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Die Straße

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Die Welt nach dem Ende der Welt Ein Mann und ein Kind schleppen sich durch ein verbranntes Amerika. Nichts bewegt sich in der zerstörten Landschaft, nur die Asche im Wind. Es ist eiskalt, der Schnee schimmert grau. Sie haben kaum etwas bei sich: ihre Kleider am Leib, einen Einkaufswagen mit der nötigsten Habe und einen Revolver mit zwei Schuss Munition. Ihr Ziel ist die Die Welt nach dem Ende der Welt Ein Mann und ein Kind schleppen sich durch ein verbranntes Amerika. Nichts bewegt sich in der zerstörten Landschaft, nur die Asche im Wind. Es ist eiskalt, der Schnee schimmert grau. Sie haben kaum etwas bei sich: ihre Kleider am Leib, einen Einkaufswagen mit der nötigsten Habe und einen Revolver mit zwei Schuss Munition. Ihr Ziel ist die Küste, obwohl sie nicht wissen, was sie dort erwartet. Die Geschichte der beiden ist eine düstere Parabel auf das Leben, und sie erzählt von der herzzerreißenden Liebe eines Vaters zu seinem Sohn.


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Die Welt nach dem Ende der Welt Ein Mann und ein Kind schleppen sich durch ein verbranntes Amerika. Nichts bewegt sich in der zerstörten Landschaft, nur die Asche im Wind. Es ist eiskalt, der Schnee schimmert grau. Sie haben kaum etwas bei sich: ihre Kleider am Leib, einen Einkaufswagen mit der nötigsten Habe und einen Revolver mit zwei Schuss Munition. Ihr Ziel ist die Die Welt nach dem Ende der Welt Ein Mann und ein Kind schleppen sich durch ein verbranntes Amerika. Nichts bewegt sich in der zerstörten Landschaft, nur die Asche im Wind. Es ist eiskalt, der Schnee schimmert grau. Sie haben kaum etwas bei sich: ihre Kleider am Leib, einen Einkaufswagen mit der nötigsten Habe und einen Revolver mit zwei Schuss Munition. Ihr Ziel ist die Küste, obwohl sie nicht wissen, was sie dort erwartet. Die Geschichte der beiden ist eine düstere Parabel auf das Leben, und sie erzählt von der herzzerreißenden Liebe eines Vaters zu seinem Sohn.

