Keely's Reviews > The Road

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
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Sep 18, 11

bookshelves: novel, fiction, reviewed, post-apocalyptic, america
Recommended to Keely by: Mother
Read in May, 2008

The Road is unsteady and repetitive—now aping Melville, now Hemingway—but it is less a seamless blend than a reanimated corpse: sewn together from dead parts into a lumbering, incongruous whole, then jolted to ignoble half-life by McCarthy’s grand reputation with Hollywood Filmmakers and incestuous award committees.

In 1996, NYU Physics Professor Alan Sokal submitted a paper for publication to several scientific journals. He made sure it was so complex and full of the latest jargon terms that the average person wouldn't be able to make heads or tails of it. He also wrote its conclusion so it would deliberately flatter the preconceptions of the journals he submitted it to. As he predicted, it was accepted and published, despite the fact that it was all complete nonsense.

The Sokal Affair showed the utter incompetence of the people trusted to judge work for publication. They were unable to recognize good (or bad) arguments and were mostly motivated by politics. The accolades showered upon works like The Road have convinced me that the judges of literature are just as incompetent (and I’m not the only one who thinks so). I don't imagine that McCarthy did this purposefully, like Sokal, but that he writes in the ostentatiously empty style which some judges of literature find safe and convenient to praise.

Many have lauded McCarthy’s straightforward style, and though I am not the most devoted fan of Hemingway, I can admire the precision and economy of a deliberate, economical use of words. Yet that was not what I got from The Road:
"He took out the plastic bottle of water and unscrewed the cap and held it out and the boy came and took it and stood drinking. He lowered the bottle and got his breath and he sat in the road and crossed his legs and drank again. Then he handed the bottle back and the man drank and screwed the cap back on and rummaged through the pack. The ate a can of white beans, passing it between them, and he threw the empty tin into the woods.

Then they set out down the road again."

Simple? Yes. But precise and purposeful? Certainly not. Most of The Road is as elegant as a laundry list (if not as well punctuated). Compiling a long and redundant series of unnecessary actions and descriptions does not make a work straightforward, it makes it needlessly complicated.

I know we're supposed to find this simplicity profound--that old postmodern game of defamiliarization, trying to make the old seem new, to show the importance of everyday events--but none of it ever manages to seem important, because McCarthy isn't actually changing the context, he's just restating. There is no personality in it, no revealing of the characters, and no relationship to the plot.

Perhaps it is meant to show the weariness of the characters: that they cannot even muster enough energy to participate in their own lives, but is the best way to demonstrate a character’s boredom really to write paragraphs that bore the reader? A good writer can make the mundane seem remarkable, but The Road is too bare to be beautiful, and too pointless to be poignant.

Once we have been lulled by long redundancy, McCarthy abruptly switches gears, moving from the plainness of Hemingway to the florid, overwrought figurative language of Melville:
"The man thought he seemed some sad and solitary changeling child announcing the arrival of a traveling spectacle in shire and village who does not know that behind him the players have all been carried off by wolves."

There is no attempt to bridge the two styles, they are forced to cohabitate, without rhyme or reason to unite them. The metaphoric language is equally jarring, as in one sentence he describes 'dead ivy', 'dead grass' and 'dead trees' with unerring monotony, and then as if adding a punchline, declares them 'shrouded in a carbon fog'--which sounds like the title of a bland cyberpunk anthology.

Then we have this example:
"It's snowing, the boy said. A single gray flake sifting down. He caught it in his hand and watched it expire like the last host of christendom."

Where McCarthy seems to be trying to reproduce the morbid religious symbolism of Melville when he plays the tattered prophet in Moby Dick. But while Melville's theology is terribly sublime and pervasive, McCarthy's is ostentatious and diminutive, like a carved molding in an otherwise unadorned room. Nowhere does he produce the staggeringly surreal otherworldliness Melville achieves in a line like "There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within".

Many times, McCarthy's gilded metaphors are piled, one atop the other, in what must be an attempt to develop an original voice, but which usually sounds more like the contents of a ‘Team Edward’ notebook, left behind after poetry class:
". . . Query: How does the never to be differ from what never was?

Dark of the invisible moon. The nights now only slightly less black. By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp.

People sitting on the sidewalk in the dawn half immolate and smoking in their clothes. Like failed sectarian suicides. . . ."

I love how he prefaces that like an Asimov robot. Sardonic Observation: I'd almost believe he was one, since he has no understanding of beauty or human emotion. Biting Quip: However, he violates Asimov's first law of robotics, since his work allows harm to come to humans.

