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The Road

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A searing, postapocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece.

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.

241 pages, Hardcover

First published September 26, 2006

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About the author

Cormac McCarthy

73 books22.2k followers
Cormac McCarthy is an American novelist and playwright. He has written twelve novels in the Southern Gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic genres and has also written plays and screenplays. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Road, and his 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. His earlier Blood Meridian (1985) was among Time Magazine's poll of 100 best English-language books published between 1925 and 2005, and he placed joint runner-up for a similar title in a poll taken in 2006 by The New York Times of the best American fiction published in the last 25 years. Literary critic Harold Bloom named him one of the four major American novelists of his time, along with Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, and Philip Roth. He is frequently compared by modern reviewers to William Faulkner. In 2009, Cormac McCarthy won the PEN/Saul Bellow Award, a lifetime achievement award given by the PEN American Center.

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Profile Image for J.G. Keely.
546 reviews9,763 followers
October 21, 2015
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 '96, NYU Professor Alan Sokal submitted a paper for publication to several scientific journals. He made it so complex and full of jargon the average person wouldn't be able to make heads or tails of it. He wrote a conclusion that 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 these trusted judges. 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). Unlike Sokol, McCarthy didn't do it purposefully, he just writes in an ostentatiously empty style which is safe and convenient to praise.

Many have lauded his straightforward prose, 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. Precise and purposeful? Hrdlt. The Road is as elegant as a laundry list (if not as well punctuated). Compiling a long and redundant series of unnecessary descriptions is not straightforward, but needlessly complicated.

We're supposed to find this simplicity profound--that old postmodern game of defamiliarization, making the old seem new, showing the importance of everyday events--but McCarthy isn't actually changing the context, he's just restating. There is no personality in it, no relationship to the plot, no revealing of the characters.

Perhaps it is meant to show their weariness: they cannot even muster enough energy to participate in their own lives, but is the best way to demonstrate boredom 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. In another 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 world's blandest cyberpunk anthology.

Another 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."

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".

Often, 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, since his awkward prose harms human ears.

Sometimes, smack in the middle of a detailed description of 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), 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 (it was years before the movie), but they had to assume it was one hilarious road, with a busfull of nuns hiding a convict in disguise on the run from a bumbling southern sheriff and his deputy; a donkey is involved.

Without mentioning 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 up, neat and tight. It certainly bears out McCarthy's admission on Oprah that he "had no idea where it was going" when he wrote it. We can tell, Cormac.

As you may have noticed from the quotes, another notorious issue is the way the book is punctuated, which is to say, it isn't. The most complex mark is the a rare comma. It's not like McCarthy is only using simple, straightforward sentences, either---he fills up on 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 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 to a ridiculous scene.

It's 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. 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, punctuating every conflict in the book, like a bad horror film. Cannibals and dead infants are an okay (if cliche) place to start when it comes to unsettling the reader, but just having the characters react histrionically does not build tension, especially when the characters are too flat to be sympathetic in the first place. 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 boy with an AK can see how 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 PTSD, 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, 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 black, so it doesn't mater how many more black strokes he layers on top: they will not stand out because there is no contrast, 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 they 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 insight 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 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"

To any genre reader, this book will have a familiar and unpleasant taste, the same one LeGuin has often lamented: that of the big name author slumming. They pop into fantasy or sci fi with their lit fic credentials to show us little folk 'how it's really done'--but know nothing about the genre or its history, and just end up reinventing the wheel, producing a book that would have been tired and dated thirty years ago. Luckily for such writers, none of their lit fic critics know anything about other genres--any sort of bland rehash will feel fresh to them, as long as you have the name-recognition to get them to look in the first place.

So, McCarthy gets two stars for a passable (if cliche) script for a sci fi adventure movie, minus one star for unconscionable denigration of human suffering. I couldn't say if McCarthy's other books are any good; I will probably try another, just to see if any part 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 no longer has anything worth saying.

"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
Profile Image for Scott.
10 reviews102 followers
February 19, 2008
I really feel compelled to write up a review of McCarthy's The Road as this book really worked for me (for those of you who haven't read it, there are no real spoilers below, only random quotes and thematic commentary). I read it last night in one sitting. Hours of almost nonstop reading. I found it to be an excellent book on so many levels that I am at a loss as to where to begin. It was at once gripping, terrifying, utterly heart-wrenching, and completely beautiful. I have read most of McCarthy's other books and am already a big fan, but this one is different, perhaps his best in terms of lean, masterful prose, plot presentation, and flat-out brilliant storytelling.

Take this passage for example: "The blackness he woke to on those nights was sightless and impenetrable. A blackness to hurt your ears with listening. Often he had to get up. No sound but the wind in the bare blackened trees. He rose and stood tottering in that cold autistic dark with his arms outheld for balance while the vestibular calculations in his skull cranked out their reckonings. An old chronicle." Happy times! The word choice and imagery is classic McCarthy yet is leaner and more honed, tighter and in turn more intense. The whole book follows this pattern. No word, not a single one, is extraneous. This is perhaps my favorite single sentence in the book: "By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp." I just love that.

Clearly this book struck a chord with me due to the two protagonists and their predicament, a father and his young son struggling in a post-apocalyptic world. To say I could identify with their interactions would be a huge understatement. McCarthy absolutely nails their dialog, making me marvel at how well he has mastered presenting on a page the way we communicate (it isn't exactly how we talk, of course, it just seems that way. Through some sort of magic, he writes dialog that comes across more realistically than actual dialog. Witchcraft for sure.). The young son was especially well done and was most certainly the most complicated character in the book. McCarthy presents him as a sort of supernatural being (Christ figure?), of only the best sort, full of goodness, a thing not of the world in which he finds himself. He is effortlessly drawn down the path of the righteous throughout the book, as if he is God's right hand man. The reward appears, at least superficially, to be key moments of luck.

It almost wouldn't work from a literary standpoint if it didn't serve so well as a vehicle to reinforce the central theme of the book: the undeniable power of love over all else. The theme of love, mostly presented through the bond of the father and son, is so well done as to evoke strong emotions, even now, as I consider how to present its keen development throughout the novel. To be so desperate, in every way and at all times, and yet to survive and at times thrive, to persevere through terrible events of unbelievable horror (think Steven King's The Stand on steroids) would strike feelings of great, sad compassion in even the most tempered soul. But it is much more than that of course. Consider this passage, a speaking passage from father to son, spoken during one of the most tense and horrifying scenes in the book: "You wanted to know what the bad guys looked like. Now you know. It may happen again. My job is to take care of you. I was appointed to do that by God. I will kill anyone who touches you. Do you understand?" In this one passage, McCarthy shows the great contradiction in this theme of love, the idea that violence and beauty can spring fourth from the same well, can come from the same fountainhead. Interestingly, the father often resorts to violence in his role as a servant of love (he sees it as his duty, in a religious sense, as stated in the quote). Yet the boy never does and appears better for it, in so many ways, even in that terrible place. He is the embodiment of pure goodness, and sets up the other, better side of love, the side that is unsullied by the world, that never resorts to baseness and violence, that finds beauty in even to most unlikely of places. Like seeing a picture better when you hold it up to the light, the contrasts between these two sides is masterfully provided, page after page, in only the most well written and considered prose.

The often repeated promethean phrase "carrying the fire," agreed upon by the two protagonists as pretty much the whole point of their continuing, embodies this central theme. The boy is carrying the fire for us all, and is perhaps the most important survivor in that shattered world, bearing the torch of love for humanity to share when it is again ready. Not to belabor the point, but the way McCarthy handles this, all the way until the end, is nothing short of genius. Can you tell I liked the book yet? I am amazed that I missed this book for so long, me being a huge McCarthy fan and placing him squarely at the top of the "big four" (with DeLillo, Roth, and Pynchon). The book is so "it's own" that as soon as I felt myself feeling an influence (for example, I swore I smelled Hemmingway's Old Man and the Sea in terms of prose/theme, and the more terrifyingly cruel parts at times rang so much like Kosinski's The Painted Bird ), McCarthy would insert the perfect McCarthyism, solidly planting the flag (so to speak) of a phrase or sentence into the passage to claim it forever for himself, like a prosaic explorer figuratively pushing out into the unknown through deft assemblages of words and phases impossible to all but him (ok, that metaphor was way too much….time to wrap it up). Of course I have more to say but am beginning to risk (actually have already thoroughly risked) repeating myself and sounding like some deranged, McCarthy stalker-type. Check this one out. It is superior literature.
Profile Image for Evan.
1,072 reviews739 followers
August 6, 2016
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.

(KR@KY 2009, amended only very slightly in 2016)
NOTE: This review was written about, and during, bus rides to work while reading this book. To date, it is my most popular review on Goodreads, and for that I thank everyone. It appeared on the Publisher's Weekly website in an article on best parody reviews on Goodreads. Thanks to everyone who agreed with me and to also those who disagreed and vigorously defended the book.
Profile Image for Jason.
288 reviews532 followers
March 3, 2009
This wasn't nearly as funny as everybody says it is.
Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,356 reviews11.8k followers
January 27, 2022

The view that there are two independent, primal forces in the universe, one good and one evil, is called dualism. According to dualism, the good God does the best he can to promote good and combat evil but he can only do so much since evil is a powerful counterforce in its own right. The ancient Gnostics were dualist with their scriptures emphasizing the mythic rather than the historic and positing our evil world of matter created not by an all-powerful God but by a flawed deity called the Demiurge. In contrast to the Demiurge, the good God of light resides above our earthly material universe in a pure, spiritual realm called the Pleroma.

