Friday, September 4, 2009

Riveting Reads: The Road


(as published on Sept. 3, 2009 in the Foothill Breeze)

I visited my sister in Lehi recently, and every time I go there I browse her bookcase, picking at it like a vulture. This time I found a paperback copy of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. This particular copy has a very unremarkable cover. It’s black with the title and author's name as basically the only props holding up the cover. But there is a little golden circle in the bottom right corner that makes it decidedly more appealing than the cover art. The circle says, “Winner of the Pulitzer Prize”, and so of course I couldn’t put it back. And, boy, I’m glad I didn’t. Plus, within the first few pages of the exposition, the bland cover made a whole lot more sense.
It’s a post apocalyptic and dismal world to be alive in, especially for a child. The earth is burned and in ruins. The air so thick with smoke and ash that even the sun cannot penetrate the darkness beyond a predawn glow. Plants no longer grow and trees fall like thunder in the blackness. Food is scarce in McCarthy’s world, and as the years pass it only gets more difficult to find. A jar of homemade tomato sauce hidden in an already ransacked pantry or water found in a murky puddle and filtered with scraps of cloth. Some survivors—masked like harbingers of death—have become cannibalistic monsters, collecting and herding other people like cattle. They’ll feed off of a leg here, an arm there until nothing’s left and move onto the next victim. Humanity seems to be as scarce as the sun, and goodness is abandoned for butchery and a meal.
In burned America, the protagonist—a man who is never named (as if names are as luxurious as Twinkies)—and his little boy travel south on a road to avoid the treacherous winters. They head to the beach, hoping to find what? Neither really knows. But the man is driven by hope that they are not the only decent people left in the world, not the only ones left who “carry the fire”. Together man and boy journey down the road hoping to meet others with the fire, scrounging for food, and dodging the human herders with a measly pistol and what little survival skills that they possess.
McCarthy’s The Road is Hemingway-simplistic, and is so situationally terrifying that it raises the hairs on the back of the neck. It makes you wonder what you would do in the man’s place, and it makes you grateful for every miniscule piece of food in the house; the freezer-burned burrito buried in the ice box, the can of condensed milk that is over five years old, and the last remaining cereal crumbs in the bag that you would’ve thrown out before you read The Road.
Also, if you like The Road, you could also try No Country for Old Men, All the Pretty Horses, or The Crossing, all by McCarthy. Critics agree. McCarthy is a top-notch, award-winning, gripping writer. In The Road, he pushes human condition off a cliff to see if it can survive, then coaxes it back with hope.
The Road is becoming a major motion picture as well.

6 comments:

  1. Sounds really good. I guess I'll have to read it -I mean, it is my book after all...

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  2. Cole just finished it, so I'll get it to you next time I see ya. You're gonna looooove it.

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  3. Alright. I'm convinced too. I'm gonna read it. I saw the preview and it looked a little scary for me, so I'll read the book. My imagination isn't that good.

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  4. Ama-I'll think you'll be surprised at your own imagination. But don't let that deter you. It's worth it.

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  5. Hi
    Curious wher you got the image of the road in your post.
    Thanks
    samsmall@ptd.net

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  6. I googled pics of roads. The image isn't from the film or book, because I couldn't find an official one that would copy and paste to my blog.

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