Sometimes, right in the middle of a detailed description of how a character is scraping paint with a screwdriver, we suddenly get a complex jargon term which few readers would understand. These terms are neither part of the world, nor are they aspects of specialized character knowledge, so I cannot assign them any meaning in the text.

One of the basic lessons for any beginning writer is 'don't just add big words because you can', it's self-indulgent and doesn't really help the story. It would be one thing if it were a part of some stylistic structure instead of bits of out-of-place jargon that conflict with the overall style of the book--more textual flotsam for us to wade through.

The longer I read, the more mirthlessly dire it became, and the less I found I could take it seriously. Every little cluster of sentences left on its own as a standalone chapter, every little two-word incomplete sentence trying to demand importance because it actually had punctuation (a rare commodity in this book), every undifferentiated monosyllabic piece of non-dialogue like a hobo talking to himself--it all made the book overblown and nonsensical.

It just stared me down, like a huge drunk guy in a bar daring me to laugh at his misspelled tattoo. And I did. I don't know if my coworkers or the people on the bus knew what 'The Road' was about (this was years before the movie), but they had to assume it was one hilarious road, possibly with a busfull of nuns, and one a convict in disguise on the run from a bumbling southern sheriff and his deputy; a donkey is involved.

Though I won't mention specifics, I will say the notorious ending of the book is completely tacked on, in no way fits with or concludes any of the emotional build of the book, but instead wraps everything up, neat and tight. Though it does bear out McCarthy's admission on Oprah that he "had no idea where it was going" when he wrote it. We can tell, Cormac; well, some of us, anyway.

As you may have noticed from the quotes I have used, another notorious issue is the way the book is punctuated, which is to say, it isn't. The most complex mark is the comma, and it is pretty rarely used. It's not like McCarthy is only using simple, straightforward sentences, he uses plenty of conjoined clauses and partial sentence fragments, he just doesn't bother to mark any of them.

He also doesn't use any quotes in the books, and rarely attributes statements to characters, so we must first try to figure out if someone is talking, or if it's just another snatch of 'poetic license', and then we have to determine who is talking. Sure, Melville did away with quotes in one chapter in Moby Dick, but he did it in stylistic reference to Shakespeare, and he also seemed to be aware that it was a silly affectation best suited for a ridiculous scene.

But it is not only the structure, grammar, figurative language, and basic descriptions which are so absurdly lacking: the characters are likewise flat, dull, and repetitive. Almost every conversation between the father and son is the same:
Father: Do it now.
Son: I'm scared.
Father: Just do it.
Son: Are we going to die?
Father: No.
Son: Are you sure?
Father: Yes.

Remember, you won't get little tags so you know who's speaking, it'll all just be strung out in a line without differentiation. Then they wander around for a bit or run from crazy people, and we finally get the cap to the conversation:
Son: Why did (terrible thing) just happen?
Father: (Stares off in silence)
Son: Why did (terrible thing) just happen?
Father: (More silence)

And that’s it, the whole relationship; it never changes or grows. Nor does it seem to make much sense, based on the setting. The characters are always together, each the other's sole companion: father and son, and yet they are constantly distant and at odds, like a suburban parent and child who rarely see each other and have little in common. McCarthy never demonstrates how such a disconnect arose between two people who are constantly intimate and reliant on one another.

But then, McCarthy confided to Oprah that the is book about his relationship with his own son, so it makes sense why the emotional content is completely at odds with the setting. Perhaps he just sat down one say and thought “I’m an award-winning author and screenwriter who has a somewhat distant relationship with my son. You know what that’s like? That’s like the unendurable physical suffering of people in the third world who are trying to find food and escape crazed, murderous mobs.” So then he wrote a book equating the two, which is about the most callous, egotistical act of privileged self-pity a writer can indulge in.

At least now I know why the characters and their reactions don’t make much sense. The boy is constantly terrified, and his chief role involves pointing at things and screaming. His constant screams punctuate every conflict in the book, like a bad horror film. But things aren’t scary just because the author makes a character react histrionically over and over again--it just becomes silly.

Cannibals and dead infants are an okay place to start when it comes to unsettling the reader, but just having the characters point and scream does not build tension, especially when the characters are too flat to be sympathetic. Another Creative Writing 101 lesson: if you have to resort to over-the-top character reactions to let the audience know how they are supposed to feel, then your 'emotional moment' isn't working. It's the literary equivalent of a laugh track.