I mention dualism and Gnosticism here since I read in Cormac McCarthy's novel No Country For Old Men the following dialogue between a good old Texas boy by the name of Sheriff Bell and his old Uncle Ellis:
Sheriff Bell asks: “Do you think God knows what's happenin?”
Uncle Ellis replies – “I expect he does.”
Bell then asks – “You think he can stop it?”
To this Uncle Ellis answers – “No. I dont.”

By these answers, whether he knows it or not, Uncle Ellis is expressing Gnostic dualism. Of course, McCarthy's worldview isn't necessarily the worldview of one of his characters, in this case Uncle Ellis, but my sense after reading No Country for Old Men McCarthy's worldview isn't that far removed from Gnostic dualism; rather, the world and society McCarthy creates is absolutely soaking in evil. The evil is so strong in this McCarthy novel, one could say evil is the primal force of the universe.

A world where evil is the primal force is given an even more complete and deeper expression in McCarthy's post-Apocalyptic novel The Road, where a man and his son travel south to avoid the oncoming winter cold. Why am I saying this? Let me offer a couple observations around two quotes:

We read a reflection of the man when he was a boy about age thirteen prior to the apocalypse, "Standing at the edge of a winter field among rough men, watching while they opened up the rocky hillside ground with pick and mattock and brought to light a great bolus of serpents perhaps a hundred in number; the dull tubes of them beginning to move sluggishly in the cold hard light. Like the bowels of some great beast exposed to the day. The men poured gasoline on them and burned them alive, having no remedy for evil but only for the image of it as they conceived it to be. The burning snakes twisted horribly and some crawled burning across the floor of the grotto to illuminate its darker recesses. As they were mute there were no screams of pain and the men watched them burn and writhe and blacken in just such silence themselves and they disbanded in silence in the winter dusk each with his own thoughts to go home to their suppers." One can only wonder what brought about the actual apocalypse in the novel. Perhaps, similar to these men, world leaders attempted to remedy the image of evil on a macro level.

Here is a typical scene the man and boy come upon: "Beyond a crossroads in that wilderness they began to come upon the possessions of travelers abandoned in the road years ago. Boxes and bags. Everything melted and black. Old plastic suitcases curled shapeless in the heat. Here and there the imprint of things wrested out of the tar by scavengers. A mile on and they began to come upon the dead. Figures half mired in the blacktop, clutching themselves, mouths howling." No more quotes are needed as I am sure you get the idea - a shadowy, menacing, ash-filled landscape populated by humans hunting and killing and eating one another.

What creates the drama in this dark, sinister, stinking world is the love the man has for the boy, his son, and the love the boy has for the man, his papa. Also, the compassion the boy has for those they encounter on the road. All through their experience on the road, can we say the man holds a Gnostic-like dualist view? He experiences the intensity of the world's evil to be sure. However, his belief in a Gnostic light realm is paradoxical. Sometimes he reflects there is only this evil world of matter, harrowing and unrelenting; and yet sometimes he recognizes the boy as a messenger come from that otherworldly realm of light.

Rather than attempting an answer, I suggest reading with these ideas of dualism and Gnosticism in mind as one way of contemplating and appreciating the philosophical and theological dimensions of McCarthy’s bleak novel.

Cormac McCarthy - American novelist and independent spirit par excellence
Profile Image for Robin.
Author 6 books192 followers
January 31, 2009
So I generally don't hate books - Recently when joining a face2face club they asked which book I disliked the most - and had no answer. Well I want to thank Cormac McCarthy for giving me something to be able to put there.

Having heard the buzz about this book and having seen the plethora of positive reviews, I felt compelled to write my own if only to be that voice of reason in a wilderness of pretentious insanity.

Cormac’s McCarthy’s The Road, I can honestly say, is the worst book I have ever read. I am stunned to find such a critical following for a novel that is so clearly bad that I have yet to meet a flesh and blood person who does not hate it, or cannot, even after the most mild inquires, explain its appeal beyond the latent thought that they “ought” to like it. To do otherwise would mark them as uncultured and ignorant. Modern art had Duchamp's toilet, and now literature has its own case of the emperor’s new clothes in, The Road.

What sets this novel apart from all others in its genre of ill-conception, is the totality of its failure. There is nothing good that can be said of it. Some virtue can be found in every book, as in the old adage—“…but she has a nice personality.” The Road breaks this rule, and soundly. From the plot and characters to the writing style and even the cover design, the book is abysmally uninspired and a black hole of skill.

Much has been made of the writing quality. Alan Cheuse, of the Chicago Tribune, and book commentator for NPR calls it “…his huge gift for language.” Let’s look at that for a moment. It is universally accepted that the first few sentences of any novel are the most crucial—the words which a writer labors over the most to get them just right. Here are the first two sentences of The Road:

“When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before.”

I once presented these two sentences to an amateur writer’s forum and asked their opinion. Several members politely replied that the sentences were badly in need of work. Not only were they not grammatically correct, but they were awkward, confusing, used several unnecessary words and had all the rhythm and pacing of a dog with four broken legs. Nights dark beyond darkness, has got to rank up there with, it was a dark and stormy night. This is not at all an isolated example. It is merely the beginning—literally. Other laudable narrative sentences include: “The Hour.” “Of a sudden he seemed to wilt even further.” “A lake down there.”

Lest you think I am selectively picking the worst, here is the passage Mr. Cheuse used in his own review as an example of genius: “tottering in that cold autistic dark with his arms outheld for balance while the vestibular calculations in his skull cranked out their reckonings. An old chronicle. To seek out the upright. No fall but preceded by a declination. He took great marching steps into the nothingness, counting them against his return.” What McCormac is describing here is that it is dark and the man can’t see where he is going. The author is clearly a master of communication.

Let’s also pause to consider his brilliance of dialog, and his mastery of the monosyllable conversation that make the screenplay dialog of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger on par with Shakespeare. Nearly every conversation has the word “Okay,” which appears so often I began to think it was a pun, like a ventriloquist routine. One might conclude McCarthy is attempting to reflect a realistic vernacular into his work, except that the conversations are so stilted and robotic, as to lack even the faintest aroma of realism. There is no slang, no halted speech, no rambling. It is Dragnet.

First dialog in the book:
I ask you something? Yes. Of course. Are we going to die? Sometime. Not now. And we’re still going south. Yes. So we’ll be warm. Yes. Okay. Okay what? Nothing. Just okay. Go to sleep. Okay.

You’ll note that I did not use quotes in the above excerpt. That is because neither does McCarthy. There are no quotes anywhere in the book, nor are there any tags designating the speaker, which manages to successfully make determining who is speaking quite a dilemma at times. Moreover, McCarthy never provides names to his characters this forces him to use the pronoun “he” frequently which very often leaves the reader bewildered as to whether he is referring to the father or the boy.

McCarthy doesn’t stop with quotes. He rarely uses commas or apostrophes. It doesn’t appear as if he is against contractions as he uses the non-word, “dont” quite frequently. Nor is he making the statement that he can write a whole book without punctuation as he does, on rare occasions, use a comma or an apostrophe, (as you can see from the dialog segment I listed above,) as if he is going senile and merely forgot. As the lack of most of the necessary punctuation’s only result is to make it harder to read, I can only conclude that McCarthy, or his editor are the most lazy people I’ve ever heard of—although I am certain no credible editor ever saw this book. If they had I am certain we would have heard about the suicide in the papers.

One might overlook the shortcomings of writing skill if the novel’s foundation was an excellent story. Sadly, this is not the case. Not that it lacks an excellent plot—it lacks a plot. Often times writers anguish over distilling the plot of a novel into a few sentences that might fit on the back of a book cover. It is often impossible to clearly convey all that a book is in such a short span. The Road does not suffer this. Instead I would imagine that if it were possible to put this book in a microwave and evaporate all the extraneous words all you would have left is one sentence: A boy and his father travel south in a post-apocalyptic United States, then the father dies. I wonder if the blurb writer for the, The Road, realized he was also providing a spoiler for the novel so comprehensive, no one need read the book.

What the book lacks in plot it clearly makes up for in even less characterization. The father and the boy—that is about as much characterization as you will get. McCarthy doesn’t even provide names from which readers might glean some associative characteristics. We know the boy is afraid, because he says so approximately every four pages, always with the same robotic level of emotional intensity, backing it up with his many reasons, regrets and concerns as in the passage: I am scared. Likewise, the father is equally a pot bubbling over with emotional angst and frustration so vividly expressed in his response: I know. I’m sorry.

We might as well burn all our copies of Grapes of Wrath now that we have this tour de force.

As amazing as it is, with only an eggshell of plot, McCarthy manages to run afoul of logic. The boy and his father come across shelters packed with food and water, and yet the father insists they move on. Why? Because they must keep moving so as to avoid encountering others. Clearly staying in one place is the best plan to avoid meeting others, hermit do it all the time. Yes, other people might wander into you, but you double that equation if you too are roaming. The only argument for pressing on with the journey is to find others.

I am certain I am being too kind here, but given that this is a Pulitzer Prize winning, Oprah Pick, National Bestseller, I don’t want to ruffle too many feathers. Of course, Duchamp's toilet (Fountain) was once voted "the most influential modern artwork of all time".
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
859 reviews2,177 followers
February 25, 2015
How to Write Like Cormac McCarthy

1. Make sure the first sentence contains a verb.

2. But neither the second.

3. Nor the third.

4. Repeat until finished.

5. Or sooner deterred.

We'll Become Well Eventually

The Boy: Papa?

Papa: Yes?

The Boy: What's this?

Papa: It's an apostrophe.

