I finished The Road about a week ago, and I've been sitting with it for a while. I go back to it every day or so and re-read some of it. I've ear-marked passages I think are especially beautiful or confusing. To say I loved this book is an understatement. I want to hand out copies to all my close friends not so we can discuss it, per se, but so we can all have experienced it and share it in some way.
I'm putting The Road on my Top 10 list.
Having said that, I'm not sure I'll read any other of McCarthy's books. I can't take too much darkness. Perhaps in time.
Otherwise, here are 10 Thoughts on The Road:
1. I knew nothing about this book before purchasing it. I had no idea it was post-apocalyptic, a genre I tend to hate. I know hate is a strong word, so I use it thoughtfully here and stick to my guns. However, McCarthy makes this book about so much more than survival in a post-apocalyptic world. I love that he doesn't give us too much, doesn't spoon-feed us a backstory. The backstory isn't relevant here, a point driven home many times throughout the book.
2. I was warned by a reader here on A Well-Spent Day that the book is violent, so I read it with one hand sort of shielding my eyes, like a horror movie, ready always to slam it shut and set it aside. It is violent, but it's not gratuitous; McCarthy shows the sort of restraint that makes him a true storyteller rather than a shock-seeker.
3. I made a list of words throughout the book I didn't know - words I'd never seen. I ran that list by a few people, and not one person knew the majority of them. Normally, I find the use of obscure words tedious and distracting. I read a short story once in The New Yorker by a soldier, and his use of these types of words ruined that story for me; it was like he was trying too hard and the trying pulled me from the story and made it all fall flat. McCarthy is a master, however, because I never felt that way once with these words. If anything, they enabled me to pause, look up the word and go a little deeper into the moment of the story. I've never before loved a book quite so much for the individual words in it.
Here are the 22 words from my list (in the order they appeared in the book):
discalced, immolate, basalt, escarpment, laved, sapper, woad, truncheons, stile, sedge, palimpsest, enkindle, patterans, sepulchre, clerestory, mae, sextant, verdigris, baize, gimballed, heath, lee.
4. The hardest part of this book, for me, was that at its heart it is about a father and his son. Since I became a mother, anything remotely sad or tragic involving a child, something even tender, is difficult for me. This book, the relationship between the father and son, was so well done it made me feel that it was my own son, and that was very hard.
5. I'm unsure what McCarthy has against apostrophes, but he wouldnt use them in the word wouldn't, for example. I know many authors think punctuation and dialogue tags are distracting. I'm not of that camp of thought, but McCarthy's non-use of punctuation didn't bother me at all.
6. This book makes me want to build an underground bunker and fill it to the brim with canned peaches and guns (and ammo). It also makes me wish that if that time ever came, I'd just go ahead and die.
7. I cried hard reading this book, once. It was the same for me when I read Plainsong. I cried hard once, but that once was a cry for the whole story not just the one event. I think, for me, that's what great writers do - they build the story slowly and masterfully so that when that moment comes, that one harsh, real moment, you feel it so deeply it cuts you. They don't hit you over the head with violence (or any other conflict) throughout the whole novel; they build it slowly and make it tight so you can't escape it when it happens.
8. Two of my favorite sentences of the book come on page 219: And perhaps beyond those shrouded swells another man did walk with another child on the dead gray sands. Slept but a sea apart on another beach among the bitter ashes of the world or stood in their rags lost to the same indifferent sun.
9. Another is on page 74: All of this like some ancient anointing. So be it. Evoke the forms. Where you've nothing else construct ceremonies out of the air and breathe upon them.
10. My brother is now reading The Road, and we talk about it sometimes, quoting passages, discussing the writing, talking about what it's like to read it as parents. As good as it is to read the book on my own, it's twice as good to read it through someone else's eyes.
I'm curious about McCarthy now, so I dug around. In this article, which is one of those articles that reports on an actual other article (in this case an interview), McCarthy discusses his view on work or, rather, non-work.
It’s not that I don’t like things, I mean some things are very nice, but they certainly take a distant second place to being able to live your life and being able to do what you want to do. I always knew that I didn’t want to work.
Then, here, we learn a bit about McCarthy's thoughts on punctuation. You all know I was excited to read that.
I mean, if you write properly you shouldn’t have to punctuate.
All of this is based on a rare televised interview with Oprah (of course), circa 2008. I'm going to sit down with that tonight, just a glass of wine, McCarthy and Sandy, who will appreciate some quiet time after her many naps.
If anyone else has read The Road and wants to fly to NC to sit with me for hours on end and discuss while drinking coffee, then wine, then more coffee.....let me know.