You know what’s more unsettling than a child screaming when he finds a dead infant? A child not screaming when he finds a dead infant. And really, that’s the more likely outcome. The young boy has never known another world--his world is death and horror. Anyone who has seen a picture of a Rwandan kid with an AK-47 realizes that children adapt to what’s around them. And you know what would make a great book? A father who remembers the old world trying to prevent his son from becoming a callous monster because of the new one.

But no, we get a child who inexplicably reacts as if he’s used to the good life in suburbia and all this death and killing is completely new to him, even though we’ve watched him go through it half a dozen times already. The characters never grow numb to it, they never seem to suffer from post-traumatic stress, their reactions are more akin to angst.

Every time there is a problem, the characters just fold in on themselves and give up. People really only do that when they have the luxury of sitting about and ruminating on what troubles them. When there is a sudden danger before us, we might run, or freeze up, but there’s hardly time to feel sorry for ourselves.

There is no joy or hope in this book--not even the fleeting, false kind. Everything is constantly bleak. Yet human beings in stressful, dangerous situations always find ways to carry on: small victories, justifications, or even lies and delusions. The closest this book gets is ‘The Fire’, which is the father’s term for why they must carry on through all these difficulties. But replace ‘The Fire’ with ‘The Plot’ and you’ll see what effect is achieved: it’s not character psychology, but authorial convenience. Apparently, McCarthy cannot even think of a plausible reason why human beings would want to survive.

There is nothing engaging about a world sterilized of all possibility. People always create a way out, even when there is none. What is tragic is not a lack of hope, but misplaced hope. I could perhaps appreciate a completely empty world as a writing exercise, but as McCarthy is constantly trying to provoke emotional reactions, he cannot have been going for utter bleakness.

The Road is a canvas painted entirely black--it doesn't mater how many more black strokes he layers on top: they will not stand out because there is no difference, there is no depth, no breaking or building of tension, just a constant addition of featureless details to a featureless whole. Some people seem to think that an emotionally manipulative book that makes people cry is better than one that makes people horny--but at least people don’t get self-righteous about what turns them on.

This is tragedy porn. Suburban malaise is equated with the most remote and terrible examples of human pain. So, dull housewives can read it and think ‘yes, my ennui is just like a child who stumbles across a corpse’, and perhaps she will cry, and feel justified in doing so. Or a man might read it and think ‘yes, my father was distant, and it makes me feel like I live alone in a hostile world I don’t care to understand’; he will not cry, but he will say that he did.

And so the privileged can read about how their pain is the same as the pain of those starving children on mute during commercial breaks. In the perversity of modern, invisible colonialism--where a slave does not wash your clothes, but builds the machine that washes them--these self-absorbed people who have never starved or had their lives imperiled can think of themselves as worldly, as ‘one with humanity’, as good, caring people.

They recycle. They turn the water off when they brush their teeth. They buy organic. They even thought about joining the Peace Corps. Their guilt is assuaged. They are free to bask in their own radiant anguish.

And it all depresses me. Which makes me a shit, because I’m no more entitled to it than any other well-fed, educated winner of the genetic lottery. So when I read this book, I couldn’t sympathize with that angst and think it justified, just like I couldn’t with Holden’s. I know my little existential crisis isn’t comparable to someone who has really lost control of their life, who might actually lose life.

But this kind of egotistical detachment has become typical of American thought, and of American authors, whose little, personal, insular explorations don't even pretend to look at the larger world. Indeed, there is a self-satisfied notion that trying to look at the world sullies the pure artist.

And that 'emotionally pure, isolated author' is what we get from the Oprah interview. Sure, she's asking asinine questions, but McCarthy shows no capacity to discuss either craft or ideas, refusing to take open-ended questions and discuss writing, he instead laughs condescendingly and shrugs. Then again, he may honestly not have much to say on the topic.

Looked at in this way, it's not surprising he won the Pulitzer. Awards committees run on politics, and choosing McCarthy is a political decision--an attempt to declare that insular, American arrogance is somehow still relevant. But the world seems content to move ahead without America and its literature, which is why no one expects McCarthy--or any American author--to win a Nobel any time soon.

This book is a paean to the obliviousness of American self-importance in our increasingly global, undifferentiated world. One way or the other, it will stand as a testament to the last gasp of a dying philosophy: either we will collapse under our own in-fighting and short-sightedness, or we will be forced to evolve into something new and competitive--a bloated reputation will carry you only so far.