The Boy: What does it do?

Papa: It takes two words and turns them into a contraction.

The Boy: Is that good?

Papa: Years ago people used to think it was good.

The Boy: What about now?

Papa: Not many people use them now.

The Boy: Does the world already have enough contractions, Papa?

Papa: I hadn't thought of it like that. But you might be on to something.

The Boy: What difference would it make if we threw away all the apostrophes?

Papa: Not much. I don't think.

The Boy: I wonder if we could get rid of the apostrophe, then maybe...

Papa: Yes?

The Boy: You could say we'll be well.

Papa: You're right. You know. But it could get confusing. If you wrote it down. Without an apostrophe. "Well be well."

The Boy: But really, Papa, if we could take away just one apostrophe, do you think we'll become well? Eventually. All of us?

Papa: We could.

The Boy: Well, then, if we can get rid of all of the apostrophes, we will.

Papa: But then there wouldn't be any contractions!

The Boy: Papa!

Papa: Haha. I wish your grammar could hear you talking!

In Praise of the Verb to Grow

Out of ashen gray
Frequently grow sentences
Of colored beauty.

All Things of Grace and Beauty
[An Assemblage of Favourite Sentences]

Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world. No fall but preceded by a declination. He caught it in his hand and watched it expire there like the last host of christendom. No one travelled this land. Ever's a long time. Creedless shells of men tottering down the causeways like migrants in a feverland. The sparks rushed upward and died in the starless dark. On this road there are no godspoke men. How does the never to be differ from what never was? By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp. The ash fell on the snow until it was all but black. Paths of feral fire in the coagulate sands. The day providential to itself. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance of pain. We're survivors he told her across the flame of the lamp. A black billcap with the logo of some vanished enterprise embroidered across the front of it. In the darkness and the silence he could see bits of light that appeared random on the night grid. The sacred idiom shorn of its referents and so of its reality. The dark serpentine of a dead vine running down it like the track of some enterprise on a graph. A single bit of sediment coiling in the jar on some slow hydraulic axis ...a pale palimpsest of advertisements for goods which no longer existed. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. There is no God and we are his prophets. They are watching for a thing that even death cannot undo... Like the desolation of some alien sea breaking on the shores of a world unheard of. One vast salt sepulchre. There were few nights lying in the dark when he did not envy the dead. I will not send you into the darkness alone. The mudstained shapes of flooded cities burned to the waterline. A living man spoke these lines. Ten thousand dreams ensepulchred within their crozzled hearts. The ponderous counterspectacle of things ceasing to be. The sweeping waste, hydroptic and coldly secular. There is no prophet in the earth's long chronicle who's not honored here today.

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - "The Beach" (The Road Soundtrack)


Alternative Dystopian Ending Haiku

Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,113 reviews44.4k followers
May 13, 2020
The Road is a truly disturbing book; it is absorbing, mystifying and completely harrowing. Simply because it shows us how man could act given the right circumstances; it���s a terrifying concept because it could also be a true one.

It isn’t a book that gives you any answers, you have to put the pieces together and presume. For whatever reason, be it nuclear war or environmental collapse, the world has gone to hell. It is a wasteland of perpetual greyness and ash. Very little grows anymore, and the air itself is toxic. The survivors are made ill by their surroundings, physically, mentally and spiritually. They cough and splutter, they struggle to carry on and lack the will to live. Civilisation has completely collapsed, but its remnants remain: the roads remain.

“On this road there are no godspoke men. They are gone and I am left and they have taken with them the world.”

Thus, the man and the boy (that’s the only names we are ever given for them) walk down them. They communicate rarely, when they do it is bare and in seemingly inane phrases. At times, especially at the start of the book, when no sense of history orr time were relayed, the conversation was highly reminiscent of that in Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot. The exchanges had little to no point and were totally lacking in any substance, as the two central characters longed for something that seemed out of reach.

It’s a brave narrative device, one that seems to have put off many readers. But it also articulates much about the psychological states of the man and the boy. There’s just not that much to talk about when you live in a world where you’re under constant threat from roaming gangs of cannibals catching you, dying of starvation and perhaps even exposure along with the knowledge that you will have to kill your son should the said cannibals finally catch up with you. Not to mention the sheer level of trauma and stress both characters are operating under. Staying alive is all that matters, wasting energy on words in such a situation is fruitless where you barely have the strength to walk down the road for another day.

“What's the bravest thing you ever did?
He spat in the road a bloody phlegm. Getting up this morning, he said.”


A dark and seemingly hopeless story unfolds. The farther and son are travelling to the beach, a distance of several hundred miles. With them they push all their worldly possessions, and resources, in a shopping cart. Such a journey seems like a fool’s errand. But what other choice do they have? The two cling onto something, a fire, a hope, that life can somehow get better. And then it continued to burn even after the mother has killed herself. This, for me, captures a large part of the human psyche: an indomitable will to survive.

The Road is suffocating; it is claustrophobic and it is entrapping. What McCarthy shows us, is that no matter how shit human society may become (has already become?) it will always have the possibility of rejuvenation. There is light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. The entire novel is an allegory, one that is not revealed until the final few pages.

“Keep a little fire burning; however small, however hidden.”


You can connect with me on social media via My Linktree.
Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book862 followers
April 4, 2021
The Road is a dismal and poignant novel. A man and his son are trying to survive on a devastated (possibly post-nuclear) land, covered by ashes. They trudge through on a deserted road that doesn't seem to lead anywhere. They are starving. Occasionally, they either find some food or come up with a group of man-eating panhandlers.

Not much of a plot to speak of in this book, and everything sounds like a pointless and painful attempt at surviving in a world that is already charred and dead — in a way, it reminded me of some of Samuel Beckett's plays. There is at all times an undercurrent of danger and threat. Most descriptions are about landscapes or minute details: the man exploring abandoned houses or cobbling rusted things together. Most of the dialogues between the two main characters are about making sure the other one is okay. Cormac McCarthy's narration is extraordinarily subtle and pared-down.

In the end, this might sound quite dull and gloomy indeed, but through it all, and mainly through the relationship between the father and his son, I was startled by the genuinely stirring sense of humanity, of compassion, of love, of hope that arises from this story.

Edit: Watched the movie starring Viggo Mortensen. Apart from a few flashbacks with the wife (Charlize Theron), it is respectfully adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel. It’s a colourless, dreadful, profoundly wrenching film, in the best tradition of father & son movies such as Chaplin’s The Kid. Mortensen, Robert Duvall and the boy Kodi Smit-McPhee are outstanding.
Profile Image for Justin (Look Alive Books).
278 reviews2,258 followers
June 11, 2019
Ladies and gentlemen of Goodreads, I present to you my first five star review of 2018- The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

And, ladies and gentlemen of Goodreads, here is the crazy thing. This is my THIRD time reading the book! My THIRD time! And y’all wanna know how many stars I rated this book last time? TWO! TWO WHOLE STARS! I didn’t even write a review. I just gave it two stars and moved on with my life. And now here I am with a five star review, and, folks, I can’t even explain what’s happened to me. I don’t know why I’ve had this change of heart. I don’t know why all of a sudden this book grabbed me and held me in its arms like a little baby and crushed me in the end.

I have one theory though. I LISTENED to the book this time around. I’m sorry for capitalizing so many words. It just feels right for some reason. It feels RIGHT. Listening to the book forced me to slow down a little bit and take in the writing in a much different way. It allowed me to really savor the book and chew on the words a little bit before swallowing them. The book is beautiful, man, and I think it’s beauty flew right past me the first two times. Not this time though.

I love apocalyptic books anyway. I loved Station Eleven. The Stand is alright. I Am Legend was awesome. But, man, McCarthy comes in with The Road and you can literally feel the bleakness and the emptiness and the desperation in his writing. You can see and smell the blackness and the ash and the cold. It’s hard to read (or listen to) sometimes because it’s just so hopeless, and you know nothing good is coming. You know there can’t be some happy ending waiting for you. There’s no way. Not in the world he’s created.

But for a book so cold and dark, it’s also poetic and beautiful. McCarthy’s short sentences and minimal words in his dialogues work great in this world, and it all adds to the overall tone of the story. Boy howdy, I’ve had an awesome JanuMcCarthyary so far.

On to Blood Meridian!!!!! Can’t wait!!!! Yeaaahhh!!!!
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,867 reviews16.5k followers
February 24, 2019
A good friend gave this to me to read. I told him I already had an audiobook working and he said, "you'll want to read this one".

I could barely put it down.


McCarthy's prose is simple, fable like, yet also lyrical, like a minamalistic poet. The portrait he has painted is dark and foreboding, difficult and painful, yet he carries "the fire" throughout, a spark of hope and love that must be his central message to the reader.

Having read the book, not sure if I want to see the film, it may spoil my vision of McCarthy's art. **March 2017 and I still have not seen the film and still don't think I will.

Profile Image for Ian.
125 reviews477 followers
February 7, 2011
I just read some guy's review of The Road that contained the following:

"In the three hours that I read this book I found myself crying, laughing, shouting, and most of the time my lip was trembling. ... As soon as I finished it, I sat there feeling numb, but not in a bad way, actually sort of like I was high."

Wow, dude. I mean, really? Your lip was trembling? And you felt high? And your lip was trembling? Pherphuxake, what do you even say to someone like that?

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is an awful, awful book. I have to consciously restrain myself from judging those of you who believe the book has merit. Don’t worry, the fact that I’m part of a very small minority in this regard (only the smartest 3% of my fellow Goodreads bibliophiles also gave The Road a one-star review) has not escaped me. I am nevertheless convinced of the objective correctness of my position—notwithstanding the inherent subjective nature of any literary discussion—and I will maintain with my dying breath that The Road should have been named The Rod because it represents nothing more than Cormac McCarthy’s attempt to proclaim to the world that he has a big literary dick.

