Friday, September 26, 2008
The Road--Cormac McCarthy
Year Published: 2006
This is the third McCarthy book I have read this year, and it is definately my favorite. It certainly tells less than the previous two (All the Pretty Horses and No Country For Old Men), but oh does it tell it in a gorgeous way.
The story is about the post-apocalyptic journey of a father and son. Very little backstory is told. It is never made clear what has happened to the world, or even why they are embarking on this journey to the coast. The disappearance of the boy's mother is mentioned in one short passage. The rest of the story is the account of their difficult journey through a world that is bleak at best; terrifying at worst. It is an illustration of most vile aspects of human nature, countered with that which makes humanity beautiful--love.
The language in this novel is incredible. Every word McCarthy uses is chosen with care. He weaves them together to create a bleak tapestry of imagery, which somehow manages to be stark and rich at the same time. Example: "...Glass floats covered witha gray crust. The bones of seabirds. At the tide line a woven mat of weeds and the ribs of fishes in their millions stretching along the shore as far as eye could see like an isocline of death. One vast salt sepulchre. Senseless. Senseless."
The story is sad, but not a piercing kind of sadness. It is a grey, trudging, endless sadness peppered with moments of color and relief which quickly turn back to resignation. "And the dreams so rich in color. How else would death call you? Waking in the cold dawn it all turned to ash instantly. Like certain ancient frescoes entombed for centuries suddenly exposed to the day." The characters can't possibly go on like this, but somehow they do...until they can't.
As bleak as the story is, it is a story of hope. The father and son represent the goodness and honor in humanity--the father the dutiful soldier who does what he has to to fulfill his duty; the son the symbol of goodness, light, compassion. And even in the end there is hope, for hope must continue. Someone must go on to carry the fire.
Challenge/s: New Classics Challenge, RIP III