The Road

➤ The Road Ebook ➪ Author Cormac McCarthy – The searing, postapocalyptic novel about a father and son's fight to survive

A father and his son walk alone through burned America Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the The searing, postapocalyptic novel about a father and son's fight to surviveA father and his son walk alone through burned America Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray The sky is dark Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each otherThe Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, each the other's world entire, are sustained by love Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastationback cover.The Road

Cormac McCarthy is an American novelist and playwright He has written ten novels in the Southern Gothic, western, and post apocalyptic genres and has also written plays and screenplays He received the Pulitzer Prize in for The Road, and his novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best PictureHis earlier Blood M.

The Road MOBI ò Paperback
    If you re looking for a CBR and CBZ reader that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each otherThe Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, each the other's world entire, are sustained by love Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastationback cover."/>
  • Paperback
  • 287 pages
  • The Road
  • Cormac McCarthy
  • English
  • 28 November 2017
  • 9780307387899

10 thoughts on “The Road

  1. says:

    The Road is unsteady and repetitive--now aping Melville, now Hemingway--but it is less a seamless blend than a reanimated corpse: sewn together from dead parts into a lumbering, incongruous whole, then jolted to ignoble half-life by McCarthy’s grand reputation with Hollywood Filmmakers and incestuous award committees.

    In '96, NYU Professor Alan Sokal submitted a paper for publication to several scientific journals. He made it so complex and full of jargon the average person wouldn't be able to make heads or tails of it. He wrote a conclusion that would deliberately flatter the preconceptions of the journals he submitted it to. As he predicted, it was accepted and published, despite the fact that it was all complete nonsense.

    The Sokal Affair showed the utter incompetence of these trusted judges. They were unable to recognize good (or bad) arguments and were mostly motivated by politics. The accolades showered upon works like The Road have convinced me that the judges of literature are just as incompetent (and I’m not the only one who thinks so). Unlike Sokol, McCarthy didn't do it purposefully, he just writes in an ostentatiously empty style which is safe and convenient to praise.

    Many have lauded his straightforward prose, and though I am not the most devoted fan of Hemingway, I can admire the precision and economy of a deliberate, economical use of words. Yet that was not what I got from The Road:

    He took out the plastic bottle of water and unscrewed the cap and held it out and the boy came and took it and stood drinking. He lowered the bottle and got his breath and he sat in the road and crossed his legs and drank again. Then he handed the bottle back and the man drank and screwed the cap back on and rummaged through the pack. The ate a can of white beans, passing it between them, and he threw the empty tin into the woods.

    Then they set out down the road again.

    Simple? Yes. Precise and purposeful? Hrdlt. The Road is as elegant as a laundry list (if not as well punctuated). Compiling a long and redundant series of unnecessary descriptions is not straightforward, but needlessly complicated.

    We're supposed to find this simplicity profound--that old postmodern game of defamiliarization, making the old seem new, showing the importance of everyday events--but McCarthy isn't actually changing the context, he's just restating. There is no personality in it, no relationship to the plot, no revealing of the characters.

    Perhaps it is meant to show their weariness: they cannot even muster enough energy to participate in their own lives, but is the best way to demonstrate boredom to write paragraphs that bore the reader? A good writer can make the mundane seem remarkable, but The Road is too bare to be beautiful, and too pointless to be poignant.

    Once we have been lulled by long redundancy, McCarthy abruptly switches gears, moving from the plainness of Hemingway to the florid, overwrought figurative language of Melville:
    The man thought he seemed some sad and solitary changeling child announcing the arrival of a traveling spectacle in shire and village who does not know that behind him the players have all been carried off by wolves.

    There is no attempt to bridge the two styles, they are forced to cohabitate, without rhyme or reason to unite them. In another sentence he describes 'dead ivy', 'dead grass' and 'dead trees' with unerring monotony, and then as if adding a punchline, declares them 'shrouded in a carbon fog'--which sounds like the world's blandest cyberpunk anthology.

    Another example:
    It's snowing, the boy said. A single gray flake sifting down. He caught it in his hand and watched it expire like the last host of christendom.

    McCarthy seems to be trying to reproduce the morbid religious symbolism of Melville when he plays the tattered prophet in Moby Dick. But while Melville's theology is terribly sublime and pervasive, McCarthy's is ostentatious and diminutive, like a carved molding in an otherwise unadorned room. Nowhere does he produce the staggeringly surreal otherworldliness Melville achieves in a line like There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within.

    Often, McCarthy's gilded metaphors are piled, one atop the other, in what must be an attempt to develop an original voice, but which usually sounds more like the contents of a ‘Team Edward’ notebook, left behind after poetry class:
    . . . Query: How does the never to be differ from what never was?

    Dark of the invisible moon. The nights now only slightly less black. By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp.

    People sitting on the sidewalk in the dawn half immolate and smoking in their clothes. Like failed sectarian suicides. . . .

    I love how he prefaces that like an Asimov robot. Sardonic Observation: I'd almost believe he was one, since he has no understanding of beauty or human emotion. Biting Quip: However, he violates Asimov's first law, since his awkward prose harms human ears.

    Sometimes, smack in the middle of a detailed description of scraping paint with a screwdriver, we suddenly get a complex jargon term which few readers would understand. These terms are neither part of the world, nor are they aspects of specialized character knowledge, so I cannot assign them any meaning in the text.