30 review for Die Straße

  1. 5 out of 5

    J.G. Keely

    The Road is unsteady and repetitive--now aping Melville, now Hemingway--but it is less a seamless blend than a reanimated corpse: sewn together from dead parts into a lumbering, incongruous whole, then jolted to ignoble half-life by McCarthys grand reputation with Hollywood Filmmakers and incestuous award committees. In '96, NYU Professor Alan Sokal submitted a paper for publication to several scientific journals. He made it so complex and full of jargon the average person wouldn't be able to The Road is unsteady and repetitive--now aping Melville, now Hemingway--but it is less a seamless blend than a reanimated corpse: sewn together from dead parts into a lumbering, incongruous whole, then jolted to ignoble half-life by McCarthy’s grand reputation with Hollywood Filmmakers and incestuous award committees. In '96, NYU Professor Alan Sokal submitted a paper for publication to several scientific journals. He made it so complex and full of jargon the average person wouldn't be able to make heads or tails of it. He wrote a conclusion that would deliberately flatter the preconceptions of the journals he submitted it to. As he predicted, it was accepted and published, despite the fact that it was all complete nonsense. The Sokal Affair showed the utter incompetence of these trusted judges. They were unable to recognize good (or bad) arguments and were mostly motivated by politics. The accolades showered upon works like The Road have convinced me that the judges of literature are just as incompetent (and I’m not the only one who thinks so). Unlike Sokol, McCarthy didn't do it purposefully, he just writes in an ostentatiously empty style which is safe and convenient to praise. Many have lauded his straightforward prose, and though I am not the most devoted fan of Hemingway, I can admire the precision and economy of a deliberate, economical use of words. Yet that was not what I got from The Road: "He took out the plastic bottle of water and unscrewed the cap and held it out and the boy came and took it and stood drinking. He lowered the bottle and got his breath and he sat in the road and crossed his legs and drank again. Then he handed the bottle back and the man drank and screwed the cap back on and rummaged through the pack. The ate a can of white beans, passing it between them, and he threw the empty tin into the woods. Then they set out down the road again." Simple? Yes. Precise and purposeful? Hrdlt. The Road is as elegant as a laundry list (if not as well punctuated). Compiling a long and redundant series of unnecessary descriptions is not straightforward, but needlessly complicated. We're supposed to find this simplicity profound--that old postmodern game of defamiliarization, making the old seem new, showing the importance of everyday events--but McCarthy isn't actually changing the context, he's just restating. There is no personality in it, no relationship to the plot, no revealing of the characters. Perhaps it is meant to show their weariness: they cannot even muster enough energy to participate in their own lives, but is the best way to demonstrate boredom to write paragraphs that bore the reader? A good writer can make the mundane seem remarkable, but The Road is too bare to be beautiful, and too pointless to be poignant. Once we have been lulled by long redundancy, McCarthy abruptly switches gears, moving from the plainness of Hemingway to the florid, overwrought figurative language of Melville: "The man thought he seemed some sad and solitary changeling child announcing the arrival of a traveling spectacle in shire and village who does not know that behind him the players have all been carried off by wolves." There is no attempt to bridge the two styles, they are forced to cohabitate, without rhyme or reason to unite them. In another sentence he describes 'dead ivy', 'dead grass' and 'dead trees' with unerring monotony, and then as if adding a punchline, declares them 'shrouded in a carbon fog'--which sounds like the world's blandest cyberpunk anthology. Another example: "It's snowing, the boy said. A single gray flake sifting down. He caught it in his hand and watched it expire like the last host of christendom." McCarthy seems to be trying to reproduce the morbid religious symbolism of Melville when he plays the tattered prophet in Moby Dick. But while Melville's theology is terribly sublime and pervasive, McCarthy's is ostentatious and diminutive, like a carved molding in an otherwise unadorned room. Nowhere does he produce the staggeringly surreal otherworldliness Melville achieves in a line like "There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within". Often, McCarthy's gilded metaphors are piled, one atop the other, in what must be an attempt to develop an original voice, but which usually sounds more like the contents of a ‘Team Edward’ notebook, left behind after poetry class: ". . . Query: How does the never to be differ from what never was? Dark of the invisible moon. The nights now only slightly less black. By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp. People sitting on the sidewalk in the dawn half immolate and smoking in their clothes. Like failed sectarian suicides. . . ." I love how he prefaces that like an Asimov robot. Sardonic Observation: I'd almost believe he was one, since he has no understanding of beauty or human emotion. Biting Quip: However, he violates Asimov's first law, since his awkward prose harms human ears. Sometimes, smack in the middle of a detailed description of scraping paint with a screwdriver, we suddenly get a complex jargon term which few readers would understand. These terms are neither part of the world, nor are they aspects of specialized character knowledge, so I cannot assign them any meaning in the text. One of the basic lessons for any beginning writer is 'don't just add big words because you can', it's self-indulgent and doesn't really help the story. It would be one thing if it were a part of some stylistic structure instead of bits of out-of-place jargon that conflict with the overall style of the book--more textual flotsam for us to wade through. The longer I read, the more mirthlessly dire it became, and the less I found I could take it seriously. Every little cluster of sentences left on its own as a standalone chapter, every little two-word incomplete sentence trying to demand importance because it actually had punctuation (a rare commodity), every undifferentiated monosyllabic piece of non-dialogue like a hobo talking to himself--it all made the book overblown and nonsensical. It just stared me down, like a huge drunk guy in a bar daring me to laugh at his misspelled tattoo. And I did. I don't know if my coworkers or the people on the bus knew what 'The Road' was about (it was years before the movie), but they had to assume it was one hilarious road, with a busfull of nuns hiding a convict in disguise on the run from a bumbling southern sheriff and his deputy; a donkey is involved. Without mentioning specifics, I will say the notorious ending of the book is completely tacked on, in no way fits with or concludes any of the emotional build of the book, but instead wraps up, neat and tight. It certainly bears out McCarthy's admission on Oprah that he "had no idea where it was going" when he wrote it. We can tell, Cormac. As you may have noticed from the quotes, another notorious issue is the way the book is punctuated, which is to say, it isn't. The most complex mark is the a rare comma. It's not like McCarthy is only using simple, straightforward sentences, either---he fills up on conjoined clauses and partial sentence fragments, he just doesn't bother to mark any of them. He also doesn't use any quotes in the books, and rarely attributes statements to characters, so we must first try to figure out if someone is talking, or if it's just another snatch of 'poetic license', and then determine who is talking. Sure, Melville did away with quotes in one chapter in Moby Dick, but he did it in stylistic reference to Shakespeare, and he also seemed to be aware that it was a silly affectation best suited to a ridiculous scene. It's not only the structure, grammar, figurative language, and basic descriptions which are so absurdly lacking: the characters are likewise flat, dull, and repetitive. Almost every conversation between the father and son is the same: Father: Do it now. Son: I'm scared. Father: Just do it. Son: Are we going to die? Father: No. Son: Are you sure? Father: Yes. Remember, you won't get little tags so you know who's speaking, it'll all just be strung out in a line without differentiation. Then they wander around for a bit or run from crazy people, and we finally get the cap to the conversation: Son: Why did (terrible thing) just happen? Father: (Stares off in silence) Son: Why did (terrible thing) just happen? Father: (More silence) And that’s it, the whole relationship; it never changes or grows. Nor does it seem to make much sense. The characters are always together, each the other's sole companion: father and son, and yet they are constantly distant and at odds, like a suburban parent and child who rarely see each other and have little in common. McCarthy never demonstrates how such a disconnect arose between two people who are constantly intimate and reliant on one another. But then, McCarthy confided to Oprah that the is book about his relationship with his own son, so it makes sense why the emotional content is completely at odds with the setting. Perhaps he just sat down one say and thought “I’m an award-winning author and screenwriter who has a somewhat distant relationship with my son. You know what that’s like? That’s like the unendurable physical suffering of people in the third world who are trying to find food and escape crazed, murderous mobs.” So then he wrote a book equating the two, which is about the most callous, egotistical act of privileged self-pity a writer can indulge in. At least now I know why the characters and their reactions don’t make much sense. The boy is constantly terrified, and his chief role involves pointing at things and screaming, punctuating every conflict in the book, like a bad horror film. Cannibals and dead infants are an okay (if cliche) place to start when it comes to unsettling the reader, but just having the characters react histrionically does not build tension, especially when the characters are too flat to be sympathetic in the first place. Another Creative Writing 101 lesson: if you have to resort to over-the-top character reactions to let the audience know how they are supposed to feel, then your 'emotional moment' isn't working. It's the literary equivalent of a laugh track. You know what’s more unsettling than a child screaming when he finds a dead infant? A child not screaming when he finds a dead infant. And really, that’s the more likely outcome. The young boy has never known another world--his world is death and horror. Anyone who has seen a picture of a Rwandan boy with an AK can see how children adapt to what’s around them. And you know what would make a great book? A father who remembers the old world trying to prevent his son from becoming a callous monster because of the new one. But no, we get a child who inexplicably reacts as if he’s used to the good life in suburbia and all this death and killing is completely new to him, even though we’ve watched him go through it half a dozen times already. The characters never grow numb to it, they never seem to suffer PTSD, their reactions are more akin to angst. Every time there is a problem, the characters just fold in on themselves and give up. People really only do that when they have the luxury of sitting about and ruminating on what troubles them. When there is a sudden danger before us, we might run, or freeze, but there’s hardly time to feel sorry for ourselves. There is no joy or hope in this book--not even the fleeting, false kind. Everything is constantly bleak. Yet human beings in stressful, dangerous situations always find ways to carry on: small victories, justifications, or even lies and delusions. The closest this book gets is ‘The Fire’, which is the father’s term for why they must carry on through all these difficulties. But replace ‘The Fire’ with ‘The Plot’ and you’ll see what effect is achieved: it’s not character psychology, but authorial convenience. Apparently, McCarthy cannot even think of a plausible reason why human beings would want to survive. There is nothing engaging about a world sterilized of all possibility. People always create a way out, even when there is none. What is tragic is not a lack of hope, but misplaced hope. I could perhaps appreciate a completely empty world as a writing exercise, but as McCarthy is constantly trying to provoke emotional reactions, he cannot have been going for utter bleakness. The Road is a canvas painted black, so it doesn't mater how many more black strokes he layers on top: they will not stand out because there is no contrast, there is no depth, no breaking or building of tension, just a constant addition of featureless details to a featureless whole. Some people seem to think that an emotionally manipulative book that makes people cry is better than one that makes people horny--but at least people don’t get self-righteous about what turns them on. This is tragedy porn. Suburban malaise is equated with the most remote and terrible examples of human pain. So, dull housewives can read it and think ‘yes, my ennui is just like a child who stumbles across a corpse’, and perhaps she will cry, and feel justified in doing so. Or a man might read it and think ‘yes, my father was distant, and it makes me feel like I live alone in a hostile world I don’t care to understand’; he will not cry, but he will say that he did. And so the privileged can read about how their pain is the same as the pain of those starving children they mute during commercial breaks. In the perversity of modern, invisible colonialism--where a slave does not wash your clothes, but builds the machine that washes them--these self-absorbed people who have never starved or had their lives imperiled can think of themselves as worldly, as ‘one with humanity’, as good, caring people. They recycle. They turn the water off when they brush their teeth. They buy organic. They even thought about joining the Peace Corps. Their guilt is assuaged. They are free to bask in their own radiant anguish. And it all depresses me--which makes me a shit, because I’m no more entitled to it than any other well-fed, educated winner of the genetic lottery. So when I read this book, I couldn’t sympathize with that angst and think it justified, just like I couldn’t with Holden’s. I know my little existential crisis isn’t comparable to someone who has really lost control of their life, who might actually lose life. But this kind of egotistical detachment has become typical of American thought, and of American authors, whose little, personal, insular explorations don't even pretend to look at the larger world. Indeed, there is a self-satisfied notion that trying to look at the world sullies the pure artist. And that 'emotionally pure, isolated author' is what we get from the Oprah interview. Sure, she's asking asinine questions, but McCarthy shows no capacity to discuss either craft or ideas, refusing to take open-ended questions and discuss writing, he instead laughs condescendingly and shrugs. Then again, he may honestly not have much insight on the topic. Looked at in this way, it's not surprising he won the Pulitzer. Awards committees run on politics, and choosing McCarthy is a political decision--an attempt to declare that insular, American arrogance is somehow still relevant. But the world seems content to move ahead without America and its literature, which is why no one expects McCarthy--or any American author--to win a Nobel any time soon. This book is a paean to the obliviousness of American self-importance in our increasingly global, undifferentiated world. One way or the other, it will stand as a testament to the last gasp of a dying philosophy: either we will collapse under our own in-fighting and short-sightedness, or we will be forced to evolve into something new and competitive--a bloated reputation will carry you only so far. But then, the Pulitzer committee is renowned for picking unadventurous winners--usually an unremarkable late entry by an author past their prime. As William Gass put it: "the prize is simply not given to work of the first rank, rarely even to the second; and if you believed yourself to be a writer of that eminence, you are now assured of being over the hill" To any genre reader, this book will have a familiar and unpleasant taste, the same one LeGuin has often lamented: that of the big name author slumming. They pop into fantasy or sci fi with their lit fic credentials to show us little folk 'how it's really done'--but know nothing about the genre or its history, and just end up reinventing the wheel, producing a book that would have been tired and dated thirty years ago. Luckily for such writers, none of their lit fic critics know anything about other genres--any sort of bland rehash will feel fresh to them, as long as you have the name-recognition to get them to look in the first place. So, McCarthy gets two stars for a passable (if cliche) script for a sci fi adventure movie, minus one star for unconscionable denigration of human suffering. I couldn't say if McCarthy's other books are any good; I will probably try another, just to see if any part of his reputation is deserved, but this one certainly didn't help. All I see is another author who got too big for his editors and, finding himself free to write whatever he wanted--only proved that he no longer has anything worth saying. "Look, if the contemporary condition is hopelessly shitty, insipid, materialistic, emotionally retarded, sadomasochistic, and stupid, then I (or any writer) can get away with slapping together stories with characters who are stupid, vapid, emotionally retarded, which is easy, because these sorts of characters require no development. With descriptions that are merely lists ... Where stupid people say insipid stuff to each other. If what's always distinguished bad writing--flat characters, a narrative world that's ... not recognizably human, etc.--is also a description of today's world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world ... most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is?" -David Foster Wallace

