Evan's Reviews > The Road

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
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Nov 20, 12

bookshelves: pulitzer-prize, 2009-reads, none-too-good, scifi-utopia-dystopia, oprah, parody-review
Read in January, 2009

He palmed the spartan book with black cover and set out in the gray morning. Grayness, ashen. Ashen in face. Ashen in the sky.
He set out for the road, the book in hand. Bleakness, grayness. Nothing but gray, always.
He was tired and hungry. Coughing. The coughing had gotten worse. He felt like he might die. But he couldn't die. Not yet.
The boy depended on him.
He walked down the road, awaiting the creaking bus. It trundled from somewhere, through the gray fog. The ashen gray fog.
He stepped aboard, spartan book in hand. No one spoke. They were all ghosts. Tired, wrinkled, rumpled, going wherever. Not knowing why. Just going.
He opened the book and read. He began to see a pattern, a monotonous pattern of hopelessness. Chunks of gray hopelessness. Prose set in concrete, gray. Gray blocks of prose. He read.
He recognized images from films long since past, and books from authors of yore. Many science fiction writers, many movie makers. He thought he saw a flash, something familiar. Perhaps it was only one of his nagging dreams. A dream of what once existed, but he did not know. Wasn't there once, he wondered, a story called "A Boy And His Dog," by, who? Ellison, maybe? Was that the name? It seemed right, but his mind was unreliable. It had not been reliable in awhile. People forget. Yes, they forget.
And here, a fragment, "The Last Man on Earth," "The Omega Man," "Dawn of the Dead," "Planet of the Apes," "The Day After," "The Twilight Zone." Yes, that one, the one about the man and the books. The broken glasses. Cannibals, people in rags, charred bodies, emptiness, grayness. "On the Beach" popped into his mind. His gray, dulled mind. "The Andromeda Strain." Dessicated bodies. Dusty, leathered, ashen bodies.
The rain, the snow, the white, the cold, the gray. The endless white. The endless gray. "Escape from New York." The titles seemed endless, but they blended in his wearied mind. Had he not read and seen all this a thousand times before? What was he to make of this book he held, this spartan black book, this cobbling of all that had come before, all set forth again? Was this original, he wondered? He continued to read. But he was tired, flagging. Rain, tin food, wet blankets, shivering, twigs and fire and cold. Always cold, and gray. And walking, slowly. Always walking down the road. And hiding. Hiding and walking. Ceaselessly. And atrocities. Savagery. Road warriors, the bad guys. Did this also not seem familiar? The man wondered, but his mind, like those of most of the masses, often forgot. He thanked an unseen God for this forgetfulness, for it made it easier for him to read, uncritically, unknowingly. The author, McCarthy, no doubt also must have been relieved that no one cared anymore. Plagiarism belonged to the dead past. A quaint notion of a bygone day. Not a concern, in these gray times. The times of sampling. Of plunder.
My concoction is out of a tin can, he might have thought. But he did not. Tin food, prepackaged. Cans waiting to be plucked and plundered.
He opened the literary beenie weenies, and served them to the world. And the world ate, hungrily ate. And believed, that beenie weenies, on their empty stomachs, tasted like the greatest gourmet dish they had ever tasted. For they knew not any better. Their gray matter just did not know.
And they went on down the road.
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Reading Progress

01/20/2009 page 31
12.86%
01/23/2009 page 2411
100% 2 comments
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 55) (55 new)


message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

evan. if only goodreads had a feature to let us know if you've read half a page.

quarter?

word count. that would be best.


message 2: by Evan (last edited Jul 16, 2009 06:00AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Evan i'm laughing, but still, eff you and you suck! haha

you're just trying to prod me into a preliminary review and I am more cautious than that; I still can't tell if I like the book or not, I'm only at three stars at best so far. The post-apocalyptic scenario is so cliched (seen in a thousand movies) that I'm not terribly impressed, thought the writing itself has flashes of poetry. That's all I got so far.

goofball.