    One of the basic lessons for any beginning writer is 'don't just add big words because you can', it's self-indulgent and doesn't really help the story. It would be one thing if it were a part of some stylistic structure instead of bits of out-of-place jargon that conflict with the overall style of the book--more textual flotsam for us to wade through.

    The longer I read, the more mirthlessly dire it became, and the less I found I could take it seriously. Every little cluster of sentences left on its own as a standalone chapter, every little two-word incomplete sentence trying to demand importance because it actually had punctuation (a rare commodity), every undifferentiated monosyllabic piece of non-dialogue like a hobo talking to himself--it all made the book overblown and nonsensical.

    It just stared me down, like a huge drunk guy in a bar daring me to laugh at his misspelled tattoo. And I did. I don't know if my coworkers or the people on the bus knew what 'The Road' was about (it was years before the movie), but they had to assume it was one hilarious road, with a busfull of nuns hiding a convict in disguise on the run from a bumbling southern sheriff and his deputy; a donkey is involved.

    Without mentioning specifics, I will say the notorious ending of the book is completely tacked on, in no way fits with or concludes any of the emotional build of the book, but instead wraps up, neat and tight. It certainly bears out McCarthy's admission on Oprah that he had no idea where it was going when he wrote it. We can tell, Cormac.

    As you may have noticed from the quotes, another notorious issue is the way the book is punctuated, which is to say, it isn't. The most complex mark is the a rare comma. It's not like McCarthy is only using simple, straightforward sentences, either---he fills up on conjoined clauses and partial sentence fragments, he just doesn't bother to mark any of them.

    He also doesn't use any quotes in the books, and rarely attributes statements to characters, so we must first try to figure out if someone is talking, or if it's just another snatch of 'poetic license', and then determine who is talking. Sure, Melville did away with quotes in one chapter in Moby Dick, but he did it in stylistic reference to Shakespeare, and he also seemed to be aware that it was a silly affectation best suited to a ridiculous scene.

    It's not only the structure, grammar, figurative language, and basic descriptions which are so absurdly lacking: the characters are likewise flat, dull, and repetitive. Almost every conversation between the father and son is the same:
    Father: Do it now.
    Son: I'm scared.
    Father: Just do it.
    Son: Are we going to die?
    Father: No.
    Son: Are you sure?
    Father: Yes.

    Remember, you won't get little tags so you know who's speaking, it'll all just be strung out in a line without differentiation. Then they wander around for a bit or run from crazy people, and we finally get the cap to the conversation:
    Son: Why did (terrible thing) just happen?
    Father: (Stares off in silence)
    Son: Why did (terrible thing) just happen?
    Father: (More silence)

    And that’s it, the whole relationship; it never changes or grows. Nor does it seem to make much sense. The characters are always together, each the other's sole companion: father and son, and yet they are constantly distant and at odds, like a suburban parent and child who rarely see each other and have little in common. McCarthy never demonstrates how such a disconnect arose between two people who are constantly intimate and reliant on one another.

    But then, McCarthy confided to Oprah that the is book about his relationship with his own son, so it makes sense why the emotional content is completely at odds with the setting. Perhaps he just sat down one say and thought “I’m an award-winning author and screenwriter who has a somewhat distant relationship with my son. You know what that’s like? That’s like the unendurable physical suffering of people in the third world who are trying to find food and escape crazed, murderous mobs.” So then he wrote a book equating the two, which is about the most callous, egotistical act of privileged self-pity a writer can indulge in.

    At least now I know why the characters and their reactions don’t make much sense. The boy is constantly terrified, and his chief role involves pointing at things and screaming, punctuating every conflict in the book, like a bad horror film. Cannibals and dead infants are an okay (if cliche) place to start when it comes to unsettling the reader, but just having the characters react histrionically does not build tension, especially when the characters are too flat to be sympathetic in the first place. Another Creative Writing 101 lesson: if you have to resort to over-the-top character reactions to let the audience know how they are supposed to feel, then your 'emotional moment' isn't working. It's the literary equivalent of a laugh track.

    You know what’s more unsettling than a child screaming when he finds a dead infant? A child not screaming when he finds a dead infant. And really, that’s the more likely outcome. The young boy has never known another world--his world is death and horror. Anyone who has seen a picture of a Rwandan boy with an AK can see how children adapt to what’s around them. And you know what would make a great book? A father who remembers the old world trying to prevent his son from becoming a callous monster because of the new one.

    But no, we get a child who inexplicably reacts as if he’s used to the good life in suburbia and all this death and killing is completely new to him, even though we’ve watched him go through it half a dozen times already. The characters never grow numb to it, they never seem to suffer PTSD, their reactions are more akin to angst.

    Every time there is a problem, the characters just fold in on themselves and give up. People really only do that when they have the luxury of sitting about and ruminating on what troubles them. When there is a sudden danger before us, we might run, or freeze, but there’s hardly time to feel sorry for ourselves.

