Friday, February 20, 2009

Book Review: The Road

I've had this one on my reading list for a long time. I kept thinking that I needed to be in the right mood to read post-apocalyptic writing, but sometimes you just have to take the plunge. I don't know why I was somewhat reluctant; I used to devour futuristic and apocalyptic novels. I think perhaps having young children discourages one from reading too many depressing works.

At any rate, I loved this novel by Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy is in some ways a Hemingway-esque writer. His prose is sparse and sometimes gruff, but beautifully moving and poetic. The setting permeates the book: something horrible has happened to the earth, although we're not told what exactly happened. Life has been nearly wiped out, except for those few survivors, most of whom are "bad guys." The man and his son are "good guys," holding onto a tiny shred of hope that there are more of their kind left. They head south for the winter, constantly battling starvation, hiding from cannibalistic marauders, choosing to survive. Suicide is never far from the father's mind, but his fierce love for his son keeps him going.

It's a savage, brutal, depressing book. This is the kind of fierce writing that hooked me on apocalyptic literature many decades ago. On one level, this is Dr. Suess's "The Lorax" turned from gently admonishing to brutal realism: this is what could happen if we don't straighten up. On another level, it is a novel about the fierce love of a parent for his child despite hellish circumstances. And above all, it is a terrifying picture of what Someday might look like.

McCarthy's writing is exquisite. He is a master of language, a poet wrapped up in minimalist. The images are stark but explosive, as palpable as is possible through the written word. I am looking forward to the movie but would be terribly sad for anyone who watched the movie without first savoring McCarthy's writing.

4 comments:

Jeane said...

Depressing as it sounds, your description of the language has really encouraged me to pick up this book.

Jennifer said...

OK -- Now I am convinced that this should be next on my list.

CHRIS PASH said...

His words are poetry. You can't help but be drawn along The Road.

The Ties that Bind Us said...

I'm reading it now...and also 5 other books. I can't just read one at a time, I guess I have multiple personalities and I have to be able to satisfy them all. ANyways, its great!!!!!!!!!!!!!