A few comments and short portions of reviews about McCarthy's "The Road":
"This is an exquisitely bleak incantation — pure poetic brimstone. Mr. McCarthy has summoned his fiercest visions to invoke the devastation. He gives voice to the unspeakable in a terse cautionary tale that is too potent to be numbing, despite the stupefying ravages it describes. Mr. McCarthy brings an almost biblical fury as he bears witness to sights man was never meant to see."
-Janet Maslin, NY Times
"The horrors here are extreme but McCarthy's prose retains its ability to seduce and there are nods to the gentler aspects of the human spirit."
-The New Yorker
"With only the corpse of a natural world to grapple with, McCarthy's father and son exist in a realm rarely seen in the ur-masculine literary tradition: the domestic. And from this unlikely vantage McCarthy makes a big, shockingly successful grab at the universal."
-Jennifer Egan, Slate
"It's the darkest novel you are likely ever to read...The redeeming note here is in the writing. As in all the best fiction, in McCarthy's work, language is not a tool; it's an element. The novel can't escape a saving irony: that the end of this unsigned world has the maker's mark on every page."
I thought this book was incredible. Its prose and story were obviously top notch, but more importantly, the books portrayel of the father as a protector and role model for his son was perfect. He performed every task with skill and care and I think that his character and ultimate sacrifice should be taken to heart and emulated by anyone who reads this.
I agree that this book is awesome, but it shouldn't be your first or last McCarthy book. It shouldn't be your first because its not much like his others. The writing is so spare, which isn't a bad thing, just different. Albeit, ive only read the border trilogy and the road so maybe his older books are more like this, but I was surprised by the change in style. It shouldn't be your last McCarthy book, obviously, because hes an amazing writer. Blood Meridian is next up on my list.
I would like to suggest that, since we may have different versions, everyone divides the number of pages in his copy into three, and read that amount of pages every week for a total of three weeks. For example, Patrick's copy may have 300 pages, so he will read 100 each week. Mine has 254, so I will do 85 pages each week, and so on.
I agree with Carlos on the pages per week idea. That should put us pretty close. If you're that concerned of someone spoiling what's to happen next, just read a few extra pages.
Originally I think the plan was to get the book by today then discuss in a week. That would put our inititial discussion on the first third of the book on Thursday 4/23. Then everyone can read at the time that suits them best up to that point.
I recommend waiting to post thoughts until later in the week so spoilers aren't revealed. Maybe we should just keep the post open for clarification items until then.
I am about a third of the way through. I've found the book interesting thus far. I can't say that I love it but I do look forward to picking it up each day.
I have made notes while I'm reading it, crossing off or editing as appropriate. I've included the current set below. They are divided into a few major themes I've followed since the beginning - (1) survival, (2) the father's manliness and (3) the boy's innocence. I've also noted a few other observations and a bunch of questions as I try to piece the "what happened" puzzle together? I even wonder if that's a puzzle worth solving or if it's beside the point.
- Amazing how few things deemed necessary – leaves behind china, tea cups, money
- The boy and his son have become primitive and scavengers – no sign of vegetation or other animals (other than the dog the child says he saw)
- What is the father’s will to live – must have something to live for, apparently his son
- What ails the father? It mentioned he coughed blood
- How did the father acquire his survival skills? Was he prepared for catastrophe or did he learn through attempting to survive?
- Little mention of drinking water except they have enough – although it rains/snows, is rainwater and snow safe?
Signs of Manliness in the Father
- Handy – Fixing the cart
- No complaining
- His son comes first
- Compassionate, calm and patient with son
- Intelligence – ability to think how to survive, familiar with brain dynamics
- Don't know age – has toys, can be left alone but is scared, I would guess he is about 8
- Asks lots of questions to gain comfort
- I’m surprised he hasn’t adapted a bit better since it appears they have been nomadic for years
- Will he mature?
- Corrects father in something father promised not to do – but what?