    There is no joy or hope in this book--not even the fleeting, false kind. Everything is constantly bleak. Yet human beings in stressful, dangerous situations always find ways to carry on: small victories, justifications, or even lies and delusions. The closest this book gets is ‘The Fire’, which is the father’s term for why they must carry on through all these difficulties. But replace ‘The Fire’ with ‘The Plot’ and you’ll see what effect is achieved: it’s not character psychology, but authorial convenience. Apparently, McCarthy cannot even think of a plausible reason why human beings would want to survive.

    There is nothing engaging about a world sterilized of all possibility. People always create a way out, even when there is none. What is tragic is not a lack of hope, but misplaced hope. I could perhaps appreciate a completely empty world as a writing exercise, but as McCarthy is constantly trying to provoke emotional reactions, he cannot have been going for utter bleakness.

    The Road is a canvas painted black, so it doesn't mater how many more black strokes he layers on top: they will not stand out because there is no contrast, there is no depth, no breaking or building of tension, just a constant addition of featureless details to a featureless whole. Some people seem to think that an emotionally manipulative book that makes people cry is better than one that makes people horny--but at least people don’t get self-righteous about what turns them on.

    This is tragedy porn. Suburban malaise is equated with the most remote and terrible examples of human pain. So, dull housewives can read it and think ‘yes, my ennui is just like a child who stumbles across a corpse’, and perhaps she will cry, and feel justified in doing so. Or a man might read it and think ‘yes, my father was distant, and it makes me feel like I live alone in a hostile world I don’t care to understand’; he will not cry, but he will say that he did.

    And so the privileged can read about how their pain is the same as the pain of those starving children they mute during commercial breaks. In the perversity of modern, invisible colonialism--where a slave does not wash your clothes, but builds the machine that washes them--these self-absorbed people who have never starved or had their lives imperiled can think of themselves as worldly, as ‘one with humanity’, as good, caring people.

    They recycle. They turn the water off when they brush their teeth. They buy organic. They even thought about joining the Peace Corps. Their guilt is assuaged. They are free to bask in their own radiant anguish.

    And it all depresses me--which makes me a shit, because I’m no more entitled to it than any other well-fed, educated winner of the genetic lottery. So when I read this book, I couldn’t sympathize with that angst and think it justified, just like I couldn’t with Holden’s. I know my little existential crisis isn’t comparable to someone who has really lost control of their life, who might actually lose life.

    But this kind of egotistical detachment has become typical of American thought, and of American authors, whose little, personal, insular explorations don't even pretend to look at the larger world. Indeed, there is a self-satisfied notion that trying to look at the world sullies the pure artist.

    And that 'emotionally pure, isolated author' is what we get from the Oprah interview. Sure, she's asking asinine questions, but McCarthy shows no capacity to discuss either craft or ideas, refusing to take open-ended questions and discuss writing, he instead laughs condescendingly and shrugs. Then again, he may honestly not have much insight on the topic.

    Looked at in this way, it's not surprising he won the Pulitzer. Awards committees run on politics, and choosing McCarthy is a political decision--an attempt to declare that insular, American arrogance is somehow still relevant. But the world seems content to move ahead without America and its literature, which is why no one expects McCarthy--or any American author--to win a Nobel any time soon.

    This book is a paean to the obliviousness of American self-importance in our increasingly global, undifferentiated world. One way or the other, it will stand as a testament to the last gasp of a dying philosophy: either we will collapse under our own in-fighting and short-sightedness, or we will be forced to evolve into something new and competitive--a bloated reputation will carry you only so far.

    But then, the Pulitzer committee is renowned for picking unadventurous winners--usually an unremarkable late entry by an author past their prime. As William Gass put it:
    the prize is simply not given to work of the first rank, rarely even to the second; and if you believed yourself to be a writer of that eminence, you are now assured of being over the hill

    To any genre reader, this book will have a familiar and unpleasant taste, the same one LeGuin has often lamented: that of the big name author slumming. They pop into fantasy or sci fi with their lit fic credentials to show us little folk 'how it's really done'--but know nothing about the genre or its history, and just end up reinventing the wheel, producing a book that would have been tired and dated thirty years ago. Luckily for such writers, none of their lit fic critics know anything about other genres--any sort of bland rehash will feel fresh to them, as long as you have the name-recognition to get them to look in the first place.

    So, McCarthy gets two stars for a passable (if cliche) script for a sci fi adventure movie, minus one star for unconscionable denigration of human suffering. I couldn't say if McCarthy's other books are any good; I will probably try another, just to see if any part of his reputation is deserved, but this one certainly didn't help. All I see is another author who got too big for his editors and, finding himself free to write whatever he wanted--only proved that he no longer has anything worth saying.

    Look, if the contemporary condition is hopelessly shitty, insipid, materialistic, emotionally retarded, sadomasochistic, and stupid, then I (or any writer) can get away with slapping together stories with characters who are stupid, vapid, emotionally retarded, which is easy, because these sorts of characters require no development. With descriptions that are merely lists ... Where stupid people say insipid stuff to each other. If what's always distinguished bad writing--flat characters, a narrative world that's ... not recognizably human, etc.--is also a description of today's world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world ... most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is?

    -David Foster Wallace

  2. says:

    I really feel compelled to write up a review of McCarthy's The Road as this book really worked for me (for those of you who haven't read it, there are no real spoilers below, only random quotes and thematic commentary). I read it last night in one sitting. Hours of almost nonstop reading. I found it to be an excellent book on so many levels that I am at a loss as to where to begin. It was at once gripping, terrifying, utterly heart-wrenching, and completely beautiful. I have read most of McCarthy's other books and am already a big fan, but this one is different, perhaps his best in terms of lean, masterful prose, plot presentation, and flat-out brilliant storytelling.

