As some of you know, this space is primarily for sharing my poetry and other creative endeavors; however, I will occasionally share my thoughts on works and artists that have enriched my life, hoping the work sparks something in you.
“He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.”McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Vintage Books, 2006
If someone were to describe the basic plot of The Road by Cormac McCarthy, it would likely leave most people uninspired and unlikely to look into the book for themselves.
In 2021, the idea of another story about the struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic setting is yawn-worthy at best, and how could you possibly blame someone for such a response? The market is beyond oversaturated, with thousands of titles born of the concept. Though there may be the occasional winner, for my money, The Road stands alone as the work closest to perfection.
We join the central protagonist, simply known as The Man, and his son, The Boy on The Road, pushing a shopping cart containing all their worldly positions down a stretch of desolate highway somewhere in America. The sky is gray with ash, the trees dead and falling, wildlife, like most of humanity, virtually wiped out. A full explanation is never offered as to how or why the world came to be this way, which only furthered my curiosity for the story.
We’re quick to learn that the state of the world and the many challenges and dangers encountered by The Boy and The Man are secondary to their father and son relationship. It struck me as powerful in 2006 when I first read the novel, and in 2021, now a father of two, I find it devastatingly beautiful.
“He knew only that his child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.”McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Vintage Books, 2006
The exchanges between The Man and The Boy are simple, real, and perhaps the most underrated aspect of this book. The dialogue between a father and son facing impossible odds. The emotional investment of the reader comes quickly, the story rooting itself in the mind, the heart.
McCarthy’s use of language is masterful. Using as little punctuation as possible, his words find the page with an authority known only to a select few. All at once, beautiful and disturbing. Moments of extreme violence followed by a brief reprieve from the nightmarish landscape to be reminded of the beauty of a child’s curiosity and how we parents try to explain the world’s cruelty without crushing their wonder.
If you’re looking for not only a new read but an experience, I cannot recommend The Road enough. This is a book that will stay with you for years to come. You’ll revisit it when you’ve felt removed enough from the cold grip of its world, and you’ll hold every book that follows to a higher standard.
“People were always getting ready for tomorrow. I didn’t believe in that. Tomorrow wasn’t getting ready for them. It didn’t even know they were there.”McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Vintage Books, 2006