  2. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    I really feel compelled to write up a review of McCarthy's The Road as this book really worked for me (for those of you who haven't read it, there are no real spoilers below, only random quotes and thematic commentary). I read it last night in one sitting. Hours of almost nonstop reading. I found it to be an excellent book on so many levels that I am at a loss as to where to begin. It was at once gripping, terrifying, utterly heart-wrenching, and completely beautiful. I have read most of I really feel compelled to write up a review of McCarthy's The Road as this book really worked for me (for those of you who haven't read it, there are no real spoilers below, only random quotes and thematic commentary). I read it last night in one sitting. Hours of almost nonstop reading. I found it to be an excellent book on so many levels that I am at a loss as to where to begin. It was at once gripping, terrifying, utterly heart-wrenching, and completely beautiful. I have read most of McCarthy's other books and am already a big fan, but this one is different, perhaps his best in terms of lean, masterful prose, plot presentation, and flat-out brilliant storytelling. Take this passage for example: "The blackness he woke to on those nights was sightless and impenetrable. A blackness to hurt your ears with listening. Often he had to get up. No sound but the wind in the bare blackened trees. He rose and stood tottering in that cold autistic dark with his arms outheld for balance while the vestibular calculations in his skull cranked out their reckonings. An old chronicle." Happy times! The word choice and imagery is classic McCarthy yet is leaner and more honed, tighter and in turn more intense. The whole book follows this pattern. No word, not a single one, is extraneous. This is perhaps my favorite single sentence in the book: "By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp." I just love that. Clearly this book struck a chord with me due to the two protagonists and their predicament, a father and his young son struggling in a post-apocalyptic world. To say I could identify with their interactions would be a huge understatement. McCarthy absolutely nails their dialog, making me marvel at how well he has mastered presenting on a page the way we communicate (it isn't exactly how we talk, of course, it just seems that way. Through some sort of magic, he writes dialog that comes across more realistically than actual dialog. Witchcraft for sure.). The young son was especially well done and was most certainly the most complicated character in the book. McCarthy presents him as a sort of supernatural being (Christ figure?), of only the best sort, full of goodness, a thing not of the world in which he finds himself. He is effortlessly drawn down the path of the righteous throughout the book, as if he is God's right hand man. The reward appears, at least superficially, to be key moments of luck. It almost wouldn't work from a literary standpoint if it didn't serve so well as a vehicle to reinforce the central theme of the book: the undeniable power of love over all else. The theme of love, mostly presented through the bond of the father and son, is so well done as to evoke strong emotions, even now, as I consider how to present its keen development throughout the novel. To be so desperate, in every way and at all times, and yet to survive and at times thrive, to persevere through terrible events of unbelievable horror (think Steven King's The Stand on steroids) would strike feelings of great, sad compassion in even the most tempered soul. But it is much more than that of course. Consider this passage, a speaking passage from father to son, spoken during one of the most tense and horrifying scenes in the book: "You wanted to know what the bad guys looked like. Now you know. It may happen again. My job is to take care of you. I was appointed to do that by God. I will kill anyone who touches you. Do you understand?" In this one passage, McCarthy shows the great contradiction in this theme of love, the idea that violence and beauty can spring fourth from the same well, can come from the same fountainhead. Interestingly, the father often resorts to violence in his role as a servant of love (he sees it as his duty, in a religious sense, as stated in the quote). Yet the boy never does and appears better for it, in so many ways, even in that terrible place. He is the embodiment of pure goodness, and sets up the other, better side of love, the side that is unsullied by the world, that never resorts to baseness and violence, that finds beauty in even to most unlikely of places. Like seeing a picture better when you hold it up to the light, the contrasts between these two sides is masterfully provided, page after page, in only the most well written and considered prose. The often repeated promethean phrase "carrying the fire," agreed upon by the two protagonists as pretty much the whole point of their continuing, embodies this central theme. The boy is carrying the fire for us all, and is perhaps the most important survivor in that shattered world, bearing the torch of love for humanity to share when it is again ready. Not to belabor the point, but the way McCarthy handles this, all the way until the end, is nothing short of genius. Can you tell I liked the book yet? I am amazed that I missed this book for so long, me being a huge McCarthy fan and placing him squarely at the top of the "big four" (with DeLillo, Roth, and Pynchon). The book is so "it's own" that as soon as I felt myself feeling an influence (for example, I swore I smelled Hemmingway's Old Man and the Sea in terms of prose/theme, and the more terrifyingly cruel parts at times rang so much like Kosinski's The Painted Bird ), McCarthy would insert the perfect McCarthyism, solidly planting the flag (so to speak) of a phrase or sentence into the passage to claim it forever for himself, like a prosaic explorer figuratively pushing out into the unknown through deft assemblages of words and phases impossible to all but him (ok, that metaphor was way too much….time to wrap it up). Of course I have more to say but am beginning to risk (actually have already thoroughly risked) repeating myself and sounding like some deranged, McCarthy stalker-type. Check this one out. It is superior literature.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    This wasn't nearly as funny as everybody says it is.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    He palmed the spartan book with black cover and set out in the gray morning. Grayness, ashen. Ashen in face. Ashen in the sky. He set out for the road, the book in hand. Bleakness, grayness. Nothing but gray, always. He was tired and hungry. Coughing. The coughing had gotten worse. He felt like he might die. But he couldn't die. Not yet. The boy depended on him. He walked down the road, awaiting the creaking bus. It trundled from somewhere, through the gray fog. The ashen gray fog. He stepped aboard, He palmed the spartan book with black cover and set out in the gray morning. Grayness, ashen. Ashen in face. Ashen in the sky. He set out for the road, the book in hand. Bleakness, grayness. Nothing but gray, always. He was tired and hungry. Coughing. The coughing had gotten worse. He felt like he might die. But he couldn't die. Not yet. The boy depended on him. He walked down the road, awaiting the creaking bus. It trundled from somewhere, through the gray fog. The ashen gray fog. He stepped aboard, spartan book in hand. No one spoke. They were all ghosts. Tired, wrinkled, rumpled, going wherever. Not knowing why. Just going. He opened the book and read. He began to see a pattern, a monotonous pattern of hopelessness. Chunks of gray hopelessness. Prose set in concrete, gray. Gray blocks of prose. He read. He recognized images from films long since past, and books from authors of yore. Many science fiction writers, many movie makers. He thought he saw a flash, something familiar. Perhaps it was only one of his nagging dreams. A dream of what once existed, but he did not know. Wasn't there once, he wondered, a story called "A Boy And His Dog," by, who? Ellison, maybe? Was that the name? It seemed right, but his mind was unreliable. It had not been reliable in awhile. People forget. Yes, they forget. And here, a fragment, "The Last Man on Earth," "The Omega Man," "Dawn of the Dead," "Planet of the Apes," "The Day After," "The Twilight Zone." Yes, that one, the one about the man and the books. The broken glasses. Cannibals, people in rags, charred bodies, emptiness, grayness. "On the Beach" popped into his mind. His gray, dulled mind. "The Andromeda Strain." Dessicated bodies. Dusty, leathered, ashen bodies. The rain, the snow, the white, the cold, the gray. The endless white. The endless gray. "Escape from New York..." The titles seemed endless, but they blended in his wearied mind. Had he not read and seen all this a thousand times before? What was he to make of this book he held, this spartan black book, this cobbling of all that had come before, all set forth again? Was this original, he wondered? He continued to read. But he was tired, flagging. Rain, tin food, wet blankets, shivering, twigs and fire and cold. Always cold, and gray. And walking, slowly. Always walking down the road. And hiding. Hiding and walking. Ceaselessly. And atrocities. Savagery. Road warriors, the bad guys. Did this also not seem familiar? The man wondered, but his mind, like those of most of the masses, often forgot. He thanked an unseen God for this forgetfulness, for it made it easier for him to read, uncritically, unknowingly. The author, McCarthy, no doubt also must have been relieved that no one cared anymore. Plagiarism belonged to the dead past. A quaint notion of a bygone day. Not a concern, in these gray times. The times of sampling. Of plunder. My concoction is out of a tin can, he might have thought. But he did not. Tin food, prepackaged. Cans waiting to be plucked and plundered. He opened the literary beenie weenies, and served them to the world. And the world ate, hungrily ate. And believed, that beenie weenies, on their empty stomachs, tasted like the greatest gourmet dish they had ever tasted. For they knew not any better. Their gray matter just did not know. And they went on down the road. ------ ([email protected] 2009, amended only very slightly in 2016) NOTE: This review was written about, and during, bus rides to work while reading this book. To date, it is my most popular review on Goodreads, and for that I thank everyone. It appeared on the Publisher's Weekly website in an article on best parody reviews on Goodreads. Thanks to everyone who agreed with me and to also those who disagreed and vigorously defended the book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jayson