    Take this passage for example: The blackness he woke to on those nights was sightless and impenetrable. A blackness to hurt your ears with listening. Often he had to get up. No sound but the wind in the bare blackened trees. He rose and stood tottering in that cold autistic dark with his arms outheld for balance while the vestibular calculations in his skull cranked out their reckonings. An old chronicle. Happy times! The word choice and imagery is classic McCarthy yet is leaner and more honed, tighter and in turn more intense. The whole book follows this pattern. No word, not a single one, is extraneous. This is perhaps my favorite single sentence in the book: By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp. I just love that.

    Clearly this book struck a chord with me due to the two protagonists and their predicament, a father and his young son struggling in a post-apocalyptic world. To say I could identify with their interactions would be a huge understatement. McCarthy absolutely nails their dialog, making me marvel at how well he has mastered presenting on a page the way we communicate (it isn't exactly how we talk, of course, it just seems that way. Through some sort of magic, he writes dialog that comes across more realistically than actual dialog. Witchcraft for sure.). The young son was especially well done and was most certainly the most complicated character in the book. McCarthy presents him as a sort of supernatural being (Christ figure?), of only the best sort, full of goodness, a thing not of the world in which he finds himself. He is effortlessly drawn down the path of the righteous throughout the book, as if he is God's right hand man. The reward appears, at least superficially, to be key moments of luck.

    It almost wouldn't work from a literary standpoint if it didn't serve so well as a vehicle to reinforce the central theme of the book: the undeniable power of love over all else. The theme of love, mostly presented through the bond of the father and son, is so well done as to evoke strong emotions, even now, as I consider how to present its keen development throughout the novel. To be so desperate, in every way and at all times, and yet to survive and at times thrive, to persevere through terrible events of unbelievable horror (think Steven King's The Stand on steroids) would strike feelings of great, sad compassion in even the most tempered soul. But it is much more than that of course. Consider this passage, a speaking passage from father to son, spoken during one of the most tense and horrifying scenes in the book: You wanted to know what the bad guys looked like. Now you know. It may happen again. My job is to take care of you. I was appointed to do that by God. I will kill anyone who touches you. Do you understand? In this one passage, McCarthy shows the great contradiction in this theme of love, the idea that violence and beauty can spring fourth from the same well, can come from the same fountainhead. Interestingly, the father often resorts to violence in his role as a servant of love (he sees it as his duty, in a religious sense, as stated in the quote). Yet the boy never does and appears better for it, in so many ways, even in that terrible place. He is the embodiment of pure goodness, and sets up the other, better side of love, the side that is unsullied by the world, that never resorts to baseness and violence, that finds beauty in even to most unlikely of places. Like seeing a picture better when you hold it up to the light, the contrasts between these two sides is masterfully provided, page after page, in only the most well written and considered prose.

    The often repeated promethean phrase carrying the fire, agreed upon by the two protagonists as pretty much the whole point of their continuing, embodies this central theme. The boy is carrying the fire for us all, and is perhaps the most important survivor in that shattered world, bearing the torch of love for humanity to share when it is again ready. Not to belabor the point, but the way McCarthy handles this, all the way until the end, is nothing short of genius. Can you tell I liked the book yet? I am amazed that I missed this book for so long, me being a huge McCarthy fan and placing him squarely at the top of the big four (with DeLillo, Roth, and Pynchon). The book is so it's own that as soon as I felt myself feeling an influence (for example, I swore I smelled Hemmingway's Old Man and the Sea in terms of prose/theme, and the more terrifyingly cruel parts at times rang so much like Kosinski's The Painted Bird ), McCarthy would insert the perfect McCarthyism, solidly planting the flag (so to speak) of a phrase or sentence into the passage to claim it forever for himself, like a prosaic explorer figuratively pushing out into the unknown through deft assemblages of words and phases impossible to all but him (ok, that metaphor was way too much….time to wrap it up). Of course I have more to say but am beginning to risk (actually have already thoroughly risked) repeating myself and sounding like some deranged, McCarthy stalker-type. Check this one out. It is superior literature.

  3. says:

    This wasn't nearly as funny as everybody says it is.

  4. says:

    He palmed the spartan book with black cover and set out in the gray morning. Grayness, ashen. Ashen in face. Ashen in the sky.

    He set out for the road, the book in hand. Bleakness, grayness. Nothing but gray, always.

    He was tired and hungry. Coughing. The coughing had gotten worse. He felt like he might die. But he couldn't die. Not yet.

    The boy depended on him.

    He walked down the road, awaiting the creaking bus. It trundled from somewhere, through the gray fog. The ashen gray fog.

    He stepped aboard, spartan book in hand. No one spoke. They were all ghosts. Tired, wrinkled, rumpled, going wherever. Not knowing why. Just going.

