The Road

While visiting my folks last weekend, I was flipping through the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly — it’s how my mom stays on top of the pop — and they had a number of lists of the “Best 100 of the Last 25 Years” in regards to movies, television, music, books, etc… “The New Classics” they called them. Listed as number one (and topping Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), according to Entertainment Weekly, was the following…

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
A father and son trudge across an ashen American landscape in the wake of some unnamed apocalypse, fighting off sexually predatory bandits, scavenging for food, uncovering charnel-house horrors, then moving on, constantly moving on, toward some mirage of a better future. We don’t need writers of Cormac McCarthy’s caliber to inform us of looming planetary catastrophes; we can read the newspaper for that. We need McCarthy to imagine the fate of the human soul if the worst really does come to pass; what he depicts in The Road is strange, awful, tender, and, in the end, surprising.

For some reason, this two-year old book hadn’t made a blip on my radar — not that my literary radar is all that extensive. But upon reading the article, I happened to look over my shoulder and lying on the end-table next to the couch that I was sitting on was a hardcover copy of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I decided that fate had thus decreed that I was to read this book. That, and I could use something to occupy my time on the hour and fifteen minute flight home. Well, I finished it yesterday. I haven’t read an entire book in three days in forever. What is The Road about?

A 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 other.

Now, is The Road really a classic? It’s gripping and engaging — even if it does paint a very bleak future for mankind. We never know the name of the father or son. The landscape in which they travel across is gray and dim. Some of the more detailed passages within the story are mundane accounts of their struggle to survive on the most minimal of offerings that this burnt world provides. There is no epic confrontation, no reoccurring antagonist, no guaranteed happy ending. Yet, for all that The Road does not offer the reader, the novel does offer a true story of devotion between a father and his son.

McCarthy’s style of writing in regards to The Road does take some getting used to. There is a lack of apostrophes with word contractions, as well as no quotation marks used with dialog. This is a little tough on a reader who is currently editing a comic book going to press later this week. But once I was engaged with the story and the plight of the two main characters, McCarthy’s minimalistic style flowed quite well and seemed quite fitting for the post apocalyptic tale.

It was only upon completing the novel did I learn that a film adaptation of The Road is set to be released in November, starring Viggo Mortensen. Also, that it had been an Oprah’s Book Club selection.

While the grim father and son tale might not be for everyone, I do recommend that if you haven’t read The Road yet, it is a journey worth taking.

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