Sunday, November 21, 2010
60. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Well I finally got the guts to read this book. My good friend, the Lantzvillager (whose production of reading has dropped with a recent production of a new human) lent this to me a long time ago and I have just been afraid that it would be too dark and depressing. Happily, my current reading frenzy overcame my trepidation. Even more happily, this is a quick read and a decent one, despite my misgivings about McCarthy (more directed at the media around him than the author himself).
I have mixed feelings about this book. At first, I was extremely annoyed. I can not stand McCarthy's stylistic pretension of not using quotation marks for dialogue. His reliance on incomplete sentences would be almost as annoying, but he is such a good writer that there is often an effective poetry or description there. However, in the beginning of the The Road there is some extremely pretentious blather that any 10th grade english teacher would have excised. Get on with it, Cormac!
Fortunately, the wasteland setting is truly effective. The situation of the boy and his father starts to seep into you and the pretentious useless sentences diminish in frequency. I do appreciate that he went for the full apocalypse. There is almost nothing left and the few remaining humans are either on the edge of death or scary murdering, raping cannibals. I loved the wagon train with the collared catamytes at the end. That was a pretty nice over the top touch that tells me that McCarthy still has a part in him that wants to entertain.
But fundamentally, The Road's bleak setting is a fake-out. Because it is ultimately a (relatively) happy story. It has a happy ending with a slight gleam of hope and may in the final analysis be a condemnation of the choices the father made. It is also so sappy and sentimental. The book spends a lot of time posturing and acting all tough and bleak while actually constantly tugging on your heartstrings with memories of the wife and the boy's pity for other humans. This latter struck me as being questionable. Would a child whose only knowledge was the world after the fall be so caring? Check out The Wire for a more accurate portrayal of how children adapt to their environment.
I will spare you a rant on the literary community and their snobbery against genre fiction (and how McCarthy has hoodwinked us all). I'll simply say that The Road is an enjoyable book, but ultimately its core is a bit too soft.