I have constructed a list of factors that increase a book’s suck quotient and I fear The Road exhibits most of them. Let’s check my list and see which things appear in The Road:

• A plot that lacks clear beginning or ending (check)
• Important characters who don't grow or learn from their experiences (check)
• Important characters whose actions lack clear motivation (check)
• Scenes and dialogue that are repetitive or unoriginal (check)
• Violence and gore included for shock value (check)
• Locations and settings that are ambiguous (check)
• History and backstory that are ambiguous (check)
• Grammar and punctuation used in a pretentious or self-indulgent manner (check)
• Pronouns and punctuation used in an ambiguous manner (check)
• Metaphors and analogies that appear contrived, forced and disjointed (check)

Okay, to be fair The Road doesn’t exhibit most of the suck-quotient factors; it exhibits all of them. It's as though McCarthy deliberately designed his book to be the antithesis of what I think makes for quality reading.

Now before I get any further, let’s get a couple of things out of the way. Much is made of McCarthy’s failure to use quotation marks and other punctuation, with some finding it brilliant and some finding it pretentious and self-indulgent. I make my home in the pretensions-and-self-indulgent camp. In fact I find McCarthy’s treatment of punctuation nauseating; it is his way of saying:

“My words are so beautiful, perfect, and complete that they stand on their own. I require no punctuation to convey my meaning. Indeed my message is too powerful to be contained by the same convention that restricts the middling novelist, too important to suffer the vandalism of punctuation.”

Thus, leaving out punctuation can be not only confusing for the reader, but also revoltingly self-indulgent and arrogant. However, that being said, I don’t believe The Road sucks merely because it lacks quotation marks. I’m okay with such a tool if it’s used for a purpose that adds to the message being conveyed, à la Blindness. So punctuation is not the only suck-quotient factor here. Instead, I believe The Road sucks because it sucks every possible way a book can suck. The purposeless lack of quotation marks and other punctuation is merely one symptom of the enormity of the book’s suckitude.

It’s important to understand that this is not just a matter me disliking The Road. I have an almost vehement reaction to The Road and to the rather large group of slobbering, screaming, panties-throwing admirers. In the interest of intellectual honesty, I challenged myself to figure out why this is. Why can’t I just abhor The Road while letting other people have their moronic fun? Why must I look down on people who love The Road with a feeling of disgusted superiority? Why do I care if others enjoy the mental equivalent of dipping bread into horse diarrhea and pretending it’s award-winning fondue?

It took some soul-searching to learn the answer: I react vehemently to The Road because fans and critics of literature love to stroke McCarthy’s Rod, while works of science fiction—my favorite genre—are dismissed regardless of their merit. Critics praise The Road but glibly waive off sci-fi as a genre for people who never grew out of their childlike amusement for light sabers or their adolescent fascination with space battles. Sci-fi is relegated to its own awards and events, left out of consideration for broader literary honors, leaving me with the impression that the literary world does not perceive sci-fi to be real, legitimate literature. But from my point of view The Road is the adolescent work. By the standards under which I would judge a quality sci-fi novel (or any quality novel), The Road is shallow and simple, along with unoriginal and obvious. The Road is to my favorite sci-fi as a toddler’s splashing pool is to Lake Tahoe. It is beyond me how The Road can be the guest of honor while much deeper books with beautiful language and original, thought-provoking ideas are not even invited to the party because they happen to be sci-fi.

Of course the other 97% disagree with my assessment of The Road as shallow and unoriginal. They believe that I just didn't get it, that I couldn’t see past McCarthy’s prose and unconventional punctuation. They tell me The Road is rich and deep. They tell me to forget the quotation marks and the nameless characters and look at what McCarthy is trying to tell us. The Road tells us this, and it talks about that, and speaks to this other thing.

Then the 38% who gave The Road five stars lose themselves in their collective self-amplified group hysteria. “The Road is so so so great!” they yell in unison. “Please take my panties, Mr. McCarthy!” they yell at some imaginary stage. “Here, Mr. McCarthy please sign my boobs!” And that’s where I have to walk away.

The thing is, though, I didn’t have a difficult time seeing what The Road tells us and talks about and speaks to; I just didn't find any of it to be especially deep, enlightening, or insightful. The book was easy to read and simple to comprehend. It didn’t make me think. Everything was right there on the surface, served with a spoon, and what we were served had no flavor, no spice, no originality. So it’s not that The Road lacks all substance. If it weren’t for the nonstop nauseating self-indulgence I would have given it two stars and might recommend it to people who are new to the reading scene. My problem is that, for something so beloved and critically acclaimed, for something written by a writer with such talent, The Road fails utterly, a shell without substance that collapses in upon itself in a heap of triteness and unoriginality. To put it yet another way, The Road was just so goddamn boring.

I want a book that makes me pay attention and use my noggin. I want to work at peeling back layers and making connections. When I find them, I want the author's ideas and insights to be original, edifying, and thought-provoking. I want artful prose, relatable characters, realistic motivations, and poetic plot points. And guess what, I find no shortage of books on the sci-fi shelves that meet those criteria.

Now let’s see if we can tie things together. There are plenty of truly excellent books of contemporary literature; I have read and enjoyed several, including one or two that have touched me deeply. Likewise there are plenty of truly excellent books on the sci-fi genre. For some reason one genre is invited to the party and the other isn’t. I don’t know why that is, beyond an apparent assumption made by haughty critics and readers that sci-fi is for kids. Now, I’m not trying to say that all sci-fi is wonderful. There’s plenty of crappy sci-fi out there, just like there’s plenty of crap in any genre. My point is simply that, despite the dismissive attitude of many literary critics, the sci-fi shelves contain books that are as good as anything out there: books as rich and complex, as insightful and layered, as edifying and beautiful as anything in contemporary literature. So when something like The Road is hailed as a masterpiece while some truly brilliant works of sci-fi—works that could mop the floor with The Road in every facet— are acknowledged only by a roll of the eyes ... well, I think you see why I can’t be happy just to dislike The Road and let everyone else have their fun.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,150 reviews1,688 followers
December 7, 2022

”The Road” dell’australiano John Hillcoat, con il magnifico australiano Viggo Mortensen, e la splendida sudafricana Charlize Theron, la canadese Molly Parker, l’australiano d’adozione Guy Pearce, e Robert Duvall. 2009

In un mondo desaturato trionfo del grigio, pieno di cenere polvere e fumo, che costringe i pochi rimasti a vestire mascherine, in un mondo con più castigo che delitto e i giorni contati, dove sopravvivere è meno auspicabile della morte, dove alzarsi la mattina è un autentico atto di coraggio, dove si prova invidia per i morti, dove 'la strada' non indica viaggio, avventura ricerca scoperta, ma fuga, paura, minaccia (infatti è meglio tenersi fuori dalla strada per evitare brutti incontri), in un mondo così, Cormac McCarthy il biblico, qui diventato apocalittico (o post-apocalittico), mette in scena una meravigliosa storia d'amore, straziante totale viscerale tra un padre (l'uomo) e suo figlio (il bambino).


È la grande invenzione di questo romanzo, considerato il suo capolavoro (a torto, secondo me: il suo libro migliore è da cercare tra i meridiani di sangue e la trilogia della frontiera), adattato per lo schermo in un film molto bello che ho visto due volte, e che paga pegno al testo da cui è tratto esclusivamente per il finale, questo sì, superiore sulla pagina.
Per un padre chioccia quale io sono, si è trattato di un viaggio lungo poco più di duecento pagine attraverso delizia e atrocità per approdare a un finale che non posso raccontare e quindi nemmeno commentare.


Non ero abituato a un Mccarthy così dedito al dialogo, nei suoi libri i personaggi mi sono sempre sembrati tutto meno che loquaci: invece, qui, la chiacchiera abbonda e non è la parte migliore del libro.

Quando ce ne saremo andati tutti qui resterà solo la morte, e anche lei avrà i giorni contati.

Il bambino ci provava a parlare con Dio, ma la cosa migliore era parlare con il padre, e infatti ci parlava e non lo dimenticava mai

Profile Image for Peter.
2,621 reviews467 followers
May 8, 2021
What a great and disturbing read. You'll follow father and son walking cross country to the sea in an post apocalyptic world. Fellow human beings are hostile (there is a distinction between good and bad guys but you'll only find the bad or indifferent ones). God is gone. Our two characters live day by day trying to survive. No positive outlook, rain and cold block their progress. Human race is almost extinct. The dialogues between father and son are short, like their daily portions of food. How will this grim tale end? I won't tell but couldn't put this depressing but enthralling novel down. You don't want to walk a mile in the shoes of the main characters. Prose, language and style are masterly. To me definitely a candidate worth for the Nobel Prize. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Adina.
827 reviews3,226 followers
December 14, 2022
This is a very dark book. It is a sort of a post- apocalyptic western told as a long, somewhat poetic nightmare.

It is about a man and his son who survived the Apocalypse (some sort of a global fire, not many details are revealed) . They wake up each day walking towards the South hoping to live another day. Why are they going south? The only reason stated in the book is the hope that it would be warmer. Every day they face death, starvation, disease, extreme cold, hopelessness. There is no long term goal, only the need to survive but not with all cost. The man and the child are „the good guys” and they are trying not to hurt other human beings, even if sometimes it is impossible. The are constantly on the run from hordes of cannibals which are hunting any survivor.

