The Road The Road discussion


1029 views
Did anyone find the writing style an absolute turn off?

Comments Showing 1-50 of 122 (122 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1 3

Jeremy His non-existent punctuation, endless adjectives and basic dialogue killed this for me about 5 pages in. Did anyone else find the same?

I'm a die-hard fan of the PA genre and was expecting so much more.

Out of interest, are No Country for Old Men and All the Pretty Horses written in this same style?


Sandra Absolutely not. His writing style is beautiful and flows. You have to just let it roll and stop worrying about details. I haven't read No Country, but All the Pretty Horses is the same. Have you never heard of stream of consciousness?


R.j. Mccarthy No, but I do think the dark mood of The Road could have had an effect. It seemed to reflect the increasingly darkened vision of the world McCarthy presented in No Country For Old Men. It offered no hope. Then his post-apocalyptic "Road," perhaps not surprisingly, followed. I suspect the writing style he offered in The Road was bone-stripped to heighten the starkness.

In his western trilogy, launched with All The Pretty Horses, I would describe his writing as beautiful, even lyrical at times. His descriptions of terrain are peerless.


Sandra R.j. wrote: "No, but I do think the dark mood of The Road could have had an effect. It seemed to reflect the increasingly darkened vision of the world McCarthy presented in No Country For Old Men. It offered ..."

Yes, ITA.


message 5: by J.W. (last edited Mar 01, 2012 09:07AM) (new)

J.W. Griebel I believe a good story doesn't give you every bit of detail. I mean, if you wanted all that, why wouldn't you read a catalog or a geography book instead? Imagination can't be THAT dead.

The writing made the book what it was; barren, desolate, hopeless.

I believe it was beautifully written.


Paul Dale I find his writing captivating. In The Road, it was every bit as bleak and stark as the story. He's one of the few authors, along with Murakami, who I would read almost just for the writing itself. Fortunately, in both cases, there are characters and story a plenty to go with the wonderful style.


message 7: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Weed I think the writing in The Road, as in Blood Meridian and McCarthy's other novels, is nothing short of sublime. It's perfectly pitched to the violence and dire emotions that pervade his stories.

For anyone interested, here's a blog entry that gets to the bottom of what's so great about McCarthy's sentences:

http://bit.ly/w1JWMp


Paul Dale Interesting blog post. I met McCarthy (Blood Meridian) when he was part of the American literature module that formed part of the Masters I was studying. I didn't expect to enjoy such a literary writer but what did I know?

While I think only McCarthy can write like McCarthy (and get away with it), the lesson for me was how rich the construction of language can be and how it can enhance the material you deliver. Many good authors do this but McCarthy has a style all of his own.

For me, he has a beat and rhythm that captured desolation in The Road, and the violent lawlessness of the west in Blood Meridian.

In contrast, Joyce Carol Oates left me cold. (Heresy?)


Sandra Hardly heresy. She left me cold, too. Couldn't even imagine them in the same ball park.


message 10: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Weed Thanks, Paul. I agree about McCarthy - his style matches the subject matter perfectly, and I find it extremely compelling to read. But just like Hemingway, his style is so particular that any author trying to imitate him comes off as silly or pretentious. Which is another reason that fake passage in my own blog post is so ridiculous.


Jeremy If this is 'stream of consciousness' writing I think I'll avoid Ulysses..


message 12: by Christopher (last edited Mar 01, 2012 02:32PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Christopher Francis I just read The Road last weekend because I have had it recommended to me by a few professors. I thought that it was atrocious to be perfectly honest. The stream of consciousness writing wasn't too bad, believe me. If you have ever read Philip Roth's, American Pastoral, you would want to burn the book. Some single sentences run on for 46 lines (basically a page long). His writing style is different in other books, but this damn book is just so damn anti-climatic and repetitive. Have you finished the entirety of the book? I'm not saying that he's a bad author by any means, it's just that this story didn't really cut it for me. I would like to see the movie however.


Jeremy Christopher wrote: "I just read The Road last weekend because I have had it recommended to me by a few professors. I thought that it was atrocious to be perfectly honest. The stream of consciousness writing wasn't too..."

I was starting to think I was just bonkers. No, I physically couldn't get past the first five to ten pages, despite picking the book up on no less than three occasions.