    He opened the book and read. He began to see a pattern, a monotonous pattern of hopelessness. Chunks of gray hopelessness. Prose set in concrete, gray. Gray blocks of prose. He read.
    He recognized images from films long since past, and books from authors of yore. Many science fiction writers, many movie makers. He thought he saw a flash, something familiar. Perhaps it was only one of his nagging dreams. A dream of what once existed, but he did not know. Wasn't there once, he wondered, a story called A Boy And His Dog, by, who? Ellison, maybe? Was that the name? It seemed right, but his mind was unreliable. It had not been reliable in awhile. People forget. Yes, they forget.

    And here, a fragment, The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man, Dawn of the Dead, Planet of the Apes, The Day After, The Twilight Zone. Yes, that one, the one about the man and the books. The broken glasses. Cannibals, people in rags, charred bodies, emptiness, grayness. On the Beach popped into his mind. His gray, dulled mind. The Andromeda Strain. Dessicated bodies. Dusty, leathered, ashen bodies.

    The rain, the snow, the white, the cold, the gray. The endless white. The endless gray. Escape from New York... The titles seemed endless, but they blended in his wearied mind. Had he not read and seen all this a thousand times before? What was he to make of this book he held, this spartan black book, this cobbling of all that had come before, all set forth again? Was this original, he wondered? He continued to read. But he was tired, flagging. Rain, tin food, wet blankets, shivering, twigs and fire and cold. Always cold, and gray. And walking, slowly. Always walking down the road. And hiding. Hiding and walking. Ceaselessly. And atrocities. Savagery. Road warriors, the bad guys. Did this also not seem familiar? The man wondered, but his mind, like those of most of the masses, often forgot. He thanked an unseen God for this forgetfulness, for it made it easier for him to read, uncritically, unknowingly. The author, McCarthy, no doubt also must have been relieved that no one cared anymore. Plagiarism belonged to the dead past. A quaint notion of a bygone day. Not a concern, in these gray times. The times of sampling. Of plunder.
    My concoction is out of a tin can, he might have thought. But he did not. Tin food, prepackaged. Cans waiting to be plucked and plundered.

    He opened the literary beenie weenies, and served them to the world. And the world ate, hungrily ate. And believed, that beenie weenies, on their empty stomachs, tasted like the greatest gourmet dish they had ever tasted. For they knew not any better. Their gray matter just did not know.

    And they went on down the road.

    (KR@KY 2009, amended only very slightly in 2016)
    NOTE: This review was written about, and during, bus rides to work while reading this book. To date, it is my most popular review on Goodreads, and for that I thank everyone. It appeared on the Publisher's Weekly website in an article on best parody reviews on Goodreads. Thanks to everyone who agreed with me and to also those who disagreed and vigorously defended the book.

  5. says:

    (A-) 84% | Very Good
    Notes: Dreamlike and deeply moving, it's thin on plot, with dialogue that's often genius, but also inauthentic and repetitive.

  6. says:

    I'm a terrible person because I didn't really like The Road and I'm not sure how I feel about Cormac McCarthy. Honestly, I think there's something wrong with me.

    I just finished reading The Road today - it only took a couple of hours to get through, because it's not that long a book, and I think it was a good way to read it because I felt really immersed in the story, which is told like one long run-on nightmare of poetic import. The characters don't get quotation marks when they speak, and for some reason McCarthy also does away with the apostrophes in words like couldn't and shouldn't - I'm still not really sure why that was necessary, it seemed a little unjustified.

    The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world but the apocalypse itself is never really described or explained. I still don't really know why the world is the way it is as the story begins, other than that everything suddenly started burning and there are few survivors. What survivors remain are generally split into good guys and bad guys - the good guys are just trying to get by and the bad guys usually kill and eat people and steal their things. A man and his boy are walking south, yet we never really know why - to get to what? Even the man, whose plan this is, never explains the rationale more than once when he thinks that it will be warmer there. We're meant to think that they're in America, I think, only there's little indicators of an American world or otherwise. At one point, near the end of the book, most of the artifacts they find are written in Spanish, which led me to think they had made it to Mexico possibly, but it still snows there, I think, which would be unusual.

    In other words, there are few concrete details, and a lot of small conversations between the man and the boy - the man usually says we have to keep going or we have to stay and the boy says i'm scared or don't leave me and the man says Don't be scared or Okay. That was probably my biggest frustration with the book - the mundane repetitiveness of the dialogue. While many will argue that that criticism is *exactly what the author intended* (along with the amorphous location and lack of details) in order to bring about the black ethos of the novel's post-apocalypse, I just felt like it made for an uninteresting read.

    The language is definitely poetic and it's peppered with abstract observations about the world or life or death, but I wasn't very moved by them or the story. I didn't feel like I got to know the characters any better as the story went along - they remained distant to me emotionally, endless travelers that I could empathize with (as you would empathize with any soul wandering a post-apocalyptic desert) but I didn't really feel close to anything that happened because the narrative's disjointed and abstract tone just pushed me away as much as it made me reflect on apocalypse.

    I read José Saramago's novel, Blindness a year or two ago and, to be honest, felt that it dealt with mass epidemic of an apocalyptic nature in a much more convincing, original and powerful way. It contains language of stunning beauty, dialogue that lacks distinction and punctuation, and dire situations but the characters are infinitely more real, more compelling and the situations far more disturbing. What McCarthy only hints at, Saramago dares to depict throughout Blindness.