    (A-) 84% | Very Good Notes: Dreamlike and deeply moving, its thin on plot, with dialogue thats often genius, but also inauthentic and repetitive. (A-) 84% | Very Good Notes: Dreamlike and deeply moving, it’s thin on plot, with dialogue that’s often genius, but also inauthentic and repetitive.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Maren

    I'm a terrible person because I didn't really like "The Road" and I'm not sure how I feel about Cormac McCarthy. Honestly, I think there's something wrong with me. I just finished reading "The Road" today - it only took a couple of hours to get through, because it's not that long a book, and I think it was a good way to read it because I felt really immersed in the story, which is told like one long run-on nightmare of poetic import. The characters don't get quotation marks when they speak, and I'm a terrible person because I didn't really like "The Road" and I'm not sure how I feel about Cormac McCarthy. Honestly, I think there's something wrong with me. I just finished reading "The Road" today - it only took a couple of hours to get through, because it's not that long a book, and I think it was a good way to read it because I felt really immersed in the story, which is told like one long run-on nightmare of poetic import. The characters don't get quotation marks when they speak, and for some reason McCarthy also does away with the apostrophes in words like "couldn't" and "shouldn't" - I'm still not really sure why that was necessary, it seemed a little unjustified. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world but the apocalypse itself is never really described or explained. I still don't really know why the world is the way it is as the story begins, other than that everything suddenly started burning and there are few survivors. What survivors remain are generally split into "good guys" and "bad guys" - the good guys are just trying to get by and the bad guys usually kill and eat people and steal their things. A man and his boy are walking south, yet we never really know why - to get to what? Even the man, whose plan this is, never explains the rationale more than once when he thinks that it will be warmer there. We're meant to think that they're in America, I think, only there's little indicators of an American world or otherwise. At one point, near the end of the book, most of the artifacts they find are written in Spanish, which led me to think they had made it to Mexico possibly, but it still snows there, I think, which would be unusual. In other words, there are few concrete details, and a lot of small conversations between the man and the boy - the man usually says "we have to keep going" or "we have to stay" and the boy says "i'm scared" or "don't leave me" and the man says "Don't be scared" or "Okay". That was probably my biggest frustration with the book - the mundane repetitiveness of the dialogue. While many will argue that that criticism is *exactly what the author intended* (along with the amorphous location and lack of details) in order to bring about the black ethos of the novel's post-apocalypse, I just felt like it made for an uninteresting read. The language is definitely poetic and it's peppered with abstract observations about the world or life or death, but I wasn't very moved by them or the story. I didn't feel like I got to know the characters any better as the story went along - they remained distant to me emotionally, endless travelers that I could empathize with (as you would empathize with any soul wandering a post-apocalyptic desert) but I didn't really feel close to anything that happened because the narrative's disjointed and abstract tone just pushed me away as much as it made me reflect on apocalypse. I read José Saramago's novel, "Blindness" a year or two ago and, to be honest, felt that it dealt with mass epidemic of an apocalyptic nature in a much more convincing, original and powerful way. It contains language of stunning beauty, dialogue that lacks distinction and punctuation, and dire situations but the characters are infinitely more real, more compelling and the situations far more disturbing. What McCarthy only hints at, Saramago dares to depict throughout "Blindness". So, like I said, I'm sure I'm a terrible person and there's just something that I'm not getting, but I was really disappointed by "The Road" and generally find McCarthy and unenjoyable read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sean Barrs The Ultra Vegan