All the world is grey, unknown, the toxic ash is everywhere. There are some glimpses of the past that offer slight information on how things came to be but not much.

The prose is very repetitive, there are very few concrete details with not record of time. The repetitiveness might help to introduce the reader into the bleak, hopeless atmosphere but, in my opinion, does not make the book an attractive read. There is a lot of small conversation between the man and the boy which is almost the same every time. „We have to get going”, „Are you ok?”, „I’m ok”, “I’m scared”, “it’s ok, don’t be scared”. The dialog is not separately marked and you have to guess who is saying what. Not that it actually matters.

I think that this repetitiveness of the banal dialogue and of some of the descriptions was the main reason why I could not enjoy the book too much. I did not manage to care about the characters or to get involve in story. The language is poetic in some parts and there are some interesting abstract comments about life and death but otherwise it failed to impress me. All I felt was the cold. The author made a good job making me feel cold all the time while I was reading the book. That probably happened because the weather outside is also bleak and cold and in sink with the atmosphere of the book.

I sort of feel guilty I did not like this book more as I know it is seen as a masterpiece. However, I am willing to read more by the author.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,858 reviews512 followers
February 20, 2023
Gray, dark, cold. Ash. Make yourself comfortable with these words. This fact is what remains of our world in "The Road," Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic vision set in the not-so-inconceivable future. The reader might feel McCarthy's constant reiteration on earth laid waste, the grey clouds and the blackened dead trees, and the abandoned homes scavenged bare, is monotonous. But that's the point.
This one is not a pocket of America. The destruction is complete. Civilizations and order are but a memory, a distant memory.
Surviving the scene is a father and son traveling south to escape another winter. They follow a tattered map and stick to a road where the charred and melted dead litter the streets, and roadside bandits await to kill and eat. (If the world is dangerous now, McCarthy is hell on earth.) What makes the nameless father and son remarkable is not their ability to scavenge for food and avoid murderers and thieves in a ground pillaged bare. Instead, they are committed to goodness, where goodness is nowhere to see.
In this case, the son, a young boy, holds firm to the belief his father ingrained in his mind as the father says, "carrying the fire" in a world darker than dark. The boy is the father's conscience and ours, and he pleads the case for morality in a place where, it can argue, the character no longer has residency. Is he merely naïve? No. Is he affected by this? Yes, he weeps for the world, but he's also impervious to the world's selfish corruption.
McCarthy's prose is, once again, poetic and beautifully written. However, he keeps true to the story and ends on a sad and hopefully uplifting note.
"The Road" is a compelling tale of survival. That's a survival of the noble qualities in human nature: benevolence, forgiveness, and love. It reminds us that though evil may flourish and, ultimately, destroy, goodness will find a way to carry on.
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews723 followers
December 7, 2019
This book is shocking, loving, groundbreakingly impressive, beautifully written. I read through it without breathing, I mean I just had to know what was coming on the next page, and cried several times. Without a doubt one of the best books, if not the best, I read, ever...
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,116 reviews3,959 followers
November 20, 2022
Phew. This is a brilliant, bleak, beautiful book, but an emotionally harrowing one, albeit with uplifting aspects (they always cling to a sliver of hope, however tenuous).


There isn't much. But that's fine by me. In the near future, a man and his son traipse south, across a cold, barren, ash-ridden and abandoned land, pushing all their worldly goods in a wonky shopping trolley. They scavenge to survive and are ever-fearful of attack, especially as some of the few survivors have resorted to cannibalism.

Much of the time almost nothing happens, yet that makes it all the more compelling.

The boy is very imaginative, empathetic, moral and scared - a difficult combination in the circumstances. There is a deep love and care between man and boy, each projecting their own survival instinct on to the other. In their anxiety, aspects of their relationship take on a ritualistic tone, and some of their conversations are almost liturgical, invariably ending with an assurance that they're the "good guys" and things will be "okay", yet without becoming banal.

Sometimes they are more wary of being seen than others, and at one point I wondered how much was "real" and how much might be imagined or paranoia, but that doubt passed. Whatever disaster caused the destruction (it is never explained) was some years before and the father realises that despite their closeness, in some ways "to the boy he was himself an alien. A being from a planet that no longer existed."


Very distinctive and controversial. It is written in a sparse, somewhat poetic style ("cold autistic dark"), often detached (the characters are never named) and fragmented, to match the setting of the book. Even quotation marks and apostrophes are almost absent (used only where their absence might create ambiguity, e.g. we're and were).

Initially, I found this pared down language and especially punctuation distracting and infuriating, but when I let go of that, treated it as more of a poem, the minimalism became integral to my appreciation. In fact, it somehow enhances the impact of the story, rather than distracting from it.

If it were typset as a prose poem, it might raise fewer hackles. In fact I think I think one reason some people don't "get" this book is that they read it as a novel that hasn't been proofread, rather than immersing themselves in it as a prose poem.

Much has been made of the intriguingly odd phrase "The snow fell nor did it cease to fall", which leapt off the page at me and is also discussed on Language Log: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/....


A film is coming out in the autumn. It could be excellent, but if they try to make it too cheerful, it would lose its purpose.
UPDATE: I saw the film, and was impressed (and surprised), but still prefer the book.

WARNING: Having enjoyed this, I had high hopes for Outer Dark, but unfortunately I really didn't like that. See my review HERE.

I was unsure whether to read more Cormac McCarthy after that, but in 2022 I read the first of The Border Trilogy, All The Pretty Horses There was much to admire, but I didn't love it and won't read the rest. See my review HERE.
January 3, 2022
Cormac McCarthy’s best selling book The Road tells the story of a father and son warily travelling across post-apocalyptic America, hoping to reach a place of sanctuary. The atmosphere drapes the reader in a throbbing dread for the characters’ lives and the acute anxiety of a father to keep his son safe. Cormac McCarthy uniquely and unexpectedly creates a mesmeric story out of pure gloom and hopelessness. Everything is stripped away, including the names of the man and his son. The writing style is concise, and the dialogue is short and clipped, adding to the scarce sense of existence.

The environment is dreary and lifeless, where nothing grows, and the only way they can live is by finding food stores of canned or dried goods from homes long abandoned. Other survivors have resorted to cannibalism, and the two must be constantly aware of the dangers and risks as they travel, The Road. The father’s greatest fear is of dying and leaving his son to the mercy of scavengers.

Our emotions and fear are heightened further as we watch the father’s health deteriorating as he starts to cough up blood. The reality of leaving his son is fast approaching, and we feel the emptiness of despair. Should he use his pistol to kill the son rather than leave him alone? The decisions and torments are palpable.

With everything brought to its bleakest and most depressed state, the deep, unconditional love between the father and son screams unreservedly. The ending won’t disappoint and will resonate with you long after you’ve finished.

This novel is a classic in atmospheric horror writing! I would highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
May 2, 2021
“What would you do if I died?
If you died I would want to die too.
So you could be with me?
Yes. So I could be with you.

4/25/21 Had easily our most intense family viewing of a film ever in watching the film adaptation of this book and because I am a teacher I pulled it off the shelf and share passages from the book with those interested, and I left it out to see if anyone would read it--nope, too soon after the viewing, they thought--and so I went through it again fairly quickly, as it bears rereading, especially since it is McCarthy's masterpiece, or one of them, and one of my favorite books ever, as devastating as it is.

4/6/18 Re-reading this for my spring 2o18 Climate Change class, and even knowing how it ends, I am wrecked, just demolished by this book, so horrific and so beautiful and moving. Sobbing as I do at the most intimate of losses, but feeling the intensity of any great passionate beauty, too. The beauty of a great book that helps you see what matters. A portrait of terrible desolation and human evil, but at the core of it are these great human possibilities. The love of a father and his son.

9/1/14 Original review, edited a bit in the light of my most recent reading.

An amazing book. So powerful, understated, majestic, moving. Just blew me away. Some one said this was a "dictionary" book, meaning that they had to look up words a lot, and yes, it is a book that loves language, some of it ancient and forgotten, maybe befitting the subject of loss, but McCarthy is always this blend of Faulknerian epic-loss-language and Hemingway's power-through-simplicity-language. Some of the cadences are Biblical, as in King James elevated language, as in The Grapes of Wrath and Cry, The Beloved Country. A book of sweeping tragedy, obviously. And the simple, devastating power we also see in Of Mice and Men and The Old Man and the Sea. Books of allegorical significance and moral power.

In a way, this tale, set years after nuclear holocaust and environmental devastation, is a kind of guide for the apocalypse--any apocalypse, the Big One, your own or a loved one's death, the end of anything--with principle, with character, dignity and love; in this case, it is a father and son facing oblivion, moving forward, Pilgrim's Progress, "carrying the fire" against all odds, never giving up, and it is heartbreaking and anguishing. You wonder, like them, whether you could or can go on. This simple, bleak tale has a kind of echo in it of Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night," where Thomas urges his own father to fight death and not just acquiesce to it, or give into it.

The man in this story teaches his son to fight to stay alive and be one of the "good guys" (or, ethical) with any means available at their disposal. In this simple, bleak dystopian story, we are very possibly at the end of time, in an ash, Beckettian landscape, waiting for Godot, people reduced to their most animal selves. And yet, there are relationships that remain, with simple pleasures, enjoyed by fathers and sons. They read a book. They find a can of Coke, they eat a can of peaches, they tell each stories, they draw pictures, they play a primitive flute they have made, the arts comforting and sustaining them when they need it.

