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The Road

I finished The Road by Cormac McCarthy on the weekend and to be honest, I didn't think a whole lot of it.

The Road is McCarthy's nihilistic take on the post apocalyptic novel and follows two characters, the man and the boy, as they walk along the road, heading to the shore, heading forward without much hope. The landscape is raw, burnt, filled with ash, cannibalism, and despair. The book is almost a tour of the landscape, given how little narrative there is in it, with McCarthy's prose stripped back to its most minimalistic, and providing fine lines such as, "sketched upon the pall of soot downstream the outline of a burnt city like a black paper scrim." Unfortunately, however, this is pretty much all the book has going for it, as the characters, by the necessity of McCarthy's stripped back world, are nameless, defined by the few traits of their survival and, in their conversations especially, uninteresting. After about twenty to thirty pages into the book, you pretty much have the take on the world that is being presented to you, and while you might wait for McCarthy to give you a new insight, or to twist it, there's nothing. What it is in the start, it is in the end.

Well, not the end entirely. The book could have been decent if McCarthy had written a more deserving end for the book, but instead, it feels as if he hasn't been true to the vision he has put forward, and the ending that is in place feels as if it comes from a different novel entirely. Perhaps the sunny post apocalyptic child's novel he is working on, I don't know, but it pretty much flat out sucked and felt as if he purposefully drew away from the dark, hopeless ending that he had been building to before.

Despite the fact that the intention of The Road's minimalism is set out from the start, one of the things that disappointed me most about the book was how simple it felt. At times it really did feel as if McCarthy had written the first draft of a novel, enjoyed all the scenery, and then thought, well, that's enough of that, and then moved on to something that would engage him more. He offers the briefest explanation of how the world has become the wreckage that it has, conveying it mostly through the descriptions around the man and the boy, but there's no attempt to connect it either the real world, or the narrative that is unfolding before you. Mostly, that wouldn't be a huge problem, except that because what is happening is so light, the reader has time to wonder, to ask him or herself how did this happen, what was this like, and so forth--eventually, somewhere between the third or fourth time the boy freaks out about going into a house, you start to ask yourself why McCarthy is giving you such a repetitive set of scenes, when there's so much unexplored within the novel.

Ah well.

A lot of people liked The Road, but I've had better McCarthy experiences.

(crossposted)