    The Road is a truly disturbing book; it is absorbing, mystifying and completely harrowing. Simply because it shows us how man could act given the right circumstances; its a terrifying concept because it could also be a true one. It isnt a book that gives you any answers, you have to put the pieces together and presume. For whatever reason, be it nuclear war or environmental collapse, the world has gone to hell. It is a wasteland of perpetual greyness and ash. Very little grows anymore, and the The Road is a truly disturbing book; it is absorbing, mystifying and completely harrowing. Simply because it shows us how man could act given the right circumstances; it’s a terrifying concept because it could also be a true one. It isn’t a book that gives you any answers, you have to put the pieces together and presume. For whatever reason, be it nuclear war or environmental collapse, the world has gone to hell. It is a wasteland of perpetual greyness and ash. Very little grows anymore, and the air itself is toxic. The survivors are made ill by their surroundings, physically, mentally and spiritually. They cough and splutter, they struggle to carry on and lack the will to live. Civilisation has completely collapsed, but its remnants remain: the roads remain. “On this road there are no godspoke men. They are gone and I am left and they have taken with them the world.” Thus, the man and the boy (that’s the only names we are ever given for them) walk down them. They communicate rarely, when they do it is bare and in seemingly inane phrases. At times, especially at the start of the book, when no sense of history orr time were relayed, the conversation was highly reminiscent of that in Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot. The exchanges had little to no point and were totally lacking in any substance, as the two central characters longed for something that seemed out of reach. It’s a brave narrative device, one that seems to have put off many readers. But it also articulates much about the psychological states of the man and the boy. There’s just not that much to talk about when you live in a world where you’re under constant threat from roaming gangs of cannibals catching you, dying of starvation and perhaps even exposure along with the knowledge that you will have to kill your son should the said cannibals finally catch up with you. Not to mention the sheer level of trauma and stress both characters are operating under. Staying alive is all that matters, wasting energy on words in such a situation is fruitless where you barely have the strength to walk down the road for another day. “What's the bravest thing you ever did? He spat in the road a bloody phlegm. Getting up this morning, he said.” A dark and seemingly hopeless story unfolds. The farther and son are travelling to the beach, a distance of several hundred miles. With them they push all their worldly possessions, and resources, in a shopping cart. Such a journey seems like a fool’s errand. But what other choice do they have? The two cling onto something, a fire, a hope, that life can somehow get better. And then it continued to burn even after the mother has killed herself. This, for me, captures a large part of the human psyche: an indomitable will to survive. The Road is suffocating; it is claustrophobic and it is entrapping. What McCarthy shows us, is that no matter how shit human society may become (has already become?) it will always have the possibility of rejuvenation. There is light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. The entire novel is an allegory, one that is not revealed until the final few pages. “Keep a little fire burning; however small, however hidden.”

  8. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    The view that there are two independent, primal forces in the universe, one good and one evil, is called dualism. According to dualism, the good God does the best he can to promote good and combat evil but he can only do so much since evil is a powerful counterforce in its own right. The ancient Gnostics were dualists with their scriptures emphasizing the mythic rather than the historic and positing our evil world of matter created not by an all-powerful God but by a flawed deity called the The view that there are two independent, primal forces in the universe, one good and one evil, is called dualism. According to dualism, the good God does the best he can to promote good and combat evil but he can only do so much since evil is a powerful counterforce in its own right. The ancient Gnostics were dualists with their scriptures emphasizing the mythic rather than the historic and positing our evil world of matter created not by an all-powerful God but by a flawed deity called the Demiurge. In contrast to the Demiurge, the good God of light resides above our earthly material universe in a pure, spiritual realm called the Pleroma. I mention dualism and Gnosticism here since I read in Cormac McCarthy's novel No Country For Old Men the following dialogue between a good old Texas boy by the name of Sheriff Bell and his old Uncle Ellis: Sheriff Bell asks: “Do you think God knows what's happenin?” Uncle Ellis replies – “I expect he does.” Bell then asks – “You think he can stop it?” To this Uncle Ellis answers – “No. I dont.” By these answers, whether he knows it or not, Uncle Ellis is expressing Gnostic dualism. Of course, McCarthy's worldview isn't necessarily the worldview of one of his characters, in this case Uncle Ellis, but my sense after reading No Country for Old Men McCarthy's worldview isn't that far removed from Gnostic dualism; rather, the world and society McCarthy creates is absolutely soaking in evil. The evil is so strong in this McCarthy novel, one could say evil is the primal force of the universe. A world where evil is the primal force is given an even more complete and deeper expression in McCarthy's post-Apocalyptic novel The Road, where a man and his son travel south to avoid the oncoming winter cold. Why am I saying this? Let me offer a couple observations around two quotes: We read a reflection of the man when he was a boy about age thirteen prior to the apocalypse, "Standing at the edge of a winter field among rough men, watching while they opened up the rocky hillside ground with pick and mattock and brought to light a great bolus of serpents perhaps a hundred in number; the dull tubes of them beginning to move sluggishly in the cold hard light. Like the bowels of some great beast exposed to the day. The men poured gasoline on them and burned them alive, having no remedy for evil but only for the image of it as they conceived it to be. The burning snakes twisted horribly and some crawled burning across the floor of the grotto to illuminate its darker recesses. As they were mute there were no screams of pain and the men watched them burn and writhe and blacken in just such silence themselves and they disbanded in silence in the winter dusk each with his own thoughts to go home to their suppers." One can only wonder what brought about the actual apocalypse in the novel. Perhaps, similar to these men, world leaders attempted to remedy the image of evil on a macro level. Here is a typical scene the man and boy come upon: "Beyond a crossroads in that wilderness they began to come upon the possessions of travelers abandoned in the road years ago. Boxes and bags. Everything melted and black. Old plastic suitcases curled shapeless in the heat. Here and there the imprint of things wrested out of the tar by scavengers. A mile on and they began to come upon the dead. Figures half mired in the blacktop, clutching themselves, mouths howling." No more quotes are needed as I am sure you get the idea - a shadowy, menacing, ash-filled landscape populated by humans hunting and killing and eating one another. What creates the drama in this dark, sinister, stinking world is the love the man has for the boy, his son, and the love the boy has for the man, his papa. Also, the compassion the boy has for those they encounter on the road. All through their experience on the road, can we say the man holds a Gnostic-like dualist view? He experiences the intensity of the world's evil to be sure. However, his belief in a Gnostic light realm is paradoxical. Sometimes he reflects there is only this evil world of matter, harrowing and unrelenting; and yet sometimes he recognizes the boy as a messenger come from that otherworldly realm of light. Rather than attempting an answer, I suggest reading with these ideas of dualism and Gnosticism in mind as one way of contemplating and appreciating the philosophical and theological dimensions of McCarthy’s bleak novel. Cormac McCarthy - American novelist and independent spirit par excellence

