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The Road

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Just read my first Cormac McCarthy novel, which won the Pulitzer. My wife picked it up for me at the library because I like post-apocalyptic fiction. Must say, this one's so bleak it makes most of the others seem a bit like adventure novels.

Noticed God stuff here and there. Is that common for this author? Reading a few blurbs for his other books, sounds like the extremely dark and violent element shows up elsewhere.

Thoughts from anybody who's read other McCarthy books? Anybody know anything about the guy?

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Link to our existing Cormac McCarthy thread.

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Ron, you really should read All the Pretty Horses. It's wonderful. The film version is a train wreck... or, no, better to say it's "scenes from what might have been a great film, if editors hadn't chopped it to pieces."

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Link to the thread on the film adaptation.

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Just finished this. Really quite a shocking read. It's my first McCarthy novel, and though I'm now very interested in his other works of fiction, I'm definitely going to space them out; I simply need time between such intense moments of darkness in my time spent reading.

However, I wouldn't have traded a bit of the incredible depth of character he gives the relationship between the Man and the Boy. There's such a deep relationship here, I almost feel like I need to re-read the book and pay attention more closely to each conversation and thought trail. I've become so indulgent upon the modern ultra-climax in my reading, that in this book I kept on expecting an incredible plot twist that didn't come, and probably lost some of the depth of the dialogue along the way. The book could have been a personal diary or journal had it not been written predominately in third person. The closest thing to a plot twist was

the Man's death, which I'd come to expect almost from the get-go (either the son or the father)

. Does McCarthy write that way as a rule?

Anyway, great read. I'd love to hear other fans talk more about the book in the context of McCarthy's perspectives, and how this relates to his other works. I'd also love suggestions on where to go with McCarthy from here.

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I'm a big fan of All the Pretty Horses. Avoid the movie.

No Country is even more interesting after you've seen the film... and much easier to follow, I find.

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Joel C go and get a big bag of beef jerky and this novel , Blood Meridian as soon as possible. now stay hydrated throughout for this novel's reading experience is stunning and carries a 220v wallop much like the Road. The beef jerky is not because u are wisened by ur experience with the Road, nor is it because u are a "method" reader...it's there because u might just forget to eat while reading this book as i had. Do note that while The Road had the heart bond.... this has panorama and great characters to boot...one in particular named the Judge... this text creates a vista that is truly unforgettable.

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Just a warning, though: while Blood Meridian may be one of the best novels written over the past 100 years, it's a harrowing, unrelenting and utterly unforgiving book. It's like a trip to the bowels of Hell, complete with emotional scars. I still can't fathom them doing a film adaptation, since

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I will read anything by McCarthy. The Christian imagery in The Road was an odd surprise. It is a wonderful book.

Blood Meridian is an all-time favorite of mine as well.

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I loved The Road.

But it is much different from other McCarthy books. The surprise in that contributed to my affection.

Blood Meridian is a knockout punch.

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Just finished this. Very powerful story. The bleakness is absolute.

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Just finished this. Very powerful story. The bleakness is absolute.

Really? I remember the ending being somewhat ... optimistic, or hopeful, despite the post-apocalyptic setting. I thought the ending was more upbeat that in NCFOM. Maybe I'm imagining that.

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Really? I remember the ending being somewhat ... optimistic, or hopeful, despite the post-apocalyptic setting. I thought the ending was more upbeat that in NCFOM. Maybe I'm imagining that.

No, I felt the same. But that flickering of light that appears at the end so intense because of the almost oppressive darkness in the book. Some of the images are permanently burnt into my brain, in an unsettling way. (And this is just from the BOOK.)

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While the ending can be seen as a spark of hope, it certainly isn't a flare being shot into a starless sky. In fact, I find the ending to be just as ambiguous as the ending of No Country for Old Men. Seeing hope there probably says more about us that anything else.

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As someone who has argued for an optimistic reading of the NCFOM ending, I realize I might be predisposed to looking for hope where it's arguably absent. I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy. :)

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I read The Road earlier this year, and one of the things that struck me about the final paragraph was how much it reminded me of the final paragraph of A River Runs Through It. There are some similarities, and I kind of wondered if perhaps Cormac McCarthy was paying homage to Norman Maclean. I was struck by how both stories use the image of a river as a guardian of time, and a secret keeper of history.

