Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road is an amazing, spectacular and intensely harrowing tour de force. Most readers know Cormac MCCarthy for his Border Trilogy—especially its first installment, All the Pretty Horses, winner of the 1992 National Book Award. McCarthy has always been fascinated by the dimensions of human evil (for example, his searing 1985 work, Blood Meridian), but The Road is another thing altogether.

The Road is an exploration of a post-Apocalyptic world, locked in the depths of a nuclear winter: a nameless father and his young son are on a journey to the Sea, on a pilgrimage out of the frozen mountains to what may be the Gulf of Mexico. In sere, stark prose that is reminiscent of the best of Hemingway, McCarthy narrates his tale, rendered without use of quotation marks, so that speech and thought intermingle, and he tells a masterful story indeed. Yet underneath the narration there is a genuinely biblical rhythm or pulse.

For the boy radiates light.

It was not clear to me until the last couple dozen pages that McCarthy wishes to convey some sense that the radiance emitted by the boy—it is a radiance that his father literally witnesses near the end of things—may mark something more than mundane. This is the story of an Epiphany—quite literally. There is even an appearance of a character who may be the Prophet Elijah.

The Road is the story we have none of us wanted to tell or read about the end of the world. It is the story of what we have done to the planet that we did not want to have to read. It is a story I for one found impossible to put down. Powerful, thought-provoking and unforgettable. (COntributor: gmf)

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