Far from leaving the story open to the imagination - as someone suggested earlier - I find that his endless stream of adjectives dictates everything down to the last molecule.

I don't say this often, but the film does the theme far more justice and is everything the book should have been.


message 14: by Michael (last edited Mar 01, 2012 03:27PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Michael T The book was written this way to show Mcormac is not very good with prose. Try reading Blood Meridian, it feels like a seven year old wrote it with wax crayon.


message 15: by Will (last edited Mar 01, 2012 04:00PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will IV Jeremy wrote: "If this is 'stream of consciousness' writing I think I'll avoid Ulysses.."

Ulysses is a very tough read to tackle. You need to start with A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man first, if you haven't read it yet. It's also good to be familiar with Homer's The Odyssey, as Ulysses is named after the protagonist's Roman name in Homer's epic.


Jeremy Will wrote: "Jeremy wrote: "If this is 'stream of consciousness' writing I think I'll avoid Ulysses.."

Ulysses is a very tough read to tackle. You need to start with [book:A Portrait of the Artist as a Young M..."


Thanks Will, I'll do that. I studied the Odyssey at various levels for about 6 years so that should help.


Karen Are you kidding? Cormac McCarthy writes some of the most beautiful prose in the English language, even though his subject matter is rather gruesome.


Michael T Please don't compare Joyce to Mcormac, you cheapen literature. Joyce was an experimental author who pushed the boundaries of literature... Mcormac pushes the boundaries of grammar.


message 19: by Vince (last edited Mar 02, 2012 10:34PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Vince I didn't find McCarthy's style a turn-off, but I think reader reaction for this book in particular depends on what you hope to get out of it. Given the hype around the book and it's association with post-apocalypse sci-fi, it's easy to see why readers might feel mislead by an orange when they were looking for an apple (so to speak).

The Road is not a page-flipper to devour for plot twists or big-idea sci-fi or inter-character drama. Instead, it asks to be savored for the use of language, the psychological tensions, and its depiction of a relationship between a father-as-protector and his child.

McCarthy pens scenes that seem familiar to the post-apocalypse context but examines them through his particular descriptive lens. I found myself reading sentences aloud and admiring how he'd constructed them, what he'd said, how he'd said it, the emotions captured, or what was implied.

The Road didn't compel me to read the rest of McCarthy's ouvre. But the text spoke volumes to the writer in me at the time. My $.02.


Jeremy Vince wrote: "I didn't find McCarthy's style a turn-off, but I think reader reaction for this book in particular depends on what you hope to get out of it. Given the hype around the book and it's association wit..."

Vince I think you've hit the nail on the head here - I expected post-apocalyptic and received literary experimentation. I think the problem is that I read fiction to be entertained and save philosophy and political theory to warm the brain up.


message 21: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Weed I'm a bit stunned by some of the reactions here. I guess it makes sense that you either love or hate Cormac McCarthy, given the originality of his style and the difficulty of his subject matter. That's fine: people are entitled to their opinions and there are a number of well-regarded books that don't do much for me. But to criticize McCarthy for his grammar is to miss the point entirely.

And to say that comparing McCarthy to Joyce "cheapens literature" is just ignorant boilerplate, unless you're willing to come forward with some literature you've written yourself that you think can stand up to scrutiny.


message 22: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Weed Also, if anyone has doubts about McCarthy's grasp of English grammar, or his phenomenal skill in using sentences to achieve his effects, read this: http://bit.ly/w1JWMp


message 23: by Vince (last edited Mar 03, 2012 06:59AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Vince Jeremy wrote: "Vince wrote: "I didn't find McCarthy's style a turn-off, but I think reader reaction for this book in particular depends on what you hope to get out of it. Given the hype around the book and it's a..."

It's not a problem...if it didn't work for you, it didn't . While we're trading notes on one of our favorite genres, allow me to recommend a 5-part series of novellas called Wool by Hugh Howey: http://ow.ly/9qHYY

You can find Wool over on Amazon as e-reader titles and also in one-volume as an Omnibus paperback. For a relatively unknown author, Howey penned an entertaining post-apocalypse setting/context populated with compelling characters and moved forward amidst an interesting and twist-filled plot.

