Nikki 's Reviews > The Road

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
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Jun 19, 2009

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bookshelves: post-apocalyptic, speculative-fiction
Read in October, 2009

I don't know what to say about Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Given how much attention it seems to get, I'd hoped I'd fall head over heels in love with it, but it's not really that kind of book. It's very bleak, almost hopeless -- though not quite completely hopeless. The choice to disregard various conventions of novels -- punctuation, chaptering, naming characters -- was interesting. I wasn't convinced by it -- it made the book different in that sense, but I'm not sure the rest of it was that different. It's three hundred pages long, but a lot of that is the same thing over again -- walking, walking, walking, starving, meeting someone on the road, surviving, starving, invesigating a potential source of food, eating for a few days, starving, walking, walking...

You get the drift.

I did like it, in the sense that it felt gritty and real and you could almost taste the ash and the lack of hope. I found it interesting to see how it dealt with the way it discarded conventions. The reasons for that were obvious, but I'm not sure it got round all the disadvantages -- for example, not knowing who's saying what, and dialogue not being immediately obvious. Mind you, all the possible confusion might have been intended. It was easier to read than I'd anticipated.

It's a new, bleak kind of roadtrip novel, I guess. It's easy enough to read, and I think it could be accessible whether you're used to post-apocalyptic fiction or not. It won't make you feel great about the world, though.

There are two extracts I really liked:

Then they set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other's world entire.
(p. 4)

They lay listening. Can you do it? When the times comes? When the time comes there will be no time. Now is the time. Curse God and die. What if it doesnt fire? It has to fire. What if it doesnt fire? Could you crush that beloved skull with a rock? Is there such a being within you of which you know nothing? Can there be? Hold him in your arms. Just so. The soul is quick. Pull him toward you. Kiss him. Quickly.
(p. 120)

And the quiet image, throughout the book but not foregrounded particularly, the image of them 'carrying the fire'.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Robert (new)

Robert Hmmm...I read All the Pretty Horses and gave it one of my private titles: All Pretty Pointless. This sounds like The Pretensions. I really think I'm gonna skip McCarthy for the rest of my life.


Nikki I liked it, but... if messing about with set conventions strikes you as pretentious, then yes, avoid.


message 3: by Robert (new)

Robert For me it depends whether I think anything is gained by it; E.E.Cummings is one of my favourite poets, for instance, where-as some other things like long passages of stream of conciousness just annoy me. Hemmingway's style, whilst conventional in the sense of following normal rules of grammar and puctuation is so irritating that it distracts me from the powerful stories he wrote, thereby defeating himself.
Reading Shaw, who refused to use the apostrophe winds me up every time I find that one is missing...


Nikki Well, I think it was done for a purpose, in The Road.


message 5: by Robert (new)

Robert OK - maybe not pretentious, then.


Nikki I'm assuming good intentions on McCarthy's part -- that not following the set conventions is a part of the complete breakdown of society in his post-apocalyptic world. Form echoing content.


message 7: by Robert (new)

Robert Interesting observation.


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