But then, the Pulitzer committee is renowned for picking unadventurous winners--usually an unremarkable late entry by an author past their prime. As William Gass famously put it:
"the prize is simply not given to work of the first rank, rarely even to the second; and if you believed yourself to be a writer of that eminence, you are now assured of being over the hill"

Of course, to readers of genre works, this book will have a familiar and unpleasant taste: that of the big name writer slumming. They pop into fantasy or sci fi with their lit fic credentials to show us little folk how it's really done, but knowing nothing about the genre or its history, just end up reinventing the wheel, creating a book that would have looked tired and dated thirty years ago. Luckily for such writers, none of the lit fic critics that read the book know anything about other genres, either--meaning that any sort of rehash is going to look fresh to them, as long as you have the name-recognition to get them to look.

So, McCarthy gets two stars for a passable (if cliche) script for a sci fi adventure movie, minus one star for unconscionable denigration of humanity. I couldn't say if McCarthy's other books are any good; I will probably try another, just to see if any of his reputation is deserved, but this one certainly didn't help. All I see is another author who got too big for his editors and, finding himself free to write whatever he wanted--only proved that he has nothing of value to say.

"Look, if the contemporary condition is hopelessly shitty, insipid, materialistic, emotionally retarded, sadomasochistic, and stupid, then I (or any writer) can get away with slapping together stories with characters who are stupid, vapid, emotionally retarded, which is easy, because these sorts of characters require no development. With descriptions that are merely lists . . . Where stupid people say insipid stuff to each other. If what's always distinguished bad writing--flat characters, a narrative world that's . . . not recognizably human, etc.--is also a description of today's world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world . . . most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is?"

-David Foster Wallace
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Comments (showing 301-350 of 763) (763 new)


message 301: by Keely (new) - rated it 1 star

Keely "I am not going to waste my time . . ."

"I really don't care."

*Keeps posting*


A sweater vest eagle scout nerdrage says what?


message 302: by Dakota (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dakota Haha, why are you still posting here? I used to nerdrage online a lot too, then I moved out of my mom's house...


message 303: by Keely (new) - rated it 1 star

Keely I'm posting here because this is my review. I wrote it, and sometimes people comment on it, so I comment back, and then they comment back. It's a fairly common pattern in human communication.

It also apparently amuses my subscribers to watch me deal with commentators who use cliche, sad internet arguments that were tired ten years ago (I get an upvote on my review almost every time you post).


message 304: by Kdog (new)

Kdog Got to be the most repetitive, boring book I have ever read.


message 305: by Dakota (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dakota Still going huh? Give it a rest...


message 306: by Shelby (new) - rated it 5 stars

Shelby You're still going too, Dakota.


message 307: by Shelby (new) - rated it 5 stars

Shelby Since when does disagreeing with someone give you a free pass to be a tool?


message 308: by Dakota (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dakota I thought this was over?


message 309: by David (new) - rated it 4 stars

David VD I'll give you my respect for the thorough and well thought out review, but it's absolutely spectacular how incredibly hard you missed the whole point of the book and the specific style in which it was written.


Amanda - Go Book Yourself Her review didn't miss the point of the book. Maybe your just reading into something that isn't there!


Douglas I am sorry, Keely, but I have to disagree with your premise and conclusions about this book. I am not very long-winded, so I wont go into detail why I think you are wrong, just let it stand that I think your novel-length criticism was off the mark.


message 312: by Keely (new) - rated it 1 star

Keely Thanks for the comment. I hope you'll forgive me if I don't put much stock in unsupported opinions put forth by readers of five-page novels.


message 313: by Glenn (new)

Glenn I was recently being told by my friend about how much he hated the road despite glowing recommendations from his friends and I told his about goodreads and he made me look up reviews of the road for him. After squeling in delight to himself for 15 minutes he made me listen to him read aloud your review with numerous 'that's what I thoughts' and 'this is what I told thems'. He said you put him at ease with hating a book which all his friends loved all the while suspecting it was the most derivative, cliched piece of hack Hollywood screenwriting he's ever read.


message 314: by Keely (new) - rated it 1 star

Keely Well, there is the adage that if you search long enough on the internet, you'll find someone who agrees with you, but it seems more meaningful to agree on specific points rather than generalities. I'm glad I helped someone recognize that they aren't alone against the wide sea.


message 315: by Tamyka (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tamyka Bell This is a really, really long review. I lost interest. I didn't lose interest in The Road.


message 316: by Jake (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jake Miller brian wrote: "yeah, this review is way off. it seems, almost, as if its author actually chose a deliberately simplified response to the book. nonetheless, check it:

1) "The entire book seems to stem from the ..."


I think you nailed it right on the head, to me Keely's opinion on the dispositions of the characters and feel of the book are way off and down right erroneous to what I garnered from reading the novel.