Well worth the price, Wool serves as an engaging experiment in how e-readers (or digital distribution in general) can revive the "serial novel" as a genre by providing a low-risk entry cost to the reader and a motive for the author to make sure every segment of the work delivers on the promise.

Happy reading!


message 24: by Glen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Glen Robinson I am an avid fan of Cormac McCarthy. I will have to admit that it took a solid 50 pages before I stopped being stalled by the lack of punctuation, and other quirky writing techniques. But his ability to tell a gripping story with stark narrative is second to none. I compare him in many ways to Hemingway, who also had his critics.


Karen Martin wrote: "Tim wrote: "Also, if anyone has doubts about McCarthy's grasp of English grammar, or his phenomenal skill in using sentences to achieve his effects, read this: http://bit.ly/w1JWMp"

Thanks for tha..."

Thank you, Martin, couldn't have said it better!


Jeremy Vince wrote: "It's not a problem...if it didn't work for you, it didn't . While we're trading notes on one of our favorite genres, allow me to recommend a 5-part series of novellas called Wool by Hugh Howey..."

Already done! I went the full hog and bought the omnibus, then dedicated 3 or 4 days to polishing it off. Fantastic little series that got better as it went on.


Susan It's worth noting that just because a work is difficult does not mean it is not written well. This book is beautiful on so many levels. I read it every summer (It's assigned summer reading for my seniors), and every year something new is revealed. Side note: when they come into the classroom after having read it, they often simply comment on how sad it was, or how gruesome. Some ask, "Why did you make us read this? It's so depressing. After they begin to dig into the novel and realize all that is going on beneath the surface, and particularly after we study McCarthy's style, and they attempt to mimic that style (which isn't easy... try it), their opinion changes entirely. Most students say on their exit survey that their favorite unit, and their favorite work we study over the course of the year is The Road... and that's 10 months after we've covered it. It affects them. That's not just my biased perception; they tell me this year after year.

This whole conversation reminds me of my experience with William Faulkner as an undergrad. I was drawn to Faulkner after reading Absalom, Absalom for a class. I picked up The Sound and the Fury and finally went to my professor in despair. The lack of punctuation was killing me. He suggesting taking a pencil and punctuating as I read. I did, and it only took a handful of pages before my brain adjusted, and I no longer needed the crutch. And Faulkner is still one of my favorite writers, and he definitely didn't need some 18 year old whining about how he needed to pick up a copy of The Elements of Style.

If you're just reading for simple pleasure, perhaps you should simply steer clear of works that operate on multiple levels, that are works of art. And simply because you don't like a work, it doesn't automatically mean that the author is not skilled.


message 28: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul Dale I suppose we could return to the question asked by the OP. While I enjoy the prose style, I can appreciate how it's not for everyone.

I am not a fan of jazz, but I can see how jazz musicians are skilled in their craft. Likewise, McCarthy employs techniques that some may not appreciate but I think you can still recognise great craftsmanship in his work, even if it's not to your taste.

I mentioned before I am no fan of Joyce, but I cannot deny her abilities, or fail to learn lessons I may apply myself.


message 29: by Jeremy (last edited Mar 04, 2012 12:12PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Jeremy Susan Wrote: "If you're just reading for simple pleasure, perhaps you should simply steer clear of works that operate on multiple levels, that are works of art. And simply because you don't like a work, it doesn't automatically mean that the author is not skilled. "

I'm not sure it's a case of not liking things that operate on multiple levels. A lot of the fiction I read comes with something to say on a political or philosophical level - that's pretty much a given with SF. I personally don't get it when that extra 'level' is literary because I don't feel that the 'intricacies' of language are high up on my list of things I consider important.

When some people watch films they are looking at things like the production; the camera-work etc. It's the big picture I'm interested in, and if you were to strip away the literary 'innovations' and techniques from the Road, then the plot and dialogue you are left with would be nothing short of derivative and dull.

For example, I felt that Ender's Game had more to say about issues like morality and what it is to be human than The Road could ever hope.. yet the author deliberately wrote it in an accessible fashion.

I guess it depends if you want to focus on the words or the message, eh?