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ian "Marvin" Graye

    How to Write Like Cormac McCarthy 1. Make sure the first sentence contains a verb. 2. But neither the second. 3. Nor the third. 4. Repeat until finished. 5. Or sooner deterred. We'll Become Well Eventually The Boy: Papa? Papa: Yes? The Boy: What's this? Papa: It's an apostrophe. The Boy: What does it do? Papa: It takes two words and turns them into a contraction. The Boy: Is that good? Papa: Years ago people used to think it was good. The Boy: What about now? Papa: Not many people use them now. The Boy: Does How to Write Like Cormac McCarthy 1. Make sure the first sentence contains a verb. 2. But neither the second. 3. Nor the third. 4. Repeat until finished. 5. Or sooner deterred. We'll Become Well Eventually The Boy: Papa? Papa: Yes? The Boy: What's this? Papa: It's an apostrophe. The Boy: What does it do? Papa: It takes two words and turns them into a contraction. The Boy: Is that good? Papa: Years ago people used to think it was good. The Boy: What about now? Papa: Not many people use them now. The Boy: Does the world already have enough contractions, Papa? Papa: I hadn't thought of it like that. But you might be on to something. The Boy: What difference would it make if we threw away all the apostrophes? Papa: Not much. I don't think. The Boy: I wonder if we could get rid of the apostrophe, then maybe... Papa: Yes? The Boy: You could say we'll be well. Papa: You're right. You know. But it could get confusing. If you wrote it down. Without an apostrophe. "Well be well." The Boy: But really, Papa, if we could take away just one apostrophe, do you think we'll become well? Eventually. All of us? Papa: We could. The Boy: Well, then, if we can get rid of all of the apostrophes, we will. Papa: But then there wouldn't be any contractions! The Boy: Papa! Papa: Haha. I wish your grammar could hear you talking! In Praise of the Verb to Grow Out of ashen gray Frequently grow sentences Of colored beauty. All Things of Grace and Beauty [An Assemblage of Favourite Sentences] Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world. No fall but preceded by a declination. He caught it in his hand and watched it expire there like the last host of christendom. No one travelled this land. Ever's a long time. Creedless shells of men tottering down the causeways like migrants in a feverland. The sparks rushed upward and died in the starless dark. On this road there are no godspoke men. How does the never to be differ from what never was? By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp. The ash fell on the snow until it was all but black. Paths of feral fire in the coagulate sands. The day providential to itself. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance of pain. We're survivors he told her across the flame of the lamp. A black billcap with the logo of some vanished enterprise embroidered across the front of it. In the darkness and the silence he could see bits of light that appeared random on the night grid. The sacred idiom shorn of its referents and so of its reality. The dark serpentine of a dead vine running down it like the track of some enterprise on a graph. A single bit of sediment coiling in the jar on some slow hydraulic axis ...a pale palimpsest of advertisements for goods which no longer existed. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. There is no God and we are his prophets. They are watching for a thing that even death cannot undo... Like the desolation of some alien sea breaking on the shores of a world unheard of. One vast salt sepulchre. There were few nights lying in the dark when he did not envy the dead. I will not send you into the darkness alone. The mudstained shapes of flooded cities burned to the waterline. A living man spoke these lines. Ten thousand dreams ensepulchred within their crozzled hearts. The ponderous counterspectacle of things ceasing to be. The sweeping waste, hydroptic and coldly secular. There is no prophet in the earth's long chronicle who's not honored here today. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - "The Beach" (The Road Soundtrack) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bN-u... Alternative Dystopian Ending Haiku (view spoiler)[ In the silver light Of the moon above the beach, A big squid ate them. (hide spoiler)]

  10. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. So I generally don't hate books - Recently when joining a face2face club they asked which book I disliked the most - and had no answer. Well I want to thank Cormac McCarthy for giving me something to be able to put there. Having heard the buzz about this book and having seen the plethora of positive reviews, I felt compelled to write my own if only to be that voice of reason in a wilderness of pretentious insanity. Cormacs McCarthys The Road, I can honestly say, is the worst book I have ever So I generally don't hate books - Recently when joining a face2face club they asked which book I disliked the most - and had no answer. Well I want to thank Cormac McCarthy for giving me something to be able to put there. Having heard the buzz about this book and having seen the plethora of positive reviews, I felt compelled to write my own if only to be that voice of reason in a wilderness of pretentious insanity. Cormac’s McCarthy’s The Road, I can honestly say, is the worst book I have ever read. I am stunned to find such a critical following for a novel that is so clearly bad that I have yet to meet a flesh and blood person who does not hate it, or cannot, even after the most mild inquires, explain its appeal beyond the latent thought that they “ought” to like it. To do otherwise would mark them as uncultured and ignorant. Modern art had Duchamp's toilet, and now literature has its own case of the emperor’s new clothes in, The Road. What sets this novel apart from all others in its genre of ill-conception, is the totality of its failure. There is nothing good that can be said of it. Some virtue can be found in every book, as in the old adage—“…but she has a nice personality.” The Road breaks this rule, and soundly. From the plot and characters to the writing style and even the cover design, the book is abysmally uninspired and a black hole of skill. Much has been made of the writing quality. Alan Cheuse, of the Chicago Tribune, and book commentator for NPR calls it “…his huge gift for language.” Let’s look at that for a moment. It is universally accepted that the first few sentences of any novel are the most crucial—the words which a writer labors over the most to get them just right. Here are the first two sentences of The Road: “When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before.” I once presented these two sentences to an amateur writer’s forum and asked their opinion. Several members politely replied that the sentences were badly in need of work. Not only were they not grammatically correct, but they were awkward, confusing, used several unnecessary words and had all the rhythm and pacing of a dog with four broken legs. Nights dark beyond darkness, has got to rank up there with, it was a dark and stormy night. This is not at all an isolated example. It is merely the beginning—literally. Other laudable narrative sentences include: “The Hour.” “Of a sudden he seemed to wilt even further.” “A lake down there.” Lest you think I am selectively picking the worst, here is the passage Mr. Cheuse used in his own review as an example of genius: “tottering in that cold autistic dark with his arms outheld for balance while the vestibular calculations in his skull cranked out their reckonings. An old chronicle. To seek out the upright. No fall but preceded by a declination. He took great marching steps into the nothingness, counting them against his return.” What McCormac is describing here is that it is dark and the man can’t see where he is going. The author is clearly a master of communication. Let’s also pause to consider his brilliance of dialog, and his mastery of the monosyllable conversation that make the screenplay dialog of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger on par with Shakespeare. Nearly every conversation has the word “Okay,” which appears so often I began to think it was a pun, like a ventriloquist routine. One might conclude McCarthy is attempting to reflect a realistic vernacular into his work, except that the conversations are so stilted and robotic, as to lack even the faintest aroma of realism. There is no slang, no halted speech, no rambling. It is Dragnet. First dialog in the book: I ask you something? Yes. Of course. Are we going to die? Sometime. Not now. And we’re still going south. Yes. So we’ll be warm. Yes. Okay. Okay what? Nothing. Just okay. Go to sleep. Okay. You’ll note that I did not use quotes in the above excerpt. That is because neither does McCarthy. There are no quotes anywhere in the book, nor are there any tags designating the speaker, which manages to successfully make determining who is speaking quite a dilemma at times. Moreover, McCarthy never provides names to his characters this forces him to use the pronoun “he” frequently which very often leaves the reader bewildered as to whether he is referring to the father or the boy. McCarthy doesn’t stop with quotes. He rarely uses commas or apostrophes. It doesn’t appear as if he is against contractions as he uses the non-word, “dont” quite frequently. Nor is he making the statement that he can write a whole book without punctuation as he does, on rare occasions, use a comma or an apostrophe, (as you can see from the dialog segment I listed above,) as if he is going senile and merely forgot. As the lack of most of the necessary punctuation’s only result is to make it harder to read, I can only conclude that McCarthy, or his editor are the most lazy people I’ve ever heard of—although I am certain no credible editor ever saw this book. If they had I am certain we would have heard about the suicide in the papers. One might overlook the shortcomings of writing skill if the novel’s foundation was an excellent story. Sadly, this is not the case. Not that it lacks an excellent plot—it lacks a plot. Often times writers anguish over distilling the plot of a novel into a few sentences that might fit on the back of a book cover. It is often impossible to clearly convey all that a book is in such a short span. The Road does not suffer this. Instead I would imagine that if it were possible to put this book in a microwave and evaporate all the extraneous words all you would have left is one sentence: A boy and his father travel south in a post-apocalyptic United States, then the father dies. I wonder if the blurb writer for the, The Road, realized he was also providing a spoiler for the novel so comprehensive, no one need read the book. What the book lacks in plot it clearly makes up for in even less characterization. The father and the boy—that is about as much characterization as you will get. McCarthy doesn’t even provide names from which readers might glean some associative characteristics. We know the boy is afraid, because he says so approximately every four pages, always with the same robotic level of emotional intensity, backing it up with his many reasons, regrets and concerns as in the passage: I am scared. Likewise, the father is equally a pot bubbling over with emotional angst and frustration so vividly expressed in his response: I know. I’m sorry. We might as well burn all our copies of Grapes of Wrath now that we have this tour de force. As amazing as it is, with only an eggshell of plot, McCarthy manages to run afoul of logic. The boy and his father come across shelters packed with food and water, and yet the father insists they move on. Why? Because they must keep moving so as to avoid encountering others. Clearly staying in one place is the best plan to avoid meeting others, hermit do it all the time. Yes, other people might wander into you, but you double that equation if you too are roaming. The only argument for pressing on with the journey is to find others. I am certain I am being too kind here, but given that this is a Pulitzer Prize winning, Oprah Pick, National Bestseller, I don’t want to ruffle too many feathers. Of course, Duchamp's toilet (Fountain) was once voted "the most influential modern artwork of all time".