- Don't know what happened to bring about such struggle – brought in during the middle of a journey
- How long since the disaster occurred? Was it quick or gradual? Natural or manmade? It appears to be manmade as the “bad people” are organized with equipment but they could have banded together over the years.
- What happened to the mom? Was there a brief flashback to her? Was she pregnant at the time of the disaster? If so, and if the child is about 8, then the disaster happened at least 7 years before. If this is true, have they been nomadic for 8+ years?
- No sense of era (somewhat modern with stores, autos and brain anatomy reference but could be in the future), time, season, location (other than it's cold and heading south)
Writing Style (this probably doesn't really matter)
- Short sentences
- No quotes
- Very little communication between father and son
- Many details left to the reader – not descriptive/wordy like many authors
- No names used – easier for reader to identify
- Switches briefly to first person narrative for one paragraph – struck me as odd, maybe this one does matter?
I found what I have read so far both horribly disturbing and engaging. I won't give away specifics since I'm quite a bit farther along then the required, but I will say I was amazed by how fast civilization collapsed. The people besides the father and the son seem to have collapsed into a state of anarchy, with some loose organization if any. The bands patrolling the land seem to be composed of men with little or nothing left to lose, which is probably why they are cannibals. The cities and towns seem to be deserted with nothing left but dead bodies in some sort of mummification. A genuinely freaky book, if thought provoking.
I find especially amazing what you said about the source of water. In a situation like that, anyone would drink rain water; means of expressing needs would cease to be a priority. Besides, the natural process of distillation would hopefully clean out most of the pollutants. There are people today already drinking rain for survival, so why not during the Apocalypse?
Secondly, I would like to debate whether being unemotional is really manly. There are several writers of the Romantic era who were both manly and quite emotional at the same time --such as Lord Byron. I personally consider myself to be somewhat emotional, although not the point of crying over a broken fingernail.
Another thing I would include under "other" is the fact that McCarthy does not uses standard English grammar rules, which, to be honest, upsets me a bit, because I am used to reading pretty well structured sentences. But I guess a little change can come in helpful for our open-mindedness, right?
I'll admit that I'm not a big reader (something I'm trying to change), but I think this is one of the best books that I've ever read. As was mentioned before the writing style is different but still very readable. I think it adds to the anarchy of the book. It's set in a law-less, post-apocalyptic society. Grammar rules ( and formal education) don't exist anymore, either.
I think the book does a great job of portraying a father's love for his child. He is fighting on for his son. When his son has doubts he is there to constantly there to reassure him that it will be okay and his father will protect him. The father has a lot of manly characteristics which were mentioned earlier. He is quick to make decisions and doesn't second guess himself. He's firm in protecting his son's needs over what his son wants (ie. helping the man struck by lightening, or finding the boy and the stray dog.) He doesn't give in to his son's desire to take a break because he knows that it is too risky. I wouldn't say that he is unemotional. I feel like he is just emotionally drained.
And I get the impression that the "ash" permeates the sky which would make the rain water and snow pretty much undrinkable. Just my $.02
You've summed it up nicely Ryan, well done. I haven't got too much to add to that yet, other than that I haven't really found that this book has been exactly high on action, but strangely, I find myself constantly pulled back to read a few more pages. It's almost hypnotic, the way that the Man and Boy's conversations tend to be of similar (short) lengths, using similar (repetitive) words (not sure how many "okay"s there have been yet, but I'd say it was a fair few). Defeintely a decent read, I'm glad I picked it up.
Just finished this book about 2 months ago (won't give away any spoilers, so don't worry!) Profoundly moving, and a tribute to true 'manliness' in the face of the worst of humanity. I have read a couple of his books (this one and "No Country For Old Men") and, if you can slow down enough to really read his style (no dialog markers, etc make this sometimes difficult), he is a fantastic writer. I like this better than "No Country" just because it has a certain 'nobility' to the protagonist's cause, whereas NC was hard because it seemed like no one (except the Sheriff) was trying to do the right thing.