Friday, 31 August 2007

The Road

Wow, what an amazing book. I've read it twice in the past month or so. I wasn't planning to read it twice, but I had so many questions, and this haunting tale still played on my mind after I'd finished it, after bookgrouplist had dissected it for two weeks, that when looking about for a small book to take on holidays to Melbourne with me, I decided on a reread of The Road.

This is the second McCarthy that I have read. I read All The Pretty Horses a few years ago now, again with bookgrouplist. I don't remember many details from it now, but do remember sparse, clear prose. This book is even sparser, and clearer. As many have commented the style is almost poetic. The author is somewhat intrusive in this aspect though I think. To make the setting different from modern times, he has dispensed with apostrophes at random, and uses a lot of sentence fragments. The sentence fragments I don't mind in the least, but random placement of apostrophes is jarring to the modern reader. He also has either a Vast Vocabulary, or works with an online thesaurus open and continually running. Amazing words leap off the page- discalced, crozzled, cheroot.

We immediately enter a post-apocalyptic world somewhere in southern America, (See Rock City. A simple sentence early on, incomprehensible to the average Aussie reader actually gives it away) where an unnamed father and son are walking down the road, walking towards the coast, which looms as their only hope in a rather hopeless world. He has created a very convincing world. Several years earlier "The clocks stopped at 1:17. A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions." The cause of the end of civilization as we currently enjoy it is never explored in the book. And it has become irrelevant. Nothing matters except ongoing survival, and that is fraught enough. The plant and animal life has all but died out. They hear a dog once, but otherwise the native world is dead, killed by the pall of dust that cakes the world and hides the sun.

What is the point of their journey on The Road? Many have argued about whether this book, and it's ending are optimistic or not. I don't really see how it can be. All potential human food sources are dead. The few remaining people are eeking out their existence, living off the shrinking remnants of the previous society. Ultimately, what hope can there be? The father is still hopeful for the survival of his son, even in these cirucmstances.

The ending is somewhat alarming. It just seems to stop. The last paragraph does not come from those before it. But I don't think it's an important enough problem to ruin the book. As with any road trip, it's the journey not the destination that is important, and this journey is quite the page turner. An important book, ignore it at your peril.

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