The Road -

Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins whimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polishished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.

A River Runs Through It -

Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise. Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.

Coincidently, both authors had these books published when they were 74.

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I just got "The Road" and "Blood Meridian" for my birthday. I started with "Blood Meridian". I'm now having trouble sleeping.

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I just got "The Road" and "Blood Meridian" for my birthday. I started with "Blood Meridian". I'm now having trouble sleeping.

More power to you. I couldn't make it past the first third of that one, the point of which eluded me. Now that I've made it through a couple of other McCarthy books, maybe I should give Blood Meridian another shot.

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I just got "The Road" and "Blood Meridian" for my birthday. I started with "Blood Meridian". I'm now having trouble sleeping.

More power to you. I couldn't make it past the first third of that one, the point of which eluded me. Now that I've made it through a couple of other McCarthy books, maybe I should give Blood Meridian another shot.

It does feel a bit like Peckinpah on steriods.

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:spoilers:

I finished The Road in a mad dash, rushing through paragraphs and pages full of fear and a wrench in the gut that would not let me put down the book. I was convinced that somehow, someone would put the Man and the Boy in such peril that one or neither would not survive it.

But in the end, no peril other than what was plainly seen came to the man and the boy. The thief at the beach was no more than the old man they passed in the Appalachian foothills. Old, frightened and half dead already. The Man died of the cough that signified consumption or walking pneumonia or some ailment that would have been successfully treated in the previous age. And the Boy was left to carry on the fire alone.

I don't know that I read clearly the last few pages. I know that my tears obscured the text. I'll have to reread it. What did the Boy find? Hope? A family who had other children--thank God that he did. But is there real hope? I was surprised at the repetition of blessing that McCarthy provides for his two travelers--the hidden storeroom, the isolated farm house, and the abandoned sailboat. At each event, I expected the cultists to show up and attack the Man and the Boy.

Just a few rambles, I guess. Some quick thoughts:

I like how McCarthy does not name his characters--we the readers fill in with our own names, I guess. It was hard not to think of my oldest son while reading this book.

This "carrying the fire" bit--seems to be a thread in McCarthy (at least the little of his work I know)--its in the last wierd epilogue of Blood Meridian and in Ed Tom Bell's dream in NCFOM. In each of these works there's the theme of holding on to that which makes life livable without giving in to the hellish forces arrayed against it. Though, I suppose, in Meridian it could be interpreted in terms of trying to civilize the uncivilizable stories of our past.

I wish McCarthy would use punctuation at times.

I note with Darrell that there's a bit of "god" stuff in The Road--maybe more so than just a little bit. The thought of "good guys", carrying the fire, the disappointment with God, the idea of the world ending, all of this seems to speak of a conflicted relationship with the Creator. Is he absent? Is he like the old man says, non-existent? But then we see the Boy give up again and again of the precious stores that they have to those who don't deserve it. We see the rudimentary prayers of thankfulness. The woman at the end tries to tell the Boy about God--and speaks to him of God's breath running through him--a nod to Genesis even in the midst of this exilic apocalypse.

I was struck by the total deadness of the world--made me wonder how come people made it when all the vegetation and animals didn't. What about the non-cannibals? Were they all dependent on stores of canned goods?

Anyway, enough blubbering. Great book. I still would rank Blood Meridian as a greater acheivement, but I think The Road will rightly outlast it.

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I like how McCarthy does not name his characters--we the readers fill in with our own names, I guess. It was hard not to think of my oldest son while reading this book.

I bought The Road before my son was born, but now, it's impossible for me not to think of Simon whenever I pick it back up, which makes it all the more heartwrenching.

The woman at the end tries to tell the Boy about God--and speaks to him of God's breath running through him--a nod to Genesis even in the midst of this exilic apocalypse.

This is one of my favorite parts of the book.

For me, at least, it's a simple-yet-poignant description of how a child, especially a child who has been through what the Boy has been through, would understand God. Given all that his father's done for him, I think it's only natural that the Boy can think of God only in terms of his father. Plus, earlier in the book, the Boy and the Man are described as "the other's entire world" (or something like that), and I find that to be a natural conclusion to such a thought.

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I like how McCarthy does not name his characters--we the readers fill in with our own names, I guess. It was hard not to think of my oldest son while reading this book.