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    A good friend gave this to me to read. I told him I already had an audiobook working and he said, "you'll want to read this one". I could barely put it down. Mesmerizing. McCarthy's prose is simple, fable like, yet also lyrical, like a minamalistic poet. The portrait he has painted is dark and foreboding, difficult and painful, yet he carries "the fire" throughout, a spark of hope and love that must be his central message to the reader. Having read the book, not sure if I want to see the film, A good friend gave this to me to read. I told him I already had an audiobook working and he said, "you'll want to read this one". I could barely put it down. Mesmerizing. McCarthy's prose is simple, fable like, yet also lyrical, like a minamalistic poet. The portrait he has painted is dark and foreboding, difficult and painful, yet he carries "the fire" throughout, a spark of hope and love that must be his central message to the reader. Having read the book, not sure if I want to see the film, it may spoil my vision of McCarthy's art. **March 2017 and I still have not seen the film and still don't think I will.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    Ladies and gentlemen of Goodreads, I present to you my first five star review of 2018- The Road by Cormac McCarthy. And, ladies and gentlemen of Goodreads, here is the crazy thing. This is my THIRD time reading the book! My THIRD time! And yall wanna know how many stars I rated this book last time? TWO! TWO WHOLE STARS! I didnt even write a review. I just gave it two stars and moved on with my life. And now here I am with a five star review, and, folks, I cant even explain whats happened to me. Ladies and gentlemen of Goodreads, I present to you my first five star review of 2018- The Road by Cormac McCarthy. And, ladies and gentlemen of Goodreads, here is the crazy thing. This is my THIRD time reading the book! My THIRD time! And y’all wanna know how many stars I rated this book last time? TWO! TWO WHOLE STARS! I didn’t even write a review. I just gave it two stars and moved on with my life. And now here I am with a five star review, and, folks, I can’t even explain what’s happened to me. I don’t know why I’ve had this change of heart. I don’t know why all of a sudden this book grabbed me and held me in its arms like a little baby and crushed me in the end. I have one theory though. I LISTENED to the book this time around. I’m sorry for capitalizing so many words. It just feels right for some reason. It feels RIGHT. Listening to the book forced me to slow down a little bit and take in the writing in a much different way. It allowed me to really savor the book and chew on the words a little bit before swallowing them. The book is beautiful, man, and I think it’s beauty flew right past me the first two times. Not this time though. I love apocalyptic books anyway. I loved Station Eleven. The Stand is alright. I Am Legend was awesome. But, man, McCarthy comes in with The Road and you can literally feel the bleakness and the emptiness and the desperation in his writing. You can see and smell the blackness and the ash and the cold. It’s hard to read (or listen to) sometimes because it’s just so hopeless, and you know nothing good is coming. You know there can’t be some happy ending waiting for you. There’s no way. Not in the world he’s created. But for a book so cold and dark, it’s also poetic and beautiful. McCarthy’s short sentences and minimal words in his dialogues work great in this world, and it all adds to the overall tone of the story. Boy howdy, I’ve had an awesome JanuMcCarthyary so far. On to Blood Meridian!!!!! Can’t wait!!!! Yeaaahhh!!!!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Annet

    This book is shocking, loving, groundbreakingly impressive, beautifully written. I read through it without breathing, I mean I just had to know what was coming on the next page, and cried several times. Without a doubt one of the best books, if not the best, I read, ever...

  14. 4 out of 5

    F

    One of my favourite of all time. Loved everything. Terrifying.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Paquita Maria Sanchez

