11 August 2009

The Road I hope we never travel

If you've not read Cormac McCarthy's The Road yet, do it! You might want to wait for a cold, cloudy day. . .or maybe not. My lit class starts discussion of this novel today. When I first read it two years ago I had no idea what to make of the form, the language, the message. . .it is at once lyrical, epic, post-apocalyptic, and down right tear-jerky. Now, that's hard to pull off in a 240 page novel!

The novel tells the story of a father and son traveling to a sea-shore in a post-apocalyptic world. Everything is dead but a few humans. . .and some of those are cannibals. The father is obsessed with survival and the son with remaining human. Therein lies the central but subtle conflict of the book.

Here's a sample paragraph.

The land was gullied and eroded and barren. The bones of dead creatures sprawled in the washes. Middens of anonymous trash. Farmhouses in the fields scoured of their paint and the clapboards spooned and sprung from the wallstuds. All of it shadowless and without feature. The road descended through a jungle of dead kudzu. A marsh where the dead reeds lay over the water. Beyond the edge of the fields the sullen haze hung over the earth and sky alike. By late afternoon it had begun to snow and they went on with the tarp over them and the wet snow hissing on the plastic.

Also, keep a dictionary handy. McCarthy is meriless with his arcane vocabulary.


  1. Such is the world that Obamolech and the Demokrats are intent on creating. But they won't succeed. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, and Jesus will wipe away every tear.

  2. Excellent book and a new movie to be released October 16th. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0898367/

    But seriously, read the book!

  3. Anonymous11:41 AM

    I read it, in part because I saw it on your syllabus. It was one of the best books I read this year. I was hoping to sit in on some of your classes but I don't think I'll be able to. . .


  4. While growing up, I was usually around adults with college educations. They told me the same when I'd ask after a word they'd used, "Look it up!" It was quite useful in expanding my vocabulary. To this day, I keep one handy. I'll look for that book!

  5. McCarthy is one of the best in American Literature, every since I read All the Pretty Horses, I can't stop reading his works.

  6. Anonymous1:37 AM

    There are great online lectures by [I THINK] Amy H____________ [can't remember the last name]. Hungerman?

    Anyway, they are on YouTube and she's at Yale. They offer a series of REAL lectures, some of which are quite good. I found her to be of interest when it came to Cormac McCarthy. She examines Blood Meridian.

    He is fabulous and I don't have the luxury of being a student any longer so I went "off road" and found things online.

    Maybe some folks would find her lectures interesting. Yale. YouTube. Cormac McCarthy.

    They will come up and they are quite interesting.

  7. Anonymous10:35 PM

    I am sorry to disagree with the posters here, but I felt the book was promoting despair.

    We already live in a world where we will happily "eat" our brothers just to get ahead. This story presented our situation as having no escape, rather than the Gospel's good news.

    May the Lord save us from poisonous presentations like this. Who gains anything or is inspired to strive for something better through this?

    It just makes me sad.


  8. Anon @ 10.35pm,

    I can see how anyone reading this novel might come away thinking it promotes despair. It's not a happy book...

    McCarthy rec'd a lot of critical reviews for this novel for departing from his normally despairing conclusions. Apparently, this novel disappointed his usual readers precisely b/c he chose to end it on a hopeful note!

    The boy finds a family. Not a Perfect Family but a real one. The end points us to a renewal of creation after man's destruction of it. And we are left with a beautiful scene of re-creation.

    For me, the novel was about our failure to be the good stewards we were charged to be. Hope comes in the quest for family and community.