Yea he has a somewhat simplistic and almost down right belaboring writing style in some instances but I think overall the book was wonderful and you pointed out plenty of areas that Keely seems to have missed, obviously like most novels these things are open to interpretation, all I can say is I could feel for the characters; even past the simplistic writing.


message 317: by World (new) - rated it 5 stars

World Eater Sometimes I'm glad I don't have a great literary mind because it seems like it would be really damn hard to enjoy books.

Anyway, an insightful review however I thought you went over the line in some respects. You can make anything sound dumb by oversimplifying it.


message 318: by Keely (new) - rated it 1 star

Keely "Sometimes I'm glad I don't have a great literary mind because it seems like it would be really damn hard to enjoy books."

I guess to me, that's like saying "I'm glad I can't afford to eat at a nice restaurant because it would make it harder to enjoy McDonalds" or "I'm glad I've never seen Paris because it might make Omaha seem less exciting". The reason The Road is lackluster to me is because I have experienced so many amazing, beautiful books.

I have searched for wonder and beauty and I have found it many times over, and that's what has motivated me to develop my own 'literary mind', that constant search for new experiences of aching beauty. If those experiences make it hard to enjoy an average book, like The Road, I don't mind, because for every small thing I lose along the way, I gain something great, so in the end, I come out better than I was before.


message 319: by Annis (New Dimensions Reviews) (last edited Jun 21, 2012 09:32AM) (new)

Annis (New Dimensions Reviews) Keely, I have not read this book yet but you made a very strong case against his work (and that of other writers of his ilk). I just wanted to say I really appreciate that, seeing that the simplistic, disguised-as-nihilistic approach combined with an inflated sense of self-importance (that shows in their writing) in most "big" American authors is getting worse and worse. It's the exact reason why I avoid a reading a lot from what is supposed to be the established US literary elite. There are much more profound and interesting books to spend my time on. Thank you for the completely honest review and I loved that you mentioned the Sokal affair.

As for the person who claimed that McCarthy is "even more revered in Europe" than he is in America, I can only shake my head and laugh.


message 320: by World (new) - rated it 5 stars

World Eater Keely wrote: ""Sometimes I'm glad I don't have a great literary mind because it seems like it would be really damn hard to enjoy books."

I guess to me, that's like saying "I'm glad I can't afford to eat at a ni..."


I think those analogies are unfair. The Road was a good book to me for one reason only: I enjoyed the characters. I thought they felt real and I was thoroughly invested in their well-being. I mean ultimately the story was about these two characters, there isn't really a plot and there isn't really a setting. It also appealed to my love for post-apocalyptic survival horror type books so maybe I'm a little biased but vOv. You say you hate his pretentious metaphors and language but it was pretty hard to take you seriously as you condescendingly spoke about how horrible suburban America was and how they just don't understand, in their colossal ignorance, very much of anything. And how american literature is pretty much worthless and there isn't a living american author who deserves to be writing.

I went and read some of your reviews out of curiosity, and just as I suspected, if it's not a firmly entrenched classic, you uniformly despise it. Except for a book about horse porn or something, I don't know. I think your so damn caught up with what "good" literature is that you can't go into a story without a thousand preconceptions about what it SHOULD look like. Just my two cents. Then again, I'm a product of the disconnected, ignorant suburbia so feel free to disregard me.


message 321: by Keely (new) - rated it 1 star

Keely Annis said: "I really appreciate that, seeing that the simplistic, disguised-as-nihilistic approach combined with an inflated sense of self-importance (that shows in their writing) in most "big" American authors is getting worse and worse."

Thanks, I'm glad the review made sense to you. It is a problem in a lot of literary and award spheres, and one which has not gone unrecognized by critics and thinkers.

World said: "It also appealed to my love for post-apocalyptic survival horror type books so maybe I'm a little biased"

I am actually a fan of survival horror and post-apocalyptic stories, and that was part of the reason I didn't like The Road, I did not find that it stood out as imaginative or well-written compared to other works in the genre. It's part of the reason I read it in the first place, and I found it even more disappointing because it did not do the subgenre justice.

"it was pretty hard to take you seriously as you condescendingly spoke about how horrible suburban America was and how they just don't understand"

I never said that. The suburban life experience and all the pains and difficulties that go into it are a perfectly valid experience to write about.

However, it doesn't make sense to me to equate those experiences with the problems of an African civil war victim. Those are two drastically different stories, and the fact that McCarthy's characters respond to death and destruction with suburban depression does not make sense, and is insensitive to the struggles and experiences of people who have actually had to live through poverty and war.