Sandra I think you're totally missing the point, Jeremy. The Road has the most sensitive portrayal of the relationship between father and son that I've ever read. It also has a lot to say about coping with utter catastrophe without losing your humanity.


message 31: by Will (last edited Mar 04, 2012 01:53PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will IV Paul wrote: "I mentioned before I am no fan of Joyce, but I cannot deny her abilities"

Her?


message 32: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Weed I agree with Sandra, and all those who've been defending The Road. It's a great novel, and not only because of McCarthy's stunning artistry with the English language. Future generations will mark it as a classic of the first rank.

Assuming, that is, that there are future generations to read it.


message 33: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul Dale Will wrote: "Paul wrote: "I mentioned before I am no fan of Joyce, but I cannot deny her abilities"

Her?"


I was being overly familiar; Joyce Carol Oates, not James Joyce (see my post above where I first mention her).


Denis Halac No form of art is meant to have boundaries or limits. Like many have said before my little two cent comment, just read it and enjoy. It takes a few pages before you understand who's talking or what's going on, but once you bathe in his plethora of comments you really are right there with the man and his son. Hope you give it a second try!


message 35: by Michael (last edited Mar 07, 2012 09:28AM) (new)

Michael Herrman Fiction is art (or should be, at least) which makes it a subjective affair. In some cases it comes off like religion: the believers are unshakeable, the heretics are skeptical and the non-believers are bemused.

I'm a non-believer on this one. Bought it, read it, wasn't smitten.

Addition: I don't think the post apocalyptic tag is really deserved because I'm not convinced that there really was a society prior to the events of the story. He says there was, until it inexplicably went away, but outside of a shopping cart, a gun, some buildings to hold certain scenes and various canned goods I saw no evidence of one. It could just have easily taken place against a backdrop that has always been an ashen waste populated by generic barbarian bad guy cannibals, the ultimate gray room for a play of two where other people are just plot devices who are barely distinguishable from props.


Marin McCarthy's writing style is precisely why I didn't want to put this book down despite the morose nature of the plot. For me, it made every aspect of the story sincerely human.


message 37: by Rory (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rory Tim wrote: "I think the writing in The Road, as in Blood Meridian and McCarthy's other novels, is nothing short of sublime. It's perfectly pitched to the violence and dire emotions that pervade his stories.

..."

Agreed . Thanks for this post & Link


message 38: by Sam (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sam Martin wrote: "Jeremy wrote: "...I'm a die-hard fan of the PA genre..."

Well there's your first clue: McCarthy is not a genre writer. This is literary fiction. It's not for everybody, any more than poetry. But r..."


Could you be any more snobbish in this post? I'm happy to say I finished the book hoping it would get better by the end. Once I finished, I was only happy at the fact that I had finished, and didn't have to suffer through any more pages. Chalk it up to there are people who don't like it, and people who do. Just because I don't like this book doesn't mean I can't appreciate other literature available.


message 39: by Lydia (new)

Lydia Kius Jeremy wrote: "His non-existent punctuation, endless adjectives and basic dialogue killed this for me about 5 pages in. Did anyone else find the same?

I'm a die-hard fan of the PA genre and was expecting so mu..."


i was bored too. i couldn't figure out what the fuss was about.


Elizabeth Lewis If you don't think this is one of the most amazing books ever written you clearly don't get it. Maybe you are a person who has never had to ask the questions that the father in The Road had to ask. This book is not about style. McCarthy tries to force his reader into an unconformable place. I think if you don't have children you just don't get it.


Elizabeth Lewis Christopher wrote: "I just read The Road last weekend because I have had it recommended to me by a few professors. I thought that it was atrocious to be perfectly honest. The stream of consciousness writing wasn't too..."

If you are looking for plot--stick to James Patterson and Steven King. They should give you what you are looking for:)


message 42: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will IV Elizabeth wrote: "I think if you don't have children you just don't get it."

Not quite true. I am not a parent and The Road is one of my favorite novels. It moved me beyond words.


message 43: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm glad that many people shared my "huh?" reaction to the title of this thread. While I don't think The Road is McCarthy's best novel (All the Pretty Horses takes that spot), it's certainly a fairly good representation of his polysyndetic syntax.

