The Road, Cormac McCarthy

I was recommended this book to an old friend from the University of North Texas. I bought it nearly a year ago from the little book store in Denton, Texas when I visited last summer. During my trip to Paris, I took several books with me that I always take in hopes that I will get a chance to read them. Fortunately, I had 2 20+ hour travel days and got to finish all the books I’ve been lugging around during my travels. This was one of them albeit much belated.

The story focuses around a father and his son. We never find out their names but they live in a post-apocalyptic world. The man and his son forage for food, meet “bad guys”, and try to survive while trying to head south for the winter. All the while, the father tries to help the boy understand the world they live in by attempting to explain moral conundrums they find themselves in.

This is the most basic summary of the story but the book has a lot of depth. For one thing, the dialogue is atypical of a normal novel. The boy and the father speak to each other without quotations throughout the entire book. And when they do speak to each other, it is very sparse. The prose that Cormac McCarthy uses to create this world is beyond traditional and tantalizes the imagination with far reaching analogies and metaphors, forming a landscape that paradoxically makes complete sense but at the same time seems vague. Take for example this paragraph from the book as the man awakens and describes his dream:

“Like pilgrims in a fable swallowed up and lost among the inward parts of some granitic beast. Deep stones 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 a 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.”

Perhaps you understand now.

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