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Finished “the Road” by Cormac McCarthy

First things first, there is nothing manlier than the name Cormac McCarthy.

I think if it were that name stitched into a leather belt…

versus

…a Ford F150 with a poker table in the bed around which cowboys were drinking a case of Black Label while arguing over football while getting straightrazor shaved by strippers while puffing on Cuban stogies

…I think the name on the belt may have an edge.

If you have a last name that can bear that manly weight, then I beg you, give us more Cormac-en.

About The Road, it’s an unsentimental and very realistic portrayal about life after a global firestorm. Was it nuclear, asteroid, alien? No one knows, but the earth is now covered with a fine layer of ash which stirs ideograms of desolation into forgotten western landscapes.

A father, who has only bitter memories of a wife that seems to belong to another time, is taking his son down an interstate highway, pushing a shopping cart that carries the only tools that will help them survive.

Unlike Mad Max ( which actually presupposes an astonishingly developed model of civilization ) where Good and Evil face in pitched battle for the right to control the what-comes-next, “The Road” gives no such meaning to the apocalyptic landscape. There is the father, his son, their cart, their plastic tarp and the unending narration of their few miles gained each day.

They’re headed South from North where it’s just gotten too cold. I believe their path to be somewhere in Nevada through Northern California on into the Big Sur region. Along the way there are the inevitable highwaymen ( “road rats” ), rapists, shuffling dead, and agonizing hunger and thirst.

Yet the boy, who never knew anything of the world before, merely trudges on: curious, scared, sick, and gaunt.

The book features no chapter headings and no real sense of time. On this road there is no history of meaning, no future of value, and the present day is a routine in survival and walking.

I was stunned by the bare prose, verging on blank verse poetry.

The layout was also great and thoroughly assisted in the portrayal of the post-apocalyptic, vast, nothingness. With wide margins and ample line spacing the spartan presentation adds to the void and empty prose.

Picture is worth a thousand words:

Sample of text from McCarthy’s “The Road”

Invariably I found myself asking what I would do in such a situation. I’ve always been a bit more into eschatology than people should be. When I was still a regular attendant of church services and the preachers were spouting nonsense I usually found myself reading those grim bits of insanity in the last chapter of the Bible. I suppose my Gnostic interests found their root there - in the symbology and transformational hidden content.

Where would one start? It seems that nothing grows? How would one catalyze an agricultural existence? It appears that all the wildlife perished in the great firestorm?

How would you begin? In light of that weight, how would you continue? Would you fight for botulized tins of old food, eat bark and hope not to get murdered in your sleep by roving brigands? What sort of world is that to live, is that truly a life? And what, pray tell, would help you go on?

It’s all very fine, heavy existential work that, as all questions of this sort do, touch on those fine works by Kierkergaard. In all, it was a fine book.

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