I bought The Road before my son was born, but now, it's impossible for me not to think of Simon whenever I pick it back up, which makes it all the more heartwrenching.

Isn't that so true! I don't remember how old Simon is now, but once they start talking and making coherent sentences its such a heartwarming thing--and heartrending in the experience of projecting onto the Boy in the road. The other day we were having dinner at my Mom's with all the cousins etc. Dominic is the third youngest, but at 3 1/4 he's able to interact well with the other bigger kids. One of the cousin's was going to a local indoor amusement park a la Chuck E Cheese (do you have those in the Plains?) called Crazy City.

Well, the cousin was spouting off about going to "Crazy Town" and Dominic asked, "Can I go to Crazy Town?" I didn't know what it was--I thought it was a figure of speech he didn't grasp, and with so many little kids running around at the house, I just replied, "Sure, I think we're all going to Crazy Town."

Now, we kept hearing him argue with some other cousins throughout dinner, "My dad said I can go to Crazy Town" and his other cousins push back, "You're too little to go!". He responded with such vehemence that NO, he was going because his DAD said he could.

What a pain to find out about Crazy City being a real place and having to explain to him that in fact, he was not going.

All that to say, McCarthy nails the tension between father and son as the boy struggles to deal with the position his father takes about being a "good" person with the reality that the father kills, refuses to help, and lashes out at the other people around them.

Edited by Buckeye Jones

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What the heck?

This writer is talking about The Road as if he's seen it.

Philosophically, Blindness raises an important question about the fine line between humanity and inhumanity, order and chaos: At what point do individuals cease to behave like human beings and turn into animals whose sole concern is survival?

In the same fashion, John Hillcoat

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Hmm. He could've seen it in one of those test screenings that Miramax had several months ago in NYC. Or he could just be full of crap.

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Thoughts on The Road

First I want to say, after reading the book I looked at a trailer for the movie and decided I wouldn’t see the movie as it ruins the “spell” the book weaves with its minimalist profundity in portraying environment, character and action. I had earlier wondered how a film would depict the ash-laden air and ground – and I see the movie didn’t. Plus it added scenes (this just from the trailer!) and actions. Every addition detracts. From this book it does. I didn’t want the images of the book in my mind polluted by Hollywood stuff. Perhaps the movie has its good qualities – but I don’t care. The book was enough!

The genre, post-apocalyptic fiction, by including the word derived from the Greek apokalupsis underlying the English Bible’s, The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, gives a nod to the namesake and prototype of the genre (although there was “apocalyptic” lit in the pre-Christian era, i.e., the Hebrew prophets Daniel, Zechariah, etc., as well as extra-biblical Jewish lit).

Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic literature and films are big now. It’s something in the air. On the wall. In the collective consciousness’ intuition. Whenever an entrée is offered in the genre it stands in the light of the prototype. Pulitzer prize or no, in this light The Road lacks. Which is not to say it is not brilliant or profound, but apocalyptic these days is measured against a standard.

The Road shows the effects of a world-devastating nuclear (?) holocaust and widespread firestorms, with almost all life – plant, animal, marine – destroyed, save for a few humans, perhaps a dog here and there, and who knows what else. But this is not to be the fate of earth and humankind, not according to the exemplar of prophetic vision. It may perhaps be the case with a country or continent, but not the entire earth or humankind. Different things are in store for the world, which is not to say that a nuclear exchange may not happen.

That said, the vision The Road shows is terrifying. What we are capable of, what is possible, even if but on a local scale.... say if the US were thoroughly nuked, razed with subsequent firestorms, and we were quarantined, unable to get to other countries, those who survived. But even such could not equal the utter devastation the book envisions.

This was my first Cormac McCarthy book, and I was surprised at its power. It was masterfully written. I’m not interested in reading any of his others.

The “exemplar” I mentioned, the apostle John’s Revelation, is a fascinating subject, and I won’t go on about it now, though it does show things that are to come, and dynamics of spiritual, political, and religio-philosophical trends that shall make the world into a different kind of hell than McCarthy imagined, and, ultimately – in the long run, not the short – immeasurably worse (is that possible? Yes). For some.

No, I am not of the Left Behind school, but a careful student of prophecy, and a Jew who takes these things very seriously, for we are surely in days anciently written of.

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