Recently, we had the suicide of Robin Williams, someone we had come to believe we knew well through movies where he played characters urging us to laugh and seize the day, every day. But he was playing characters in movies, and we began, as we do, I suspect, to make the mistake of believing that the convincingly hopeful characters he played were internalized in his own soul. And maybe they were, for a time. Camus said, post-Hiroshima, post-Holocaust, that suicide was the only important philosophical question that remained, and McCarthy, aging as we all are, helps us contemplate this question, too, as we face or imagine facing illness, or death, that nuclear winter.

Throughout the book the man speaks to or reflects on his wife, years gone, who made another choice than he has, and given what they faced, she faced, a reasonable one, and one the man teaches his son to passionately resist, though in his quietest moments, he longs for it himself. When they encounter an old man, a kind of dark seer, on the road, they speak of luck and what it can mean in such a time, and neither are sure what it even means anymore: Is it luckier to live or die in the face of the very end? The man has no hope, though:

“People were always getting ready for tomorrow. I didn't believe in that. Tomorrow wasn't getting ready for them. It didn't even know they were there.”

The old man says to the man, “There is no God and we are his prophets.”

But the boy believes in and is shaped by his belief in God. He and his father are committed to being the good guys who draw the line at barbarity, even when it makes some sense to succumb to it.

Recently, in the Chicago area, I wept to read of another suicide, one of an 82 year old man whose wife was in hospice and living with his two aging children, developmentally disabled; the man first murdered the family everyone knew he had deeply loved, then killed himself. (I know, sorry, this is bleak). But no one in their neighborhood or family questioned his love for his family or even his choice. Who can blame this man, facing an inevitably harder end, his friends seemed to say. Not me, the father of two sons, one with severe autism and the other also now diagnosed autistic. I'm 61. What will happen to them when I am gone? Sam, 18, autistic, living during the week in a group home, comes here to my house every other weekend, and so many of the minimum wage folks he works with are caring and loving, but 3-4 years ago we took a young man to trial for pushing him down a flight of stairs, where he was knocked out and his arm badly broken. He can't speak to defend himself. What future does he have, and what future especially without a loving parent to help defend and speak for him? What does his "road" hold for him? Sometimes, in my worst moments, and thankfully they are few, I think we are Liam Neeson, in The Grey, facing the wolves of destruction in the Arctic (as Neeson himself did in a sense when he lost his wife to a skiing accident, facing his own emotional holocaust and nuclear winter), knife in hand, to the end. But I can't give up, I have to and heartily agree be his father, of course, even the older father that I am.

I have heard this is McCarthy's most personal novel, and since he is a father, and dedicates the book to his own son John Francis McCarthy, I can guess this maybe this is true. I can imagine it as a letter to him, or to all fathers and sons, to help them face down their own terrible moments with grace and resourcefulness. In this book, the man is handy, he is always problem-solving, fixing what he has with the tools available to him, scavenging, finding food and water, reading and telling stories to his son with lessons he sometimes barely believes himself anymore. Whatever he does, McCarthy tells us the son watches his father, and learns. Without his son, there is only death, and he must to the end teach his son how to be handy, to be resourceful, to go on, to live, the best he can.

My own father, the weekend before he died on the operating table for his second bypass surgery, at 76, dropped down to slide under the chassis of my aging Chevy and check out my fading brakes, to the end urging me to care about my stuff, to do the right thing, mentoring me in the right way to live. That night he held one of his last great grandchildren in his arms; less than 48 hours later he was dead, which was still the most devastating moment of my life. Reading the father-son relationship that is at the heart of this book through my own loss makes it tender, gives it depth and rich sentiment. I mean, it is harsh, and bleak, this world the father and son live in, but the story is fundamentally sweet and moving. It's about what matters, as the best of books always are.

McCarthy urges me and us to go on, to be resourceful, to care for each other, and to care for the Earth we were given. There are images so terrible in this book that the man tries to shelter from his son, though the son sees them anyway, and we see them, too. Are they useful to see? I surely don't want some of them in my memory, but there they are, reminding me of past genocides and tragedies and prefiguring the ones surely yet to come on personal and global levels. Maybe it's useful to remind me of the "bad guys" who the man and boy meet on the road, who make the immoral, the wrong choices. What evil is humanly possible? But also, what good? What do we need to do to save the planet? Do we really want to? How long can we keep our heads in the sand, as humans with the power still to (maybe) reverse the environmental end? McCarthy teaches us how to live, and why it is so important: Because of love, and family, and the beauty of the planet. Because we are alive.

“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. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery”--McCarthy

Camus suggests that we humans, post WWII--the Holocaust and Hiroshima, and Stalin, all of it-- should just keep pushing that Myth of Sisyphus-boulder up that hill without any assurance of meaning beyond the doing of it. I can't go on; I'll go on, Samuel Becket has his narrator say at the end of The Unnameable, and that's what the man does and teaches the boy to do, and perhaps it is what we all should do in the worst of circumstances. McCarthy know his Beckett, but finally, McCarthy is not Beckett, as much as this tale owes to McCarthy's master; McCarthy gives us just a little more dignity and hope than Beckett, I think.

I think, too, in my darkest moments that I understand Robin Williams, facing Parkinson's disease, and that 82 year old man, seeing the bleak future for him and his wife and children. I am not and have never yet been suicidal, but I understand their choices. I understand Camus and Beckett on these important subjects. I may have to reread this tale again and again to keep me on the road the man took instead of the one his wife chose. After all, I have sons (and a daughter) to care for. Maybe I'm gonna hug my kids a little bit harder tonight.
August 12, 2022
With a depressing central theme, the writing stripped right back and raw and an overly simplistic plot, I should have disliked this book. It is neither uplifting nor beautiful, action packed or thrilling, instead it is a book that will make you think, imagine, and contemplate all that is right and wrong in the world without being preachy or condescending.

A post-apocalyptic world that is set in monochrome, where the silence is deafening, the survival is brutal, and time is exhausting, and we as readers, along with the man and boy in the story, embark on a different type of journey, along ‘The Road’. Seeing and experiencing life in a planet destroyed because we did not do enough!!! We were warned, but could we recover? If not ‘ever is such a long time’!!!

The Plot

This bleak tale is of a father and his son trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. The man and boy have no names, the cause of the disaster is also unknown, although there are hints of a post nuclear holocaust or climate disaster. The only thing we do know is this is the US, but the exact location is also unknown.

Food is in short supply, the wild-life has disappeared and the land is overrun by gangs of cannibals who roam the lands picking off the last remaining survivors, amid the worst depravation that the country has ever and most likely will never see again.

The colour has disappeared from the landscape, and the last remaining survivors move amidst a drifting haze of smoke and mist. Even the thin trees are black and standing like ‘heathen candles’. There is no sound. All means of communication has been shut down. We are witnessing the collapse of world order, the destruction of civilisation, disintegration of our planet.

Few survive but they don’t talk about death because they are already there.

Review and Comments

Yes, it has happened. We were all warned. We did nothing. We allowed this to happen. Our inaction has ended civilisation!!!

Certainly, a timely piece when we are living with unprecedented heat, drastic changes in our planet, and a few countries constantly threatening nuclear attacks on free people.

However, it was the sparse writing, clipped sentences and the rudimentary nature of the writing that held the books power. Stripped back from using vivid descriptions, expressive prose and nameless people and places, the reader is forced to play their part in imaging this new world or the end of it!!!. Very powerful and affecting.

I think the nameless people, cause and location were also deliberate to remove the connections we make to people and places to deliver this strong message. So cleverly written. If I wanted to be picky I would say, if either event occurred things like the trees would probably not survive when the people did not.

Do I love this genre? – No. Would I read many more post-apocalyptic stories? – Probably not unless highly recommended. Am I glad I read this? – Absolutely. Which is testament to how well the author wrote this story when someone who does not enjoy dystopian stories can rate this a 5 stars.

Utterly compelling, sometimes ambiguous but incredibly thought provoking achieved mainly through the rawness in the writing which was needed to carry this story.

Haunting, devastating, but very cleverly written, as we are left with a key message…
“Ever is such as long time”

And forever is such a long time. Don’t you think?
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
457 reviews3,240 followers
February 18, 2022
Two lonely figures appear out in the sparse, dark landscape walking by in the gloom going forward to oblivion probably, never resting until they find the nebulous nirvana; which may not be. A man and his boy both remain nameless throughout the book, hungry, tired dispirited wearing rags living if this is the proper word trying to survive a world changed forever ... a bleak atmosphere where the strong kill the weak looking for any food...animal, vegetable or human, nothing is more paramount than getting a mouthful of nourishment no laws no parameters. The disaster that ended civilization is never explained some kind of plague? Man- made or natural does it matter either way...The father wants to move down the road from the excruciating cold of the snowy mountains urging his son unceasingly to reach the sea on what was California but not anymore. Former cities never given their former names rivers likewise what's the point, the dead places will never arise again. Meeting the few people trying to exist but trusting no one the strangers steal everything, and leave nothing behind but mayhem, the only importance is to keep on breathing...the others are very expendable, even human flesh can be edible. The father loves the son yet he doesn't believe in the goodness of beings unlike the boy who sees the sufferings and wants to help the unfortunate. Still the dad knows the consequences himself of chance encounters some people are of dubious nature. They destroy without feeling slaughter or be slaughtered their belief and get out of the way the unlucky. No birds in the sky, fish in the sea or animals roaming the terrain an eerie ambiance which brings depression to all as the desolation prevails. The rains come down soaking the two as they push their shopping cart with little inside mud hinders, water temporary stops the hopeless journey, illness causes much misery lying on the freezing wet ground, entering homes which have seen better times grabbing the essentials however unappetizing it looks. Sleeping in the woods with fruitless trees hiding from the bad guys as the boy calls them, empty stomachs skinny bodies that weaken in each succeeding gray day, death around each corner. A classic in this genre the writer shows that this Earth is very unfeeling it does not care if the human race lives or dies. The question may be asked what price will humans strive for in order to continue, is the strong the future and the less sturdy buried in the past...
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
November 4, 2021
The Road, Cormac McCarthy

The Road is a 2006 post-apocalyptic novel by American writer Cormac McCarthy.