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    I just read some guy's review of The Road that contained the following: "In the three hours that I read this book I found myself crying, laughing, shouting, and most of the time my lip was trembling. ... As soon as I finished it, I sat there feeling numb, but not in a bad way, actually sort of like I was high." Wow, dude. I mean, really? Your lip was trembling? And you felt high? And your lip was trembling? Pherphuxake, what do you even say to someone like that? I just read some guy's review of The Road that contained the following: "In the three hours that I read this book I found myself crying, laughing, shouting, and most of the time my lip was trembling. ... As soon as I finished it, I sat there feeling numb, but not in a bad way, actually sort of like I was high." Wow, dude. I mean, really? Your lip was trembling? And you felt high? And your lip was trembling? Pherphuxake, what do you even say to someone like that? --------------------------------------------------------------------- The Road by Cormac McCarthy is an awful, awful book. I have to consciously restrain myself from judging those of you who believe the book has merit. Don’t worry, the fact that I’m part of a very small minority in this regard (only the smartest 3% of my fellow Goodreads bibliophiles also gave The Road a one-star review) has not escaped me. I am nevertheless convinced of the objective correctness of my position—notwithstanding the inherent subjective nature of any literary discussion—and I will maintain with my dying breath that The Road should have been named The Rod because it represents nothing more than Cormac McCarthy’s attempt to proclaim to the world that he has a big literary dick. I have constructed a list of factors that increase a book’s suck quotient and I fear The Road exhibits most of them. Let’s check my list and see which things appear in The Road: • A plot that lacks clear beginning or ending (check) • Important characters who don't grow or learn from their experiences (check) • Important characters whose actions lack clear motivation (check) • Scenes and dialogue that are repetitive or unoriginal (check) • Violence and gore included for shock value (check) • Locations and settings that are ambiguous (check) • History and backstory that are ambiguous (check) • Grammar and punctuation used in a pretentious or self-indulgent manner (check) • Pronouns and punctuation used in an ambiguous manner (check) • Metaphors and analogies that appear contrived, forced and disjointed (check) Okay, to be fair The Road doesn’t exhibit most of the suck-quotient factors; it exhibits all of them. It's as though McCarthy deliberately designed his book to be the antithesis of what I think makes for quality reading. Now before I get any further, let’s get a couple of things out of the way. Much is made of McCarthy’s failure to use quotation marks and other punctuation, with some finding it brilliant and some finding it pretentious and self-indulgent. I make my home in the pretensions-and-self-indulgent camp. In fact I find McCarthy’s treatment of punctuation nauseating; it is his way of saying: “My words are so beautiful, perfect, and complete that they stand on their own. I require no punctuation to convey my meaning. Indeed my message is too powerful to be contained by the same convention that restricts the middling novelist, too important to suffer the vandalism of punctuation.” Thus, leaving out punctuation can be not only confusing for the reader, but also revoltingly self-indulgent and arrogant. However, that being said, I don’t believe The Road sucks merely because it lacks quotation marks. I’m okay with such a tool if it’s used for a purpose that adds to the message being conveyed, à la Blindness. So punctuation is not the only suck-quotient factor here. Instead, I believe The Road sucks because it sucks every possible way a book can suck. The purposeless lack of quotation marks and other punctuation is merely one symptom of the enormity of the book’s suckitude. It’s important to understand that this is not just a matter me disliking The Road. I have an almost vehement reaction to The Road and to the rather large group of slobbering, screaming, panties-throwing admirers. In the interest of intellectual honesty, I challenged myself to figure out why this is. Why can’t I just abhor The Road while letting other people have their moronic fun? Why must I look down on people who love The Road with a feeling of disgusted superiority? Why do I care if others enjoy the mental equivalent of dipping bread into horse diarrhea and pretending it’s award-winning fondue? It took some soul-searching to learn the answer: I react vehemently to The Road because fans and critics of literature love to stroke McCarthy’s Rod, while works of science fiction—my favorite genre—are dismissed regardless of their merit. Critics praise The Road but glibly waive off sci-fi as a genre for people who never grew out of their childlike amusement for light sabers or their adolescent fascination with space battles. Sci-fi is relegated to its own awards and events, left out of consideration for broader literary honors, leaving me with the impression that the literary world does not perceive sci-fi to be real, legitimate literature. But from my point of view The Road is the adolescent work. By the standards under which I would judge a quality sci-fi novel (or any quality novel), The Road is shallow and simple, along with unoriginal and obvious. The Road is to my favorite sci-fi as a toddler’s splashing pool is to Lake Tahoe. It is beyond me how The Road can be the guest of honor while much deeper books with beautiful language and original, thought-provoking ideas are not even invited to the party because they happen to be sci-fi. Of course the other 97% disagree with my assessment of The Road as shallow and unoriginal. They believe that I just didn't get it, that I couldn’t see past McCarthy’s prose and unconventional punctuation. They tell me The Road is rich and deep. They tell me to forget the quotation marks and the nameless characters and look at what McCarthy is trying to tell us. The Road tells us this, and it talks about that, and speaks to this other thing. Then the 38% who gave The Road five stars lose themselves in their collective self-amplified group hysteria. “The Road is so so so great!” they yell in unison. “Please take my panties, Mr. McCarthy!” they yell at some imaginary stage. “Here, Mr. McCarthy please sign my boobs!” And that’s where I have to walk away. The thing is, though, I didn’t have a difficult time seeing what The Road tells us and talks about and speaks to; I just didn't find any of it to be especially deep, enlightening, or insightful. The book was easy to read and simple to comprehend. It didn’t make me think. Everything was right there on the surface, served with a spoon, and what we were served had no flavor, no spice, no originality. So it’s not that The Road lacks all substance. If it weren’t for the nonstop nauseating self-indulgence I would have given it two stars and might recommend it to people who are new to the reading scene. My problem is that, for something so beloved and critically acclaimed, for something written by a writer with such talent, The Road fails utterly, a shell without substance that collapses in upon itself in a heap of triteness and unoriginality. To put it yet another way, The Road was just so goddamn boring. I want a book that makes me pay attention and use my noggin. I want to work at peeling back layers and making connections. When I find them, I want the author's ideas and insights to be original, edifying, and thought-provoking. I want artful prose, relatable characters, realistic motivations, and poetic plot points. And guess what, I find no shortage of books on the sci-fi shelves that meet those criteria. Now let’s see if we can tie things together. There are plenty of truly excellent books of contemporary literature; I have read and enjoyed several, including one or two that have touched me deeply. Likewise there are plenty of truly excellent books on the sci-fi genre. For some reason one genre is invited to the party and the other isn’t. I don’t know why that is, beyond an apparent assumption made by haughty critics and readers that sci-fi is for kids. Now, I’m not trying to say that all sci-fi is wonderful. There’s plenty of crappy sci-fi out there, just like there’s plenty of crap in any genre. My point is simply that, despite the dismissive attitude of many literary critics, the sci-fi shelves contain books that are as good as anything out there: books as rich and complex, as insightful and layered, as edifying and beautiful as anything in contemporary literature. So when something like The Road is hailed as a masterpiece while some truly brilliant works of sci-fi—works that could mop the floor with The Road in every facet— are acknowledged only by a roll of the eyes ... well, I think you see why I can’t be happy just to dislike The Road and let everyone else have their fun.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    This is one of the saddest books about a father and child that I have ever read in my life . . yet. There were a couple of happy times. Not so much though =( Mel ♥

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    I have nightmares similar to what Cormac McCarthy depicted in his book. Im with my family. Sometimes, its just my son and I. The dystopia might not be the nuclear winter portrayed here, but it has the same type of vibe. Rampant fear and chaos, breakdown of society, everyone pitted against everyone else and my only thought is to somehow hold my family together and protect them. Or were traveling or holed up somewhere and everything is quiet and were suddenly overrun. Fear is the core. Fear is the I have nightmares similar to what Cormac McCarthy depicted in his book. I’m with my family. Sometimes, it’s just my son and I. The dystopia might not be the nuclear winter portrayed here, but it has the same type of vibe. Rampant fear and chaos, breakdown of society, everyone pitted against everyone else and my only thought is to somehow hold my family together and protect them. Or we’re traveling or holed up somewhere and everything is quiet and we’re suddenly overrun. Fear is the core. Fear is the motivator. Fear is the wind; the element that upsets the precarious balance on the tightrope of our existence. We straddle the thin rope that encompasses our hope and will. It’s a long way down into the abyss, but the dark looks comforting – inviting. In light of this, the specific situations depicted in the book raise some questions for me: I love my family but could I be as resourceful as “the man”? Under the dreadful circumstances, would I have the same patience as “the man”? If faced with the dilemma of no food, would I give up? Would I consider myself one of the “good guys”? Would I carry "the fire"? This was a buddy read with Kelly and Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    A man and his young son are traveling along a highway, hoping to get far enough south to avoid the onslaught of winter. It is a post apocalyptic landscape, heavy with ash, in which you can hear the absence of birds chirping or bugs buzzing. The language is remarkable. I was reminded of Thomas Hardy for beauty of language, but it is a different sort of beauty. McCarthy uses short declaratives, as if even language was short of breath in the devastation, and terrorizes generations of elementary A man and his young son are traveling along a highway, hoping to get far enough south to avoid the onslaught of winter. It is a post apocalyptic landscape, heavy with ash, in which you can hear the absence of birds chirping or bugs buzzing. The language is remarkