Sunday, June 24, 2007

The End of The World News

Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is a novel that forces us to imagine the totally unthinkable: What would it be like to be one of the last human beings in a world in which every plant, and tree and creature were long dead? An unnamed boy and his father travel through an American landscape destroyed by nuclear war, all their worldly possessions contained in a shopping cart. The journey itself generates the plot as the pair struggle to survive from one day to the next, always on the brink of starvation.
From my review of The Road in StarMag's Readsmonthly supplement. (Read the rest here.)

This book is (honestly) still haunting my dreams, and I can't get it out of my waking head either.

What scares me most is that this is an all too possible scenario particularly given the rampant stupidity of world leaders, including those of the "we-must-climb-on the-nuclear-bandwagon" persuasion so we can stick our fingers up at x, y or z. Idiots!

My fingers want to rant on and on here, but I'm deleting as fast as I'm typing because otherwise you would get a nice bit of Sharon polemic about the utter immorality of any country possessing a nuclear arsenal, and how a general yawn yawn apathy seems to grown around any public discussion of nuclear disarmament, an issue we all seemed to care much more about in the 60's and '70's. (Or is that my imagination?) But unless we pull ourselves back from this brink, this could be a picture of the future.

In The Road it's McCormac's portrait of the total deadness of everything that terrifies and that actually holds my attention more than the story of the man and his son (whom I honestly don't care about probably as much as I should).

I found I was quite affected when after reading the book for a while, I glanced up to see the world around me still exploding with life and colour. Sunshine. Birds. Trees. Flowers.

The novel is a quick read - it took me just a couple of days in odd moments. For the most part it's easy going and well written, though as I say in the review, McCormac's style did get up my nose at times, especially when he comes over all pseudo biblical. I found some of his excesses extremely annoying and just wished that the self-conscious author would get out of the way of the story he was telling!

Would I recommend it?: Yes, it's powerfully affecting and deeply thought provoking and it will change the way you see the world.

Oprah did well to pick it as her book of the month, although her interview with McCormac seems to have bombed. New York Entertainment slammed Oprah for her utterly inane questions, wasting "one of the five most culturally significant interviews she'll ever conduct" while McCormac appeared monumentally ill at ease.

If you still want to watch the recording, you can find it on the Oprah Book Club website, but will need to sign up first.


Anonymous said...

just finished No Country For Old Men. it is excellent. apparently his most accessible book.

i read some pages of The Road and got bored.


sympozium said...

Great review Sharon! Made me want to pick it up BUT for his artsy fartsy abuse of punctuation...
No Country For Old Men sounds just as good. Love the title...

Screech said...

Finished it a couple of weeks ago. Amazing, haunting, and riveting. Highly recommend it.

bibliobibuli said...

viz - will read it for sure, and 'blood meridien" is v. high on the list too.

i do understand why you found it boring as there is a lot to repetition - wake up, walk, look for food, have a nasty incident, have ameaningful conversation, cook, eat, sleep, dream ... but since you like mccormac's "no country for old men" i think you should give it another go. also you are such a lover of horror - and this is alsmot the most scared a book has make me

sympozium - read it anyway. you can't not.

screech - agree

Anonymous said...

yeah, think i might go for a second look.

but am not sure if i wana go for his Border Trilogy though.

now i'm wondering how the Coen Brothers adapted No Country for film. much of the point of the book is told through monologue. but it's such a timely story about violence in America.

Santhosh said...

Nice review, Sharon - The Road does haunt you. Like you point out, most of the poignancy of the story (apart from the relationship between the man and the boy) comes through in the shape of birds - a falcon swooping down on a crane, the sailboat called the Bird of Hope .. I am enamoured of Cormac's language actually, but that might be a reaction to my own generous use of punctuation :).

bibliobibuli said...

thanks santhosh! enjoyed your review of the book very much too

nel said...

got this one today ... kind of like it after skipping through the book ... i guess the god's part is because he's looking from the eyes of the western world, and the only thing left after a holocust is hope, faith and survival. He is trying to be positive. Can we sustain our humanity in a game of survival in such devastation condition is question I usually ask? I can agree with his thought on that matter. I haven't start reading yet but I guess I will give a good comment ... just my fast thought on this one ... :)

Peter K said...

I have read this book for AS english literature, however the deadness of the book is almost certainly not caused by nuclear war, but has more likely been caused by some sort of natural disaster due to humans messing up the environment. This would account for the ash in the air and if it had been a nuclear winter, then there would be radiation and all that goes along with it, rather than lack of food and anything to grow it with, also how would the 'blanketed' United States have been covered in ash with no building destruction.
It also raises questions about how they would have been around for 'years' if the memories of the man are correct.

The book however does raise interesting points on American and global commercialism, the effect of mankind on the earth and what could possibly happen to the world in the future.

bibliobibuli said...

hi Peter. luckily i found your comment on this long ago post.

another scenario that could work is the eruption of a super-volcano, such as the one that is sitting under Sumatra.

but mccarthy leaves the door open to a number of possibilities and i think the leaving out of the cause of the disaster is very deliberate - . he wants us to focus on the result and how these characters deal with it, rather than the causes

really this book is still very much in my thoughts especially as i think we really are heading for catastrophe whether through global warming (and the situation is going to be absolutely irreversible soon) or the poisoning of the earth or nuclear war.

but i still think the most likely explanation is a nuclear explosion. radiation would occur in a closer proximity to the explosion but nuclear winter could well be global. and the father IS dying and a slow-acting radiation sickness likely to be the cause. and there is that flash of light mentioned earlier in the book.

i am so glad that you are studying this for AS level lit. it just goes to show how relevant and up-to-date your syllabus is.