Sunday, July 08, 2007

Road Trip

Well, I finally gave in and read THE ROAD, by Cormac McCarthy. I usually resist reading books that I am "supposed" to read. This novel just won the Pulitzer, but come on, how many post-apocalyptic stories, novels, and films have been done? Dozens? Hundreds? Nothing new under the sun, I figured. I also resisted for so long because of McCarthy's lack of punctuation in his novels, a trick that I find pretentious. But I caved and joined the bandwagon.

Now, besides his lack of quotation marks and apostrophes, his writing style is of the sort that you either love or you don't. I swear at some points McCarthy was just making up words on the fly. Thirty pages into the book I hated it, and regretted ever going down the road. But like a bad movie you don't want to walk out on in the hopes that it will get better, I stuck with the novel, waiting for something to happen.

The father and son, who are the lead characters, travel the road in search of other "good guy" survivors of the unnamed apocalypse (nuclear war, I guess) that ruined the world, burning it to a lifeless gray ash (if you removed all the times McCarthy used the words "gray" and "ash," the novel would be a third shorter). They are on a vague route toward the coast, in the hopes that it will be better and there will be more people near the ocean. Meanwhile, they have to scavenge for clothes, food and water, while keeping an eye out for the "bad guys," other survivors who might want to kill them and steal their provisions.

Page 90 (of 241) came and went, and I still wasn't liking it any better. McCarthy seemed to be as lost as his characters, wandering aimlessly in search of something meaningful. Then on page 93 McCarthy decided the book needed more of a plot. There is a scene in a basement of a house that just turned the whole book around. Now it got interesting. Also at this point, McCarthy begins to tell the story in a more straightforward manner, shaking off his Mr. Fancypants literary style somewhat and just getting down to the basics of telling the story.

But there is more to this book than "stuff happening" on the road. It is about the relationship between the father and young son, and the father's attempt to keep the boy alive and well, as well as keeping him on the side of the "good guys." That part isn't hard because the kid is innately good, and there were a few instances where I wondered if McCarthy was hinting at something larger, messianic. Either way, the father's instincts were to protect the boy; if the Earth was going to have a future that included humans, his life was more important than the father's.

I'm not one for having everything wrapped up nicely at the end of a story. And McCarthy didn't do that. Without giving it away, I can say that the end is left open and he can write a sequel if he chooses. Or, it can stand as it is, with the reader left to imagine the next day, month, year, century of this place called Earth.

4 of 5 stars.

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