A father and his young son journey across post-apocalyptic America some years after an extinction event. Their names are never revealed in the story; they are simply called “the man” and “the boy.” The land is covered with ash and devoid of life.

The boy's mother, pregnant with him at the time of the disaster, is revealed to have committed suicide at some point before the story begins.

Realizing they cannot survive the winter, the man takes the boy south along empty roads towards the sea, carrying their meager possessions in their knapsacks and a supermarket cart.

The man is suffering from a serious cough and knows he is dying. He assures his son that they are “good guys” who are “carrying the fire”.

The pair have a revolver, but only two rounds. The father has taught the boy to use the gun on himself if necessary, to avoid falling into the hands of cannibals.

The father and son evade a traveling group of marauders. The father uses one of the rounds to kill a marauder who discovers them, disturbing the boy.

They flee the marauder's companions, abandoning most of their possessions. When they search a house for supplies, they discover a locked cellar containing captives whom cannibal gangs have been eating limb by limb, and flee into the woods.

As they near starvation, the pair discovers a concealed bunker filled with food, clothes, and other supplies. They stay there for several days, regaining their strength, and then move on, taking lots of supplies from the bunker with them in a new cart.

They encounter an elderly man with whom the boy insists they share food. Further along the road, they evade a group whose members include a pregnant woman, and soon after they discover an abandoned campsite with a newborn infant roasted on a spit. They soon run out of supplies again and begin to starve before finding a house containing more food to carry in their cart, but the man's condition worsens. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: هفدهم نوامبر سال2010میلادی

عنوان: جاده؛ نویسنده: کورمک مککارتی؛ مترجم ایرج مثال آذر؛ ویراستار زهرا مردانی؛ کرج، در دانش بهمن، سال1387؛ در261ص؛ شابک9789641740476؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 21م

عنوان: جاده؛ نویسنده: کورمک مککارتی؛ مترجم حسین نوش آذر؛ تهران، مروارید، سال1388؛ در273ص؛ شابک9789648838831؛ چاپ سوم سال1392؛

عنوان: جاده؛ نویسنده: کورمک مککارتی؛ مترجم زهرا طباطبائی؛ تهران، نشرگستر، سال1389؛ در273ص؛ شابک9786005883077؛

عنوان: جاده؛ نویسنده: کورمک مککارتی؛ مترجم: صنوبر رضاخانی؛ تهران، نشر هنوز، نشر قطره، سال1389؛ در251ص؛ شابک9786009140046؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، نشر قطره، سال1390، در252ص؛ شابک9786001193361؛

عنوان: جاده؛ نویسنده: کورمک مککارتی؛ مترجم میترا گنگانی و دیگران؛ تبریز، تسنیم نگار، سال1390؛ در190ص؛ شابک9786009174816؛

جاده، روایتی از آخرالزمان است؛ شرح سفر پدر و پسری، در جهان ویران پس از یک انفجار اتمی ا­ست؛ با اینکه سال­ها از انفجار اتمی بگذشته، اما هیچ نشانه ­ای، از شکل­گیری دوباره ­ی حیات، بر روی زمین، به ­چشم نمی­آید؛ پدر و پسر، در طول سفر، با آدم­ها که روبرو می­شوند، از آن­ها می­گریزند، یا آنها را می­کشند؛ جز سفر، خوانشگر در رمان، با هیچ طرح روایی دیگر، مواجه نیست؛ تنها یک زمان و مکان وجود دارد؛ قلمرو روایت، مثل هاله ی سبزرنگ دوربین­های خبری، در اطراف پدر و پسر است؛ و از آن فراتر نمی­رود؛ روایت، سرگرم ارائه ی گزارش جزیی و دقیق، از رفتار آن دو است؛ چشم انداز طبیعت «تهی»، «ویران» و خرابه؛ با گزاره ­های قطعی، و ساده، ��ما با حوصله، گزارش می­شود؛ هیچ چیزی، شبیه چیز دیگر نیست، زیرا احتمالاً آن دومی، دیگر وجود ندارد؛ با آرزوی صلح، بین انسانها، تا این بهشت زمین نیز، هرگزی انسان را، به بیرون از خویش، پرتاب نکند؛

نقل از متن: (از میان گل و لای گذشتند، و به جاده برگشتند؛ بوی خاک و خاکستر نمناک، توی باران شناور بود؛ آب سیاه، توی گودال کنار جاده، جریان داشت؛ آبی که از درون آب گذری فلزی، به داخل یک گودال، مکیده‌ می‌شود؛ گوزنی پلاستیکی، وسط یک حیاط افتاده بود؛ اواخر روز بعد، وارد شهر کوچکی شدند؛ سه مرد از پشت کامیونی بیرون آمدند، و توی جاده، مقابل‌شان ایستادند؛ مردانی لاغر، که لباس‌هایی مندرس، به تن داشتند، و لوله ‌ای در دست، از آن‌ها پرسیدند: توی چرخ چی دارین؟ مرد تپانچه ‌اش را، به سوی آن‌ها گرفت؛ ایستادند؛ پسرک گوشه ‌ی کتش را چسبید؛ هیچکس حرفی نزد؛ چرخ ‌دستی را جلو انداخت، و با هم کنار جاده رفتند؛ چرخ را دست پسرک داد؛ عقب عقب می‌رفت، و تپانچه را، همچنان به سمت مردان، نگاه داشته بود؛ می‌کوشید هم‌چون قاتلی حرفه ‌ای، به نظر برسد، اما قلبش، به شدت می‌تپید، و می‌دانست، که سرفه ‌اش خواهد گرفت؛ دوباره، وسط جاده آمدند، و ایستادند، و آن‌ها را نظاره ‌کردند؛ مرد تپانچه را، توی کمرش گذاشت، و برگشت و چرخ‌دستی را گرفت؛ بالای بلندی که رسیدند، مرد برگشت و دید، که آن‌ها هنوز همانجا ایستاده ‌اند؛ از پسرک خواست، تا چرخ را هل بدهد؛ از حیاطی گذشت، و از مکانی مسلط به جاده، پایین را پایید؛ مردان رفته بودند؛ پسرک به شدت ترسیده بود؛ مرد تپانچه را روی برزنت روی چرخ گذاشت، و چرخ ‌دستی را گرفت، و به راه‌شان ادامه دادند؛ توی دشتی، روی زمین دراز کشیدند، و جاده را پاییدند، تا تاریک شد؛ اما کسی نیامد؛ هوا بسیار سرد بود؛ وقتی هوا کاملا تاریک شد، طوری که دیگر نمی‌شد جایی را دید، افتان و خیزان، به جاده برگشتند؛ مرد پتوها را بیرون آورد؛ خودشان را خوب پیچیدند، و دوباره، به راه افتادند؛ آسفالت را زیر پای‌شان دنبال می‌کردند؛ یکی از چرخ‌های چرخ ‌دستی، هر چند وقت یک‌بار، به جیرجیر می‌افتاد؛ اما کاری نمی‌شد کرد...؛ باز هم پیش رفتند؛ وقتی رعد و برق دیگری، ساحل را، روشن کرد، پسرک را دید، که خم شده بود، و با خودش زمزمه می‌کرد؛ کوشید، رد پاهایشان را دوباره ببیند، اما نتوانست؛ سرعت باد بیش‌تر شده بود؛ مرد منتظر اولین قطره‌ های باران بود؛ اگر توی ساحل، وسط باد و باران، گرفتار می‌شدند، حسابی به زحمت می‌افتادند)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 28/11/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 12/08/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,295 reviews120k followers
April 4, 2014
A man and his young son are traveling along a highway, hoping to get far enough south to avoid the onslaught of winter. It is a post apocalyptic landscape, heavy with ash, in which you can hear the absence of birds chirping or bugs buzzing. The language is remarkable. I was reminded of Thomas Hardy for beauty of language, but it is a different sort of beauty. McCarthy uses short declaratives, as if even language was short of breath in the devastation, and terrorizes generations of elementary school english teachers by tossing off verbless phrases as sentences (p 27 - A river far below.) He is effective in turning nouns into verbs, as on p4 – “when it was light enough to use the binoculars he glassed the valley below.” Forgetting the content of the narrative this is a masterwork of style. I was deeply moved by not only the technical skill with which he molds language to his purpose, but the effective emotional impact of the work. This is a book to read slowly, to savor, not one to speed through to hasten ingestion of the plot. There are events that are exceedingly grim in this, focusing on despair, suicide, cannibalism. Yet the love of the father for his son is palpable and despite the omnipresent gray ash, there remain slivers of hope. Highly recommended, but this is not a book for those with a weak stomach.
Profile Image for Chris.
91 reviews431 followers
October 31, 2008
I’m trying to find solace in the fact that I’m probably not the only one to be humiliatingly hoodwinked into taking the time to read Cormac McCarthy’s much-celebrated yawn-fest “The Road”, although this hardly makes this bamboozling something to boast about. In spite of the fact approximately three-fourths of the world seemed to readily embrace this as worthy fare, I managed to keep my distance for some time, mainly through ignorance of the general plot of the book and my usual stubborn reluctance to blindly jump off a bridge with the masses. I should have obeyed my gut instinct and remained one of the few spared the tedium of “The Road”, but then I had to go and actually examine a copy from a carefully-arranged pile resembling some kaleidoscopic, symmetrical form that some unfortunate, underpaid bookslut had to labor over for hours to create, and noticed that not only did this win the Pulitzer Prize, but happened to be a post-apocalyptic tale, and nothing stirs my loins nearly as vigorously. I’d even had it suggested by one of my fellow goodreaders, and after brief contemplation as to whether to waste my money on this alleged masterpiece or another box of nitrous cartridges, I decided that it was time to see what all the fuss was about (regarding “The Road”, I think I can understand the allure of the EZ Whip cream chargers, especially when you’ve got one of those bigass punch-ball balloons).