-K


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

that's not bad so far.

i have this already, just never read it. i pick it up, i put it down, i pick it up...


Evan It should be easy to pick it up, read a little, and put it down, because it appears that's how McCarthy wrote it - in these little bursts of chronological, diary-like chunks from an omniscient narrator. If it was someone other than McCarthy he/she probably would have been accused of laziness. This actually should help the lazy reader along, especially as, very few of the graphs are much different than the next. It seems to be Bach variations on a theme of how to describe the same basic blank wasteland over and over, always making sure to insert the word, gray, in as many times as possible.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

gray isn't even a fun word.


Evan The real review is now posted, with no apologies to McCarthy. He steals and so do I, in the spirit of satire, parody, etc.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

huh. on the plus side, for me? yeah, i don't know any of that stuff so it will be shiny and new.

if. the question is if. if i choose this gray path.


Jennifer WOW, I think I may have really laughed my #&@ off on this one, that is the best parody of a crap book I have ever read! Thanks for the good laughs....I could picture the bleak, stark movie as if I were right there. In the shack. With the cellar safe room. With the food in the dark. :)


Evan the food cellar was the best thing in the book...

thanks for enjoying this.


message 10: by Evan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Evan 1/25/2010: A rerun of an old favorite parody review, slightly corrected.


message 11: by Silvana (new)

Silvana I watched the movie once. Very dark, not sure I want to have a darker experience by reading the book *shivers*


message 12: by Evan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Evan Silvana wrote: "I watched the movie once. Very dark, not sure I want to have a darker experience by reading the book *shivers*"

The only thing I can say is read something else.


message 13: by Ham (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ham I hated this book. I read it before discovering it was some international phenomenon with Stryder in the lead role. Your review made me laugh out loud. Thank you.


message 14: by Evan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Evan Thanks, Ham. Glad it amused. At least by vote count this seems to be my most popular review. Maybe I'll repost it on my feed for me mates who haven't seen it yet.


Heather Rowe-Stevens This is a review??? Wow, sounds like you had to look up most of the words in the dictionary and then rambled on and on and on with no apparent purpose. Try again, this time actually analyze what you have read in a coherent fashion.


message 16: by Evan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Evan I assume you read the book and thus understand that a parody of the book is a form of review and that within the context of the parody review I pointed out with great wit the plagiarisms of Mr. McCarthy. Yes, it's a review, and a damned good one. And no, I didn't look up a lot of big words; I'm a journalist and magazine editor with 25 years' experience. I know words. By the way, I think you plagiarized some cat's face for your profile picture.

Heather wrote: "This is a review??? Wow, sounds like you had to look up most of the words in the dictionary and then rambled on and on and on with no apparent purpose. Try again, this time actually analyze what yo..."


message 17: by Janet (new)

Janet Brilliant critique, Evan! made me laugh out loud. However, I love this book.....I think it is beautifully written and speaks truthfully......its all been done before, anyway, right? I do admire your review, though. You are obviously a pro...


message 18: by Keir (new) - rated it 1 star

Keir Thomas Perfect review, most amusing.


Lindsey This about sums it up! I literally had a conversation with my dad just like this when trying to describe what I thought of the book. He couldn't even finish it because of the repetitive, boring grayness, but I pushed through.


message 20: by Ruby (new) - added it

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else] First the movie, and now this. I'm never going to convince myself to read this now, am I?

BTW I don't know about the book, but the movie would have been a lot better if he'd just eaten the kid. Right at the start.


message 21: by Chuck (new)

Chuck Lowry Well, Evan, you are not always wrong, but when you are wrong, you are spectacularly wrong. There is a wonderful half-line in the sixth book of the Aeneid, where Aeneas meets Dido in the underworld. In explaining why he left Carthage--and Dido--to build the city of Rome, he tells her, Italiam non sponte sequor. It was not my idea to set out for Italy. McCarthy takes up this question: how intricate and complex are the connections among will, fate and duty? There are not many questions which are more important. Learn from him. I note finally that it takes very rare technical skill and astonishing insight into the human condition to end such a dismal narrative in an uplifting and hopeful way. Think of our hero at the end of the book, lying dead next to a tree off the road, covered with a filthy blanket by a stranger. And yet we know how happy, how relieved, how joyful he would be to know that his son has taken the hope-inspired risk and fallen in with a group of the good. Stunning.


message 22: by Evan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Evan For some reason, your mentioning child eating and the fact you are in Australia reminds me of "dingoes ate my baby." This is the weird way my mind works.