However, I had to comment on the hoary canard, "if you don't have children you just don't get it". While I think the reading of a text depends greatly on the specific reader, there shouldn't be specific circumstance required of the reader for parsing the meaning of the text. Reducing this to its bare minimum: it is the writer's job to invoke the particular feeling in the reader. I have no desire for children and will never procreate; this does not mean I was unable to understand what the father goes through in order to keep his son alive. McCarthy's prose is evocative enough to convey the familial relationship and elicit the respective emotions from the reader. This - in a nutshell - is what makes The Road so powerful - not its prose or its plot, but its evocation of the father-son dynamic.


message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

Plus, The Road is technically not stream of consciousness. The technique used in Ulysses, Mrs Dalloway, The Sound and the Fury, etc, is stream of consciousness. The Road is limited third person omniscient. It's a very fine line and hard to mistake, but McCarthy isn't aiming for Faulknerian narration, but rather Faulknerian syntax.


Maureen It took me a while to catch the rhythm of the book and once I did I really enjoyed it. The style was different from anything I had read before and so I worked through it and really thought it beautiful. Looking back the style portrayed the solitude, and struggle of survival, sort of a conversation with one's self on the journey.


message 46: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Terrington Well I have to say what does it matter if you liked it or did not? There's no rule that says you have to like every book ever written. Furthermore to criticise and say that because one did not appreciate this work equates to a dislike of fine literature is rather elitist.

I just didn't like this one - does it mean McCarthy is a bad writer? Does it mean I hate good literature? No it means I simply failed to become part of his appreciative audience for this one. The grammar does matter to me but it's not the be all and end all. In the end I found the story too bleak because I do not believe that is how humanity would end. However it in the end it is just a work of fiction... So to make judgement calls about the readers is sort of immature in my view. Just let those who enjoy it enjoy it. Those who don't can have their say too.


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

Mal Sigh...this is what you get when Oprah's Book Club meets literary fiction. The Road is no more a post-apocalyptic story than Blood Meridian is a western. I'll bet people that picked up The Sound and the Fury because it had Oprah's brand on it didn't get past Benjy's section because he sounded stupid.

Not enjoying The Road from a literary standpoint is perfectly acceptable. Not even realizing it is literary fiction is embarrassing.


message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

Mal wrote: "Sigh...this is what you get when Oprah's Book Club meets literary fiction. The Road is no more a post-apocalyptic story than Blood Meridian is a western. I'll bet people that picked up The Sound an..."

Oh no! The proletariat are reading! What will we do? We, the bourgeois, should definitely hold all of the so-called literary fiction in an ivory tower so that none of the filthy unwashed masses can read for themselves and attempt to improve their lives.

So that was snarky, but I'm going to make a point that's high minded without snark.

If we take Fredric Jameson's idea that postmodernism, the cultural logic of postmodernity, is a frantic aesthetic production meeting commodity production, urgently producing fresh waves of commodities that ruthlessly colonize past styles in an effort to represent our own time, which we are unable to, then we can see Oprah's Book Club, and even her idea of self-help movement as an attempt to self-narrativize. The weakening of historicity and the waning of affect are all symptoms of the postmodern condition. The reaction to this condition is the self-help movement and Oprah's Book Club. If you don't like your life (you feel dumb) then you can cast yourself as protagonist and change who you are - by reading texts in an effort to improve your intelligence. Of course, many argue that this self-improvement is an illusion, possibly a dangerous one, but one cannot fault people for trying.

We are unable to represent even our very present without it being mediated through previous forms of representation. In this case, McCarthy is attempting to address the existence of his son in an wholly scary time period (postmodernity) through the past form of the post-apocalyptic narrative (postmodernism). What McCarthy is doing is exactly what Oprah's Book Club is doing: casting one's self as the protagonist in order to narrativize in a cultural logic that is inescapable.

I find myself incredulous to the metanarrative of "literary fiction". I am, too, part of postmodernism, but at least, my incredulity isn't matched with a dogmatic adherance and revitalization of the "Canon".

And that, my friends, is how you defend Oprah's Book Club.


message 49: by Mal (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mal And that, my friends, is how you use reductio ad absurdum.


message 50: by [deleted user] (new)

Hmmm... Not sure you are citing the correct logical fallacy or if indeed my defense is even logically fallacious. I mean, my propositions aren't individually fallacious: postmodernism signals an attempt for narrativizing, The Road is an attempt to put into narrative the fear of the father for his son. McCarthy's been quite clear on that aspect.


« previous 1 3
back to top