar written one could classify as 'apocalyptic'.
The novel details the day-to-day survival of a Man and a Boy (father and son, never otherwise named) in an Earth fallen to ruin through some unspecified cataclysm (nuclear war? comet?). There is no sunlight, so nothing grows. No plants, no animals. Everything is covered in ash. Subsistence is gained primarily by scrounging canned goods. The only other alternative is cannibalism, and there are many roving and savage bands of cannibals roaming the countryside which the Man and the Boy take great pains to evade. Some of the images evoked during key encounters with these tribes will forever be seared into my mind and are not for the faint of heart.
How quickly, McCarthy seems to be saying, men can descend into butchery. How near we are to it. And yet, in the face of near hopelessness, the man and the boy plod on in search of something better. This strain of optimism keeps the novel from collapsing under the weight of its unrelenting bleakness. As when he says: "...the breath of God was his breath yet though it pass from man to man through all of time." Such a statement implies that man carries within him something eternal and cosmic, part of something greater as described in the closing paragraph:
"Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not to be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery."...more
Intentionally or not, King wrote a philosphical book disguised as a pulp horror novel. The theme(explored and exploited)of sustaining life at whateverIntentionally or not, King wrote a philosphical book disguised as a pulp horror novel. The theme(explored and exploited)of sustaining life at whatever cost for the sake of an individual's emotional (and ultimately selfish) needs has a relevance that extends deeply into our modern life-extending purlieu and beyond (see Ray Kurzweil). In a world that promises virtual simulacrums of our deceased and virtual memory saved for posterity, how do we cope with the changing forms of rememberance and identity? How far do we go and and what cost?...more
Stephen King at his most unpretentious and least imaginative. The ending is weird and a bit of a kicker...it gave me enough pause to merit a second stStephen King at his most unpretentious and least imaginative. The ending is weird and a bit of a kicker...it gave me enough pause to merit a second star. But still. King always was hit or miss--this is a miss....more