Ruby wrote: "First the movie, and now this. I'm never going to convince myself to read this now, am I?

BTW I don't know about the book, but the movie would have been a lot better if he'd just eaten the kid. R..."


Ruby wrote: "First the movie, and now this. I'm never going to convince myself to read this now, am I?

BTW I don't know about the book, but the movie would have been a lot better if he'd just eaten the kid. R..."



message 23: by Evan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Evan So, it takes astonishing insight and "rare" technical skill to come up with...with...drum roll...a happy ending!?

Maybe more like a savvy eye on the box office.


Chuck wrote: "Well, Evan, you are not always wrong, but when you are wrong, you are spectacularly wrong. There is a wonderful half-line in the sixth book of the Aeneid, where Aeneas meets Dido in the underworld..."


message 24: by Chuck (new)

Chuck Lowry Nope, not a happy ending, a hopeful ending, the discernible gleam in the for of despair. There is a profound difference. Think, if you will, of The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz). It is the same situation: a dead hero at the end of the book, but a hero who lived--and died--hopefully.


message 25: by Evan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Evan I think part of the point of my parody was that that was not particularly new ground, the idea of the dying protagonist passing the torch of life/hope on to someone else. It's actually kind of a cliche. If I sat down and put my mind to it, I could probably come up with a lot of Hollywood product with such endings.

Chuck wrote: "Nope, not a happy ending, a hopeful ending, the discernible gleam in the for of despair. There is a profound difference. Think, if you will, of The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz)...."


message 26: by Chuck (new)

Chuck Lowry I think there is a subtle but important difference here, Evan. It is not a question of "I have hope because I am able to see the next generation coming behind me." I think it is more a notion of "I have hope because I have done what I was supposed to do, and everyone is thereby better." No simplistic Hollywood there. And by the way, do I get no recognition for including in my comment, as instructed, a Latin phrase?


message 27: by Evan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Evan Chuck, a Latin phrase is always expected from you, but perhaps I take it too much for granted now. Thank you for it.

I just wanted to add that I think you Christian boys are very impressed by having your familiar myths regurgitated, which I think The Road does. The same story with a moral told again and again, not necessarily in very original style. Everyone seemed impressed by McCarthy stripping the narrative down to the bone, and it was mistaken for some type of innovation. And the idea of the pilgrimage implied in it possibly moved you, consciously or unconsciously. Road stories all have a religious implication; seeking something and all that. The best road story might be Luis Bunuel's The Milky Way, where the atheist/fallen Catholic director turns the idea of the Christian pilgrimage on its head.

I still say I've seen all this in other and better works, and this is a job of pilfering from those. It's a nice greatest hits for those who haven't engaged that deep and rich tradition.

I was going to go the low "road" and ask you if your review of the book made it into Publisher's Weekly, but... OK there, I took the cheap shot.

The movie is still sitting in my DVD pile, and I intend to watch it. I want to see how it works as a screenplay. Probably well, I assume. We'll see.


message 28: by Chuck (new)

Chuck Lowry Well, to end on a light note, we mossback Catholics are almost never called "Christian boys" in the wider world. I'll take that under advisement.


message 29: by Evan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Evan Sorry about that. Seriously. I hesitated to say Christian boys, knowing about your Catholicism. Catholics do have the high style quotient among the Christian sects. I would not put you in the same (low) league as the southern evangelical types. I think you actually embrace science and facts, for instance and by contrast.