    So, like I said, I'm sure I'm a terrible person and there's just something that I'm not getting, but I was really disappointed by The Road and generally find McCarthy and unenjoyable read.

  7. says:

    The Road is a truly disturbing book; it is absorbing, mystifying and completely harrowing. Simply because it shows us how man could act given the right circumstances; it’s a terrifying concept because it could also be a true one.

    It isn’t a book that gives you any answers, you have to put the pieces together and presume. For whatever reason, be it nuclear war or environmental collapse, the world has gone to hell. It is a wasteland of perpetual greyness and ash. Very little grows anymore, and the air itself is toxic. The survivors are made ill by their surroundings, physically, mentally and spiritually. They cough and splutter, they struggle to carry on and lack the will to live. Civilisation has completely collapsed, but its remnants remain: the roads remain.

    “On this road there are no godspoke men. They are gone and I am left and they have taken with them the world.”

    Thus, the man and the boy (that’s the only names we are ever given for them) walk down them. They communicate rarely, when they do it is bare and in seemingly inane phrases. At times, especially at the start of the book, when no sense of history orr time were relayed, the conversation was highly reminiscent of that in Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot. The exchanges had little to no point and were totally lacking in any substance, as the two central characters longed for something that seemed out of reach.

    It’s a brave narrative device, one that seems to have put off many readers. But it also articulates much about the psychological states of the man and the boy. There’s just not that much to talk about when you live in a world where you’re under constant threat from roaming gangs of cannibals catching you, dying of starvation and perhaps even exposure along with the knowledge that you will have to kill your son should the said cannibals finally catch up with you. Not to mention the sheer level of trauma and stress both characters are operating under. Staying alive is all that matters, wasting energy on words in such a situation is fruitless where you barely have the strength to walk down the road for another day.

    “What's the bravest thing you ever did?
    He spat in the road a bloody phlegm. Getting up this morning, he said.”


    A dark and seemingly hopeless story unfolds. The farther and son are travelling to the beach, a distance of several hundred miles. With them they push all their worldly possessions, and resources, in a shopping cart. Such a journey seems like a fool’s errand. But what other choice do they have? The two cling onto something, a fire, a hope, that life can somehow get better. And then it continued to burn even after the mother has killed herself. This, for me, captures a large part of the human psyche: an indomitable will to survive.

    The Road is suffocating; it is claustrophobic and it is entrapping. What McCarthy shows us, is that no matter how shit human society may become (has already become?) it will always have the possibility of rejuvenation. There is light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. The entire novel is an allegory, one that is not revealed until the final few pages.

    “Keep a little fire burning; however small, however hidden.”


    You can connect with me on social media via My Linktree.

  8. says:

    How to Write Like Cormac McCarthy

    1. Make sure the first sentence contains a verb.

    2. But neither the second.

    3. Nor the third.

    4. Repeat until finished.

    5. Or sooner deterred.

    We'll Become Well Eventually

    The Boy: Papa?

    Papa: Yes?

    The Boy: What's this?

    Papa: It's an apostrophe.

    The Boy: What does it do?

    Papa: It takes two words and turns them into a contraction.

    The Boy: Is that good?

    Papa: Years ago people used to think it was good.

    The Boy: What about now?

    Papa: Not many people use them now.

    The Boy: Does the world already have enough contractions, Papa?

    Papa: I hadn't thought of it like that. But you might be on to something.

    The Boy: What difference would it make if we threw away all the apostrophes?

    Papa: Not much. I don't think.

    The Boy: I wonder if we could get rid of the apostrophe, then maybe...

    Papa: Yes?

    The Boy: You could say we'll be well.

    Papa: You're right. You know. But it could get confusing. If you wrote it down. Without an apostrophe. Well be well.

    The Boy: But really, Papa, if we could take away just one apostrophe, do you think we'll become well? Eventually. All of us?

    Papa: We could.

    The Boy: Well, then, if we can get rid of all of the apostrophes, we will.

    Papa: But then there wouldn't be any contractions!

    The Boy: Papa!

    Papa: Haha. I wish your grammar could hear you talking!

    In Praise of the Verb to Grow

    Out of ashen gray
    Frequently grow sentences
    Of colored beauty.

    All Things of Grace and Beauty
    [An Assemblage of Favourite Sentences]

    Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world. No fall but preceded by a declination. He caught it in his hand and watched it expire there like the last host of christendom. No one travelled this land. Ever's a long time. Creedless shells of men tottering down the causeways like migrants in a feverland. The sparks rushed upward and died in the starless dark. On this road there are no godspoke men. How does the never to be differ from what never was? By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp. The ash fell on the snow until it was all but black. Paths of feral fire in the coagulate sands. The day providential to itself. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance of pain. We're survivors he told her across the flame of the lamp. A black billcap with the logo of some vanished enterprise embroidered across the front of it. In the darkness and the silence he could see bits of light that appeared random on the night grid. The sacred idiom shorn of its referents and so of its reality. The dark serpentine of a dead vine running down it like the track of some enterprise on a graph. A single bit of sediment coiling in the jar on some slow hydraulic axis ...a pale palimpsest of advertisements for goods which no longer existed. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. There is no God and we are his prophets. They are watching for a thing that even death cannot undo... Like the desolation of some alien sea breaking on the shores of a world unheard of. One vast salt sepulchre. There were few nights lying in the dark when he did not envy the dead. I will not send you into the darkness alone. The mudstained shapes of flooded cities burned to the waterline. A living man spoke these lines. Ten thousand dreams ensepulchred within their crozzled hearts. The ponderous counterspectacle of things ceasing to be. The sweeping waste, hydroptic and coldly secular. There is no prophet in the earth's long chronicle who's not honored here today.

    Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - The Beach (The Road Soundtrack)

    Alternative Dystopian Ending Haiku

    (view spoiler)[

    In the silver light
    Of the moon above the beach,
    A big squid ate them.

    (hide spoiler)]

  9. says:

    The view that there are two independent, primal forces in the universe, one good and one evil, is called dualism. According to dualism, the good God does the best he can to promote good and combat evil but he can only do so much since evil is a powerful counterforce in its own right. The ancient Gnostics were dualists with their scriptures emphasizing the mythic rather than the historic and positing our evil world of matter created not by an all-powerful God but by a flawed deity called the Demiurge. In contrast to the Demiurge, the good God of light resides above our earthly material universe in a pure, spiritual realm called the Pleroma.

    I mention dualism and Gnosticism here since I read in Cormac McCarthy's novel No Country For Old Men the following dialogue between a good old Texas boy by the name of Sheriff Bell and his old Uncle Ellis:
    Sheriff Bell asks: “Do you think God knows what's happenin?”
    Uncle Ellis replies – “I expect he does.”
    Bell then asks – “You think he can stop it?”
    To this Uncle Ellis answers – “No. I dont.”

    By these answers, whether he knows it or not, Uncle Ellis is expressing Gnostic dualism. Of course, McCarthy's worldview isn't necessarily the worldview of one of his characters, in this case Uncle Ellis, but my sense after reading No Country for Old Men McCarthy's worldview isn't that far removed from Gnostic dualism; rather, the world and society McCarthy creates is absolutely soaking in evil. The evil is so strong in this McCarthy novel, one could say evil is the primal force of the universe.

    A world where evil is the primal force is given an even more complete and deeper expression in McCarthy's post-Apocalyptic novel The Road, where a man and his son travel south to avoid the oncoming winter cold. Why am I saying this? Let me offer a couple observations around two quotes:

    We read a reflection of the man when he was a boy about age thirteen prior to the apocalypse, Standing at the edge of a winter field among rough men, watching while they opened up the rocky hillside ground with pick and mattock and brought to light a great bolus of serpents perhaps a hundred in number; the dull tubes of them beginning to move sluggishly in the cold hard light. Like the bowels of some great beast exposed to the day. The men poured gasoline on them and burned them alive, having no remedy for evil but only for the image of it as they conceived it to be. The burning snakes twisted horribly and some crawled burning across the floor of the grotto to illuminate its darker recesses. As they were mute there were no screams of pain and the men watched them burn and writhe and blacken in just such silence themselves and they disbanded in silence in the winter dusk each with his own thoughts to go home to their suppers. One can only wonder what brought about the actual apocalypse in the novel. Perhaps, similar to these men, world leaders attempted to remedy the image of evil on a macro level.

    Here is a typical scene the man and boy come upon: Beyond a crossroads in that wilderness they began to come upon the possessions of travelers abandoned in the road years ago. Boxes and bags. Everything melted and black. Old plastic suitcases curled shapeless in the heat. Here and there the imprint of things wrested out of the tar by scavengers. A mile on and they began to come upon the dead. Figures half mired in the blacktop, clutching themselves, mouths howling. No more quotes are needed as I am sure you get the idea - a shadowy, menacing, ash-filled landscape populated by humans hunting and killing and eating one another.

    What creates the drama in this dark, sinister, stinking world is the love the man has for the boy, his son, and the love the boy has for the man, his papa. Also, the compassion the boy has for those they encounter on the road. All through their experience on the road, can we say the man holds a Gnostic-like dualist view? He experiences the intensity of the world's evil to be sure. However, his belief in a Gnostic light realm is paradoxical. Sometimes he reflects there is only this evil world of matter, harrowing and unrelenting; and yet sometimes he recognizes the boy as a messenger come from that otherworldly realm of light.

    Rather than attempting an answer, I suggest reading with these ideas of dualism and Gnosticism in mind as one way of contemplating and appreciating the philosophical and theological dimensions of McCarthy’s bleak novel.

    Cormac McCarthy - American novelist and independent spirit par excellence

  10. says:

    So I generally don't hate books - Recently when joining a face2face club they asked which book I disliked the most - and had no answer. Well I want to thank Cormac McCarthy for giving me something to be able to put there.

    Having heard the buzz about this book and having seen the plethora of positive reviews, I felt compelled to write my own if only to be that voice of reason in a wilderness of pretentious insanity.

    Cormac’s McCarthy’s The Road, I can honestly say, is the worst book I have ever read. I am stunned to find such a critical following for a novel that is so clearly bad that I have yet to meet a flesh and blood person who does not hate it, or cannot, even after the most mild inquires, explain its appeal beyond the latent thought that they “ought” to like it. To do otherwise would mark them as uncultured and ignorant. Modern art had Duchamp's toilet, and now literature has its own case of the emperor’s new clothes in, The Road.