"And how . . . there isn't a living american author who deserves to be writing."

There are plenty of living American authors who I enjoy and I think deserve popularity and accolades. My problem is with the entrenched system of critics and committees that keep those great writers down in favor of big name authors who haven't innovated in decades and must resort to the sort of predictable pandering McCarthy shows here.

"if it's not a firmly entrenched classic, you uniformly despise it"

So The Hitchhiker's Guide, Calvin and Hobbes, Belgian comic books, and modern Fantasy and Sci Fi are entrenched classics now? Or maybe you meant the pulp adventures, TV novelizations, and roleplaying books? Beyond that, there are plenty of established 'classics' that I don't think particularly highly of.

". . . I'm a product of the disconnected, ignorant suburbia so feel free to disregard me."

It seems to me that you are trying to disregard me by painting me as an effete snob, which may be convenient for you, but that doesn't make it true. I like things which are written well, independent of when they were written, or by who, or what genre they inhabit--just as I dislike things that are inconsistent and unoriginal.


message 322: by [deleted user] (new)

@keely its obvious that the reason you wrote such a long review is because your tiny little brain cannot comprehend one of the greatest literary and possibly philosophical minds ever to grace America, i advise you to get a life and stop alienating yourself from the sensebilities of civilized people, good day sir.


message 323: by Keely (new) - rated it 1 star

Keely Hmm, you'd think if McCarthy was so great, it would be pretty easy to state why and refute the central points in my review. Then again, the unironic use of the phrase 'get a life' is tantamount to proof that a comment contains neither anything sensible nor civilized.


message 325: by Amanda (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amanda McCrina I liked the book well enough, but I do want to say that this is a brilliant review.


Jonathan I wonder if one day some PHD student will come along and use this thread as source material. They could write a whole thesis on the differences existing between the concept of debating and the reality of it unfolding (in other words how it often turns into a chaotic mess).


message 327: by Keely (new) - rated it 1 star

Keely Well, if they need some data to mine, I have quite a few reviews with comment threads that ought to serve.

Amanda said: "I liked the book well enough, but I do want to say that this is a brilliant review."

Wow, thank you, that's very kind of you to say. It's nice when people who agree with my tastes tell me they like my reviews, but when someone who disagrees with me still finds something they appreciate, it makes me feel that I may have written something worth writing.

Pablo said: http://continuumliterarystudies.typep...

Having read a fair amount of criticism in my studies, I have to say the choice quotes they give in the summary of that book look like a lot of buzzword-filled publish-or-perish nonsense:

"style as what negates, but also as what succumbs to, the entropic horizon of what, inexorably, is."

That is terrible, uncommunicative structure. If anyone can give me a reason that this is the best way to get an idea across, I would be very impressed. This is some Politics and the English Language-level nonsense right here.

"An important point to grasp here is that gray is a color that marks eventuation or transformation—it is a color that things become, as when we say the sky becomes gray."

Do we say that? How is that a demonstrative example? I know Derrida thought it was fine to just make up your own symbology and write as if it were real, but I remain unconvinced.

the black-grey or the ash gray—is anti dialectical

This really reads like a satire of bad criticism.

I mean, it's certainly possible that the book contains some strong arguments for what McCarthy achieves and how he achieves it, and perhaps someone who likes The Road will read it and tell me why I'm wrong--but all I'm seeing from this summary is the same empty stylistic posturing and pretension that I felt The Road suffered from. Then again, it would make sense that critics who were trained in meta-criticism and fill-in-the-blank symbology would react to a book full of the same vague and disconnected allusions to profundity.


message 328: by Tori (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tori This review is spot on. I can look at it all sorts of ways, as I'm sure I will get to when my book club meets to discuss it, but essentially, I don't get why it rates a Pulitzer. Please everyone, stop beating up this reviewer! I for one applaud that someone is willing to give it a hard look - not just join the crowd of groupies nodding their heads in homage. Though I might appreciate having read it (with an emphasis on "might"), I certainly would not recommend it. This one is too dark, and the from a literary view, is not great enough in my mind to put up with the darkness for 117 pages. I stuck it out to see if there would be any closure at all, and there was some, but not enough. What happened to cause the situation the 2 travelers are thrown into? We don't know and never will. I guess we should just make that part up, or does the author think that that makes it "timeless"? All of it draws one in so that one must read to the end, but I'll be first to say that the images in-between were not worth the "wrap-up". Keely, thanks for your review - I'll be following yours from now on.


message 329: by Keely (new) - rated it 1 star

Keely ". . . essentially, I don't get why it rates a Pulitzer."