Thanks for ending on a lighter note. I think that sparring once in awhile with someone worthy can keep my brain up to snuff. In most ways I consider you the superior one, compared to me, I mean.


Chuck wrote: "Well, to end on a light note, we mossback Catholics are almost never called "Christian boys" in the wider world. I'll take that under advisement."


Alana I was checking through reviews of this book to see if it's worth continuing, because it's rare for me to get a scant 10 pages into a book and already be strongly considering putting it down. I came across your review and it made me laugh so hard! Thank you for that! If the whole book is like that I will definitely put it down right now, because indeed, the genre is WAY overdone, and frankly, I've read much better ones.


message 31: by Evan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Evan Well, Alana, since the book has only about 200 little short sparse words -- about half of them "gray" -- you might as well finish.

Alana wrote: "I was checking through reviews of this book to see if it's worth continuing, because it's rare for me to get a scant 10 pages into a book and already be strongly considering putting it down. I came..."


Alana Lol, true enough. I will just read it on paper and not with the long audio as I had originally planned.


Charles I have been wondering for years if I was in some extreme minority on this book. Since joining GR it has puzzled me that with all the fantasy/SF fans so few of them have read this and seen the emperor in all his nakedness. Equally puzzling are all the general fiction and Literature readers who are blown away by what they say is the book's originality or claim to be upset by its violence and dark vision. Also puzzled by the number of readers who reference The Movie version as if that has anything to do with the book (or do I need to cite ten horrible movies that eviscerate their source to get an amen).

Further, I'm more than a little puzzled about what McCormac purpose was. From a writer I consider one of our finest contemporary authors, what's your point. Is it what one of your outliers in this string refers to as some comment on Christian or catholic dogma or refers to some obscure sentiment in Latin in a 5th cent. Book is beyond me and a comment from the author would not be unwelcome.

As for that I don't expect to see a comment so I just left to chalk this book up to my pick for his worst work. I will say his worst is still a lot better than two thirds of the titles in your original review.


Charles McCarthy!


message 35: by Evan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Evan Good thoughts, Charles. Thanks for sharing them. Obviously I agree.


Tatjana fantastic review! awesome as teens say) I enjoyed it thoroughly for its artistic quality and the point it makes. though... I loved the book when I read it. and I was disgusted by the predictability and of the stark visuality of the movie (loss of gray?). and wasn't it Umberto Eco who quipped once that "books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told"?
'the polysemy of gray' ... hmm... thank you for giving me the idea of a term paper topic for my students))


message 37: by Maria (new)

Maria you just made me decide not to read this one.


Hawkk Haha. Brought me right back to the book. Review well done. :D


message 39: by Will (new) - rated it 3 stars

Will Mcentegart haha


message 40: by Andy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Andy Bryant I really liked the book, but man your review made me laugh. Genius


message 41: by Evan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Evan Thanks everyone for enjoying this. It flew off my fingers in a moment of inspiration and probably took about 20 minutes to write but seems to have become one of the more popular reviews on this website. It was cited by Publishers Weekly, also.


Justin This was so goddamn funny I shit my ashen gray trousers.


message 43: by Josh (new) - added it

Josh thanks, I'll skip it.


message 44: by Andy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Andy Vale Far too many commas.


message 45: by Luis (new) - rated it 3 stars

Luis Haha yes, replace most of those commas with "and", and this will be even better ;)


message 46: by Jim (new)

Jim Good Lord, I just bought this book on recommendation by two people last week. Now I can't wait. Ugh.


message 47: by Andy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Andy Vale I enjoyed it, but I also found this review amusing. I can see why some people weren't a fan, but I was. Give it a go and see what you think.


message 48: by Sherry (new)

Sherry Yikes! Thanks for the excerpt. Now I'm sure this isn't for me.


message 49: by Keir (new) - rated it 1 star

Keir Thomas It's not an excerpt, but close enough ;-)


message 50: by Justin (new) - added it

Justin Dloski @Jim. Don't be a sucker and take one persons review to heart. I haven't even read the book btw.


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