Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Friday, April 13, 2007

Is The Road worth traveling on with Oprah?

For Easter this year,I treated myself to a copy of Cormac McCarthy's The Road instead of jelly beans and a chocolate bunny. Quite a different taste from the usual springtime sweets McCarthy's prose leaves on my mental tongue(bizarre image there,I know). Yes,my book choice was influenced by Oprah,who finally decided to select current fiction again for her book club,but also,this was a good opportunity for me to see what all the fuss is about when it comes to McCarthy and his books.

For years now,the praises of Cormac McCarthy have been sung by numerous critics and fans as diverse as Harold Bloom and Stephen King. McCarthy's books have been nominated for and won various awards such as The National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. A tad intimidating to the first time reader,but hey,worth a shot there. I didn't see the film version of All The Pretty Horses but perhaps I'm better off for that,given the harsh critical rain that fell upon the movie.

So,what is the book about? The story is set in our world after some sort of end of civilization as we know event has occured(there are hints that there's some kind of nuclear winter going on). A father and son(no names given,they're only known as "the man" and"the boy")are traveling across country on what appears to be a main highway. All of their meager possessions and supplies are pushed around in an old shopping cart and as they search for food and shelter on a daily basis,they avoid contact with other humans like the plague. Since most of their fellow survivors are prone to violence and are practicing cannibals,that's a pretty good idea.

Sounds cheerful,doesn't it? Oprah's picked some sad stuff before but I think this beats most of her usual fare hands down in the misery department. Check out this slice of sorrow:

"When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world.

His hand rose and fell softly with each precious breath. He pushed away the plastic tarpaulin and raised himself in the stinking robes and blankets and looked toward the east for any light but there was none. In the dream from which he'd wakened he had wandered in a cave where the child led him by the hand. Their light playing over the wet flowstone walls. Like pilgrims in a fable swallowed up and lost among the inward parts of some granitic beast. Deep stone flues where the water dripped and sang. Tolling in the silence the minutes of the earth and the hours and the days of it and the years without cease.

Until they stood in a great stone room where lay a black and ancient lake. And on the far shore a creature that raised its dripping mouth from the rimstone pool and stared into the light with eyes dead white and sightless as the eggs of spiders. It swung its head low over the water as if to take the scent of what it could not see. Crouching there pale and naked and translucent, its alabaster bones cast up in shadow on the rocks behind it. Its bowels, its beating heart. The brain that pulsed in a dull glass bell. It swung its head from side to side and then gave out a low moan and turned and lurched away and loped soundlessly into the dark."

Now,I wouldn't think the less of anyone who didn't want to go on with the book after that or most of this but I'm compelled to. Why? Well,simply this-I want to see what happens next. I've read alot of novels in many genres over the years and can spot the typical story cliches and plot points pretty well by now. I don't look down on those old stand-bys,rather I wave to them like old friends and neighbors(unless the book stinks but that's a whole other kettle of fish)as I read on. With The Road,some of these sights are familar but there's alot of new territory being laid out here that bears exploring.

McCarthy's been compared to William Faulkner(another Oprah favorite) and Faulkner's a writer that I can't get into,mainly because he uses run-on sentences. Artistic liscense is fine with me but you gotta give me a comma or a period once in awhile. My eyes feel like they're being hit by a runaway truck or a death proof car with an endless rope of words. Fortunately,McCarthy doesn't seem to do that here. His prose is solidly built like a house meant to last for generations.

At the moment,I'm on page 141 of the paperback and intend to ride out The Road until the bitter or not so bitter end. I don't know if I'll like what I find at the finish but as they say,it's about the journey,not the destination.


Pop Culture Diva said...

This doesn't sound like my cup of tea but it is an interesting choice for Oprah. Though, it's hard to find a more bleak book than Night.

Robin Brande said...

Thanks for the review, Lady T. I'm thinking no thanks.

And I so agree with you about Faulkner. "Artistic license is fine with me but you gotta give me a comma or a period once in awhile." Amen to that. That guy drove me crazy in the two books of his I was forced to read. Never again. We like punctuation.

lady t said...

True,PCD,Night is a hard one to top(I totally forgotabout that book pick*hangs head in shame*) and I do think the upcoming talk between Oprah and Cormac McCarthy will definately be one to watch.

Hey,Robin,you're one up on me. Atleast you read TWO of Faulkner's books-I couldn't even get thru one!:)