I sat in a numbed stupor while I read this, completely baffled as to how the hell this managed not only to win awards of great prestige, but, more importantly, just how it managed to be a commercial success with the ordinary reader. I’m almost interested to hear why someone might have actually enjoyed “The Road”, in which McCarthy somehow managed to make boring the concept of post-apocalyptic America. While I usually happen to be a fan of the genre, I found this to be everything which I don’t desire within that intriguing realm. At this point, I’m obviously begging for someone to come along and tell me that I ‘didn’t get it’, and probably point out that I’m a moron for good measure. I’m not denying that these are certainly valid arguments, but convincing me that I didn’t like this book is going to be impossible, my cheeky little friend.

So, what did I get from “The Road”, which stupefies me with its status as a #1 bestseller and Pulitzer-winning tour de force? Several things, all of them sucky; a whole lot of repetitive and boring conversation and redundant let���s-trek-towards-the-coast plodding, a lot of stupidass and harebrained compoundwords, and an insipid amalgam of fiftyword paragraphs that seldom accomplished anything as far as entertaining me as a reader.

Here’s the story in a nutshell, for anyone who might be inexplicably reading this without having read the book; probably because they were wise enough to invest in the EZ Whip instead, and are now dicking around with their iTunes trying to find the song that best complements that flanging sound in their head. Some sort of catastrophe has befallen planet Earth, and I have to admit I was pretty interested to find out the nature of this calamity, but McCarthy decides to keep that a secret for some reason beyond my grasp, maybe as the highlight of “The Road 2: Thoroughfare”. Ok, I can dig it, whatever it was, I know that it had no trouble fucking up Earth’s weak and fragile little blue ass. Score; Unexplained Devastating Event 1, Earth 0. Does it really matter what might have happened, seeing as all it resulted in was the end of almost all life as we know it? Actually, yeah, the lack of any sort of input regarding the origin of this chain of events does suck, and badly. Score: Utter Buffoonishness 1, Cormac McCarthy 0.

In the wake of, well, whatever cataclysmic shit happened, we’ve got a father and son struggling to survive in the resulting aftermath, and things aren’t very promising for this enterprising duo, as whatever wiped out the inhabitants of planet earth also eradicated not only all plant and animal life, but in a shocking display of sheer spite also managed to do away with quotation marks, colons, semicolons, and most hyphens. Survivors of this worldwide holocaust are few and far between: scattered bands of humans that have largely resorted to thuggishness and cannibalism for lack of other hobbies or nutrition, a few mushrooms, and question marks, periods, and a wily subset of apostrophes have managed to escape extermination. The father and son have managed to eke out a regrettable existence for an unknown number of years, and the approaching winter promises to be outrageously cold, so they make way for an unnamed southern coastline, where I can only presume they're expecting to encounter something more accommodating.

Their journey is perhaps the most ridiculously boring shit I’ve ever read. They push a shopping cart along with their scant supplies while alternately stomping through ash and sleeping in ditches. Once in a while they encounter another survivor, each meeting completely preposterous and without substance. They ransack homes and forage for food, they abandon the weak and feeble, they ramble incessantly, engaging in snippets of pointless conversation, usually about how they cannot give up, as they are ‘carrying the fire’. I’m assuming that ‘the fire’ is the inextinguishable hope for mankind, a barely flickering light personified in the child, or maybe the fact that any chance of repopulating may depend on their ash-coated and unwashed swinging schlongs, who the hell knows, the ‘fire’ could be their undiminished belief in god which they’ll impart on the cannibal savages running unchecked when not feasting on fetus.

That’s it. Seriously, that’s the story, and I’ve long since abandoned any attempt to discover what all the hype surrounding this supposed ‘story’ is.

Despite my generally low opinion of our collective taste as a species, I found myself shocked that “The Road” was deemed favorable by so many. But what I really can’t wrap my head around is the critical acclaim, which applauds this for reasons I’ll never understand, and sincerely hope the critics don’t either. I found the storytelling utterly regrettable and lacking in all possible aspects, once in a while McCarthy bizarrely waxed poetic, and he also made the completely unforgivable mistake of mentioning how the ‘sun went around the earth’, which, if intended to be literal, at least offers an explanation as to why the planet is becoming so inhospitable. Otherwise, all Cormac has to offer is a bunch of really short, uninteresting sentences, banal murmurings between father and son, and a whole lot of tedium. I might almost be impressed that on several occasions McCarthy busted out some word which I’ve previously never seen before in my life (woad and siwash come to mind, both forever burnt in my brain as examples of meaningless gibberish), but when the use of these words is considered next to the rest of the prose, composed of rudimentary language, all it called to mind was the disheartening suspicion that McCarthy stumbled across these relics from some Word-Of-The-Day vocabulary-enhancing calendar, making them seem improbably forced into the story:

June 14th: WOAD: n, some absurd, obscure shit.

“Hmmmm,” Cormac ponders this treasure, “I may have to have the protagonists come across a load of woad.” He chuckles idiotically. “A load. Heh. Of woad. Heh heh.”

While the Woad Incident was bad enough, McCarthy also uses ‘wonky’. Christ, the last time I heard wonky used was in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, coming from Master Blaster. This made for a pretty fitting connection between the two, both being pieces of post-apocalyptic poodle piddle. After getting an unsavory sampling of the author’s propensity for rarely-seen words, I was half expecting to see rampike, which would have actually worked in the context of the story on countless occasions, but apparently that one was included in Roget’s Word-Of-The-Day and our man McCarthy was given the Merriam-Webster last Christmas.

Now I’m just nit-picking, for lack of anything else to comment on, since this was so devoid of action, intrigue, or anything remotely thought-provoking.
Profile Image for Candi.
614 reviews4,632 followers
June 6, 2020
“Just beyond the high gap in the mountains they stood and looked out over the great gulf to the south where the country as far as they could see was burned away, the blackened shapes of rock standing out of the shoals of ash and billows of ash rising up and blowing downcountry through the waste. The track of the dull sun moving unseen beyond the murk.”

Written with such sublime prose, The Road is completely different from anything I have read before. It is tragic yet somehow simple and lovely. Through the bleak and desolate landscape of a post-apocalyptic world, a father and son make a treacherous journey of survival towards an unnamed coast. Not knowing whether life there too has been snuffed out, the two persist together with an enduring bond of love for one another and a glimmer of hope for the existence of light beyond the darkness of their surroundings.

“The cold and the silence. The ashes of the late world carried on the bleak and temporal winds to and fro in the void. Carried forth and scattered and carried forth again. Everything uncoupled from its shoring. Unsupported in the ashen air. Sustained by a breath, trembling and brief. If only my heart were stone.”

I felt completely drawn into this journey. I had to reach whatever destination it was that father and son trudged towards; I had to know what would happen to them. Despite the fact that I felt the result could be nothing short of ominous, I still had a fragile sense of hope that there was something better ahead for them. McCarthy did not divide this book into chapters; whether this was his intention or not it seemed like a clever way of making the reader carry on one grim page after another much like the pair were forced to take one harsh step after another. But, how does one carry on through such hopelessness? Does good always overpower evil?

“… he would raise his weeping eyes and see him standing there in the road looking back at him from some unimaginable future, glowing in that waste like a tabernacle.”

I may not recommend this book if you are in a dismal mood. However, if you are feeling relatively poised and enjoy exquisite language then certainly pick this one up. This was my first Cormac McCarthy novel and I fully intend to read another.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,461 reviews9,615 followers
September 6, 2017

This is one of the saddest books about a father and child that I have ever read in my life . . yet.

There were a couple of happy times. Not so much though =(

Mel ♥
Profile Image for Richard (on hiatus).
160 reviews182 followers
December 5, 2020
A man and his son trudge wearily through a barren post-apocalyptic landscape. It’s bitterly cold and desolate, everything grey under a thin patina of dirty ash. We don’t know what’s happened to the world but we know it’s been catastrophic.
We don’t know who the man and boy are, but we do know that the man is terrified for his son’s future, and that their bond is the only good thing left.
The feeling of creeping unease and fear is palpable.
Shadowy, misshapen towns occasionally appear in the distance, but they always prove to be empty, wind blown and stripped bare.
What glimpses there are of fellow survivors are nightmarish.
I thought at first the odd joke, ironic turn of phrase or even marauding zombie would be welcome to lighten the load, but I was wrong, this is a short book and the common dystopian thriller tropes weren’t needed.
The Road is a searing, incredibly powerful novel with a gripping narrative and an emotional gut punch that’s hard to shrug off as you close the book.
Its a modern classic and a bleak warning against the myriad ways in which we can destroy the world around us.
This definitely isn’t a feel good novel to shake off the pandemic blues, but I’m happy I’ve found Cormac McCarthy and I’m excited to read more.
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