The Road

by Cormac McCarthy

  General / Positive Reviews
  Critical Reviews
  A Dark, Lyrical Meditation on Love's Dedication *****

"The nights were blinding cold and casket black and the long reach of the morning had a terrible silence to it."

"...Creedless shells of men tottering down the causeways like migrants in a feverland."

I neither buy nor read collections of poetry. I can count the poems I know, at least the non-limerick ones, on a single hand. I'm not a fan of poetry, and I truly see much of it as overblown, a good thing taken to a ridiculously inflated extreme. This book isn't poetry, but it's also not pure narrative. It's somewhere in the gray between, and I enjoyed every single page of it.

McCarthy had me on the 14th line when I read "granitic beast." No, I didn't have to be told this was a reference to stone. Its use here, early in the work, deliberate, familiar yet uncommon, communicated to me exactly what this book would be about, and more importantly how it would be told, and I couldn't wait to ingest it. The contemplated and intentional use of this word in this place told me of texture and color and temperature, and its context told me of fear, uncertainty, cruelty, and the close specter of menace. I was hooked before the first page was done.

I enjoyed this book's writing style immensely, its story simple and told in a manner that came to me clearly, instantly creating depth with a minimum of prose. Words like "envaccuuming," and phrases like "isocline of death" were absolutely brilliant--I bite my hand melodramatically wishing I'd written them. This highly evocative austerity was mirrored in the father's and the son's conversations, in which so little was said, but in which I was seeing absolutely clearly the cant of a head, a look in the eyes, the faintest curl of smile. I was reminded very happily of the magnificent work of James Dickey, especially To the White Sea.

And the wonderfully lyrical story unfolded. No, I didn't need quotation marks or crucial apostrophes. There was never any question what was happening, who was saying what or where the story was headed. Honestly, do they care about proper punctuation in the wasteland? I didn't miss a thing, and the modestly different narrative presentation didn't faze me in the least. In fact, it reminded me instantly of e e cummings. Ah, reluctantly back to poetry. Later on when the pair made it to the sea, and the prose touched on "...shuttling..," instantly T. S. Eliot's classic came to mind.

I very much enjoyed the father, an object lesson in survival and just what that takes. He not only was educated, but also remembered it and knew how and when to apply it. He was inventive, attentive and observant, and deliberately learned from every experience. He anticipated, adapted and showed the courage to take immediate action, having thought through consequences beforehand. He was no MacGyver, but from the opening minutes of the crisis he knew what was at hand; his survival, and his son's, were due to his seriousness and intelligence and his application of them.

This book is not about the end of the world. It's not about nuclear winter, man's inevitable murder of the planet, the inherent barbarity of man, none of that. This book is about the only thing that matters, a parent's love for a child, and what at the absolutely basic level of survival you can and cannot do for those whom you treasure most, what you will go through and what you must decide upon for them to have all they need and deserve. This book is about the rapture and the agony of parenthood. It took me two nights to read this book, and both nights after midnight when I reluctantly put it down, I went upstairs to re-tuck-in my daughter and my son, and to kiss them in their sleep, through the silent tears of adoration this book brought forth.

This unpleasantly dark, ominous book reminded me of a few crucial things: My daughter and my son are the most incredible and important things I have ever done or will ever do. Their well-being is never assured, and I can never, ever stop looking out for them and teaching them what I know of their world. One day I will move on, and they must be ready when that happens.

Bottom line: This is not a cheery, happy, frothy and light read. It is cold and hard and painful. But there is joy in it. Be ecstatic it is only a story, that tonight you sleep in a bed in a house, with food, water, and your dog on the hearth. Be aware of and happy that you are reading this expertly rendered, a magnificently crafted work of highly evocative prose, and look forward to the next one, whatever the subject.

Sir Charles Panther
"Life is hard. It's harder when you're stupid"


  A Layered Grey Snow Story *****

The story is set in a post-catastrophe world. It is a story of a nameless man & his young boy traveling through a dark chaotic society. There is a bit of the TV series "Dark Angel" without any angels & the feel of "A Farewell To Arms" that permeates the scenes. Here nothing grows, people turn to cannibalism, & the boys mom kills herself. The man & his son are each others whole world; every day is a brutal trial for survival. This is a desolate "Lord Of The Flies" world, where the strong enslave the meek.

In their southern journey to the coast {we are not told why}, there are times when the bitter father refuses to help others in need while his son is a selfless, giving soul. The father becomes consumed with the devastation around him while his son holds onto whatever humanity he can. "This is the heart of the story."

Down deep in his soul the man knows there is little hope for the future, he lives solely to keep his son alive. The formers parental angst is well crafted by the authors detailed prose. However, between the eternal bleakness of the story & lack of dialogue I can't give it more than 3 stars. I do recommend it as a fairly fast read despite the picture it paints of hopelessness.

Steve Guardala




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