Sunday, January 2, 2011

50 in '11 Update: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Happy New Year! Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season, and a safe and happy New Year’s Eve. Are you off to a flying start on your resolutions? We’re going to rock more socks than ever in 2011, aren’t we, Writer Friends? Yes we are!

Speaking of sock-rocking and resolutions, I’m off to a good start on my 50 in ’11 book list. I meant to make Cormac McCarthy’s The Road my first book for 2011, but I unplugged (somewhat involuntarily) over the holidays and tore through roughly a book a day, finishing The Road way before New Year’s Eve.

What struck me most about the book was its immersiveness; I quickly picked up on the main characters’ constant fear of ambush, and found myself looking over my shoulder in the dark long after I’d put it down, and locking my bedroom door at night.

In addition to being well-written in that regard, the book also included some gorgeously poetic (though not exactly upbeat) passages:

“There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.” (46)

“He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.” (110)

I particularly like the book’s closing passage, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. If you have the chance to pick up a copy, be sure to read the whole thing.

I’m working my way through Whipping Girl by Julia Serano now, and it’s fabulous so far. Thoughts on that soon!


  1. Glad to hear you liked The Road. Immersiveness is that word I was looking for - when I read it, I felt like if I put it down, the characters would die. It was such a good experience for me, and it sounds like it was for you too. Congrats on your flying start!

  2. Amanda,

    It was quite enjoyable! I was struck by how quickly I was able to read through it because of that immersiveness.

    My only real complaint (you knew this was coming) is that it didn't pass the Bechdel test.

    Hope you're having a good break!

  3. Immersive--Absolutely hits the nail on the head for this book and its language. When later discussing it with friends, I was surprised by being unable to answer so many of their questions and how, while in the depths of this book's pages, I didn't have those questions myself (ie, details about what event created the setting of the book); while reading The Road, those issues weren't front and center for me, things just were how they were and survival was the issue.

    Great project/goal, btw; look forward to following along!

  4. @Angelique: I found I did have some of those questions (I still really wish I could have known for sure what happened, but I think from the ashes and the couple of descriptions of twisted, pained and burnt bodies that it was some version of the Biblical apocalypse). Still, even though the questions occurred to me, I was able to shrug them off and keep reading, which I'd never have managed with a lesser book. I am certain that the lack of explanation was entirely intentional, and it did drive home the point that the story--and the entirety of the characters' existences--is all about survival rather than reflection.