    What sets this novel apart from all others in its genre of ill-conception, is the totality of its failure. There is nothing good that can be said of it. Some virtue can be found in every book, as in the old adage—“…but she has a nice personality.” The Road breaks this rule, and soundly. From the plot and characters to the writing style and even the cover design, the book is abysmally uninspired and a black hole of skill.

    Much has been made of the writing quality. Alan Cheuse, of the Chicago Tribune, and book commentator for NPR calls it “…his huge gift for language.” Let’s look at that for a moment. It is universally accepted that the first few sentences of any novel are the most crucial—the words which a writer labors over the most to get them just right. Here are the first two sentences of The Road:

    “When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before.”

    I once presented these two sentences to an amateur writer’s forum and asked their opinion. Several members politely replied that the sentences were badly in need of work. Not only were they not grammatically correct, but they were awkward, confusing, used several unnecessary words and had all the rhythm and pacing of a dog with four broken legs. Nights dark beyond darkness, has got to rank up there with, it was a dark and stormy night. This is not at all an isolated example. It is merely the beginning—literally. Other laudable narrative sentences include: “The Hour.” “Of a sudden he seemed to wilt even further.” “A lake down there.”

    Lest you think I am selectively picking the worst, here is the passage Mr. Cheuse used in his own review as an example of genius: “tottering in that cold autistic dark with his arms outheld for balance while the vestibular calculations in his skull cranked out their reckonings. An old chronicle. To seek out the upright. No fall but preceded by a declination. He took great marching steps into the nothingness, counting them against his return.” What McCormac is describing here is that it is dark and the man can’t see where he is going. The author is clearly a master of communication.

    Let’s also pause to consider his brilliance of dialog, and his mastery of the monosyllable conversation that make the screenplay dialog of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger on par with Shakespeare. Nearly every conversation has the word “Okay,” which appears so often I began to think it was a pun, like a ventriloquist routine. One might conclude McCarthy is attempting to reflect a realistic vernacular into his work, except that the conversations are so stilted and robotic, as to lack even the faintest aroma of realism. There is no slang, no halted speech, no rambling. It is Dragnet.

    First dialog in the book:
    I ask you something? Yes. Of course. Are we going to die? Sometime. Not now. And we’re still going south. Yes. So we’ll be warm. Yes. Okay. Okay what? Nothing. Just okay. Go to sleep. Okay.

    You’ll note that I did not use quotes in the above excerpt. That is because neither does McCarthy. There are no quotes anywhere in the book, nor are there any tags designating the speaker, which manages to successfully make determining who is speaking quite a dilemma at times. Moreover, McCarthy never provides names to his characters this forces him to use the pronoun “he” frequently which very often leaves the reader bewildered as to whether he is referring to the father or the boy.

    McCarthy doesn’t stop with quotes. He rarely uses commas or apostrophes. It doesn’t appear as if he is against contractions as he uses the non-word, “dont” quite frequently. Nor is he making the statement that he can write a whole book without punctuation as he does, on rare occasions, use a comma or an apostrophe, (as you can see from the dialog segment I listed above,) as if he is going senile and merely forgot. As the lack of most of the necessary punctuation’s only result is to make it harder to read, I can only conclude that McCarthy, or his editor are the most lazy people I’ve ever heard of—although I am certain no credible editor ever saw this book. If they had I am certain we would have heard about the suicide in the papers.

    One might overlook the shortcomings of writing skill if the novel’s foundation was an excellent story. Sadly, this is not the case. Not that it lacks an excellent plot—it lacks a plot. Often times writers anguish over distilling the plot of a novel into a few sentences that might fit on the back of a book cover. It is often impossible to clearly convey all that a book is in such a short span. The Road does not suffer this. Instead I would imagine that if it were possible to put this book in a microwave and evaporate all the extraneous words all you would have left is one sentence: A boy and his father travel south in a post-apocalyptic United States, then the father dies. I wonder if the blurb writer for the, The Road, realized he was also providing a spoiler for the novel so comprehensive, no one need read the book.

    What the book lacks in plot it clearly makes up for in even less characterization. The father and the boy—that is about as much characterization as you will get. McCarthy doesn’t even provide names from which readers might glean some associative characteristics. We know the boy is afraid, because he says so approximately every four pages, always with the same robotic level of emotional intensity, backing it up with his many reasons, regrets and concerns as in the passage: I am scared. Likewise, the father is equally a pot bubbling over with emotional angst and frustration so vividly expressed in his response: I know. I’m sorry.

    We might as well burn all our copies of Grapes of Wrath now that we have this tour de force.

    As amazing as it is, with only an eggshell of plot, McCarthy manages to run afoul of logic. The boy and his father come across shelters packed with food and water, and yet the father insists they move on. Why? Because they must keep moving so as to avoid encountering others. Clearly staying in one place is the best plan to avoid meeting others, hermit do it all the time. Yes, other people might wander into you, but you double that equation if you too are roaming. The only argument for pressing on with the journey is to find others.

    I am certain I am being too kind here, but given that this is a Pulitzer Prize winning, Oprah Pick, National Bestseller, I don’t want to ruffle too many feathers. Of course, Duchamp's toilet (Fountain) was once voted the most influential modern artwork of all time.

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