Well, if you look back at Pulitzer winners, it's not really a list of great books--it may contain a lot of great authors, but that's hardly the same thing. The Pulitzer tends to be awarded to authors who have already proven themselves, which is why a Pulitzer is often a sign that an author's best work is behind him.

More than that, the whole structure of the Pulitzer committee is problematic, made up of a lot of high-profile, busy people who don't have a lot of time for reading, and who are not fiction writers or literary critics, which is part of the reason that no prize was given out last year, despite several strong candidates.

In general, I don't tend to take the Pulitzer very seriously, based on its track record.

Thanks for the comment, I'm glad you liked my review, and that it made sense to you.


message 330: by Laureen (new) - rated it 1 star

Laureen I would like to ditto Tori's comments and I would have loved to write a silimar review to yours but I have neither the education nor the talent. However, I love books and my tastes have grown over the years, I think. I thought there was something wrong with my perception of this book as so many seem to thing it was wonderful AND emotionally distressing.

I believe this book was written purely to make a political point. Like Tori, I would like to know how the world became the way it is described. I guess
we were supposed to know that we humans had finally done the deed and ruined our fabulous planet.

I can't comment about the literary aspects because I am not learned enough but you expressed it so very well, I know why I "felt" something was wrong.

I believe the critics of your review are the doomsdayers who haven't the imagination to believe that our great scientists will, over the next 50 years, have the answers to so many things that we can't possibly envisage now. The world changes so fast. Here we are on the Web which was not even heard of such a short time ago.

If we went back to the days of the plague or the Great Fire of London, I will bet those people thought their world was about to end also. I wish people would get as emotional about the situation in countries with dictatorships and the wars that eventuate with the poor and the hungry being the victims. I could cry about that. I think your critics need to broaden their reading experiences. I just can't relate to the suffering issue in this book as the whole situation including the relationship between father and son is unreal to me. I am far from heartless. Many stories about the past and present both real and fictional have moved me greatly
and continue to stay in my mind.


message 331: by Keely (new) - rated it 1 star

Keely "I wish people would get as emotional about the situation in countries with dictatorships and the wars that eventuate with the poor and the hungry being the victims. I could cry about that . . . I just can't relate to the suffering issue in this book as the whole situation including the relationship between father and son is unreal to me."

I feel the same way: I wish McCarthy had presented a more realistic psychological picture of the horror of living a life in the midst of devastation. Instead he gave us whiny, depressed characters who felt more like Holden Caulfield than victims of war.

Thanks for the comment, I'm glad you liked my review.


message 332: by Dakota (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dakota How would he be able to present "...a more realistic psychological picture of the horror of living a life in the midst of devastation?"

I am not sure how someone can judge a fictional reality as not realistic enough. Could you accurately describe a life in the midst of devastation? If so, please share it with us.


message 333: by Keely (new) - rated it 1 star

Keely "I am not sure how someone can judge a fictional reality as not realistic enough."

I'd argue that's something readers do all the time as part of the 'suspension of disbelief'.

Imagine we have a story with a daughter character who is shown to have a loving relationship with her father, then the father dies. If the daughter is never shown to be upset by this, I think it would be pretty easy to judge that fictional reality as not being very realistic.

"Could you accurately describe a life in the midst of devastation?"

I talk about it a bit in my review, but sure. When you look at children who live under the sorts of conditions shown in The Road--children who live their whole lives running from raiding parties in a civil war--they adapt to their surroundings.

They become child soldiers, they grow desperate, they steal and cheat and after seeing their hundredth man killed, life will begin to lose its value. As Milton demonstrated, what is frightening in life is not that evil is distant and alien to us, but that it is familiar and easy to fall into.

When under constant stress, people don't get depressed and mopey, because there isn't time. When you're always on the run, fleeing death, it's exhausting and overwhelming, not saddening. Sure, people will break down, weep hysterically, and go catatonic under that kind of pressure, but they don't become sad and self-loathing, because that comes from reflection after the fact.

All over the world, there are children who see death every day, and if that's the only world they know, it's hardly going to shock or confuse them. Even when these things frighten them, it's important to realize that this is all they know, and that they will develop ways to cope. That is the situation the man and boy are in, and that's why I didn't find that the boy's psychology made sense.


message 334: by David (new) - rated it 5 stars

David Acevedo You are too full of it. Also... The Nobel Prize does not constitute the measure of a good storyteller or author. You only fool yourself in so thinking. Also... it is my belief that you fail in the manner that you contend the author fails: as I read your "review" I detected extreme moments of subjectivity, while trying to fool me with your basely attempt at objectivity. Either you are objective or subjective, but can't be bothat the same time, mate. Reading your review constituted the worst-employed 20 minutes of my July existence so far. Congratulation on achieving that.


message 335: by Keely (new) - rated it 1 star

Keely "The Nobel Prize does not constitute the measure of a good storyteller or author."

No, it doesn't and I never said it did. I was making a point about the different political motivations of various prize committees and the sorts of agendas they support.

"Either you are objective or subjective"

Well, since I'm discussing the quality of a piece of art and not the value of the gravitational constant, I'm being subjective. however, there are different levels of subjectivity. For example, I give reasons for my arguments, and use quotes to support my position, which is less wantonly subjective, because it is possible to disagree with and refute those specific statements.

Contrarily, your state of opinions without putting forth any argument or refutation, which is an example of arbitrary subjectivity which adds nothing to a discussion. Based on that, I'd say at least the time you spent reading my review was better employed than the time you spent trying to respond to it.


message 336: by David (new) - rated it 5 stars

David Acevedo And another thing... for someone who didn't like the bloody book, you spent more than 15 pages explaining why... I mean, honestly. I can see right through you. Talk about pretentious.


message 337: by Michael (new) - rated it 1 star

Michael Keely - I commented about this ages ago but just wanted to say I LOVE your review - very intelligent, well thought out and well presented. Thanks for being a beacon in the night.


message 338: by David (new) - rated it 5 stars

David Acevedo Oh, I'm a very fast reader, particularly when I read through codswallop.


message 339: by David (new) - rated it 5 stars

David Acevedo LMFAO

Dakota wrote: "Haha, why are you still posting here? I used to nerdrage online a lot too, then I moved out of my mom's house..."


message 340: by David (new) - rated it 5 stars

David Acevedo Oh, the arrogance...

Keely wrote: "Thanks for the comment. I hope you'll forgive me if I don't put much stock in unsupported opinions put forth by readers of five-page novels."


message 341: by David (new) - rated it 5 stars

David Acevedo Me sentiments exactly.

Tamyka wrote: "This is a really, really long review. I lost interest. I didn't lose interest in The Road."


message 342: by Keely (new) - rated it 1 star

Keely "for someone who didn't like the bloody book, you spent more than 15 pages explaining why

If you're talking about the review, it's only about five pages--which shouldn't make much of a dent in the day of an avid reader. If you're talking about the length of the comment thread, you must realize that its length is governed by the repeated visits of commentators like yourself. If you think it's ridiculous to spend that much time talking about The Road, then why open the discussion anew?

"Oh, the arrogance..."

How is it arrogant to take unsupported opinions lightly? Or are you referencing the fact that a commentator suggested a five-page review is the same length as a novel?

"Me sentiments exactly."

Ah, so the value of something is directly proportional to whether you lose interest in it? Now there's a good definition for the word 'arrogance'.

For someone who opened with an accusation of subjectivity, you certainly haven't done anything to hold yourself to a higher standard. So it was a waste of time to read my review, but it's a good use of your time to make a half-dozen Youtube-level comments lacking any idea, argument, or refutation?

"Michael said: ". . . just wanted to say I LOVE your review - very intelligent, well thought out and well presented. Thanks for being a beacon in the night."

Thank you, you're very kind to say so. Once again, I'm glad you enjoyed it.


message 343: by Meishuu (new) - added it

Meishuu Thank you this review. I'm still undecided if I want to read this or not (most likely not).


message 344: by Keely (new) - rated it 1 star

Keely Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. Hope you find something cool to read.


message 345: by Chris (new) - rated it 1 star

Chris This review summed up my thoughts on the book. I'll go further. Probably the worst book i've ever read. The dialogue between the man and the boy is beyond awful and extremely repetitive.


message 346: by Keely (new) - rated it 1 star

Keely I'm glad you liked the review, thanks for commenting.


message 347: by David (new) - rated it 5 stars

David Acevedo I wonder if you liked Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull... you strike as one of those.


Carolanne I don't agree with your review, but wanted to say, you're an excellent writer!


message 349: by Arnab (new) - rated it 5 stars

Arnab haha! although i loved this book, and thought it was one of the best things i've ever read, this review made me laugh. it's brilliantly written, and if i didn't like the road so much, you'd probably have convinced me otherwise.


message 350: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Gross I agree....I loved the book, and I don't agree with your review; but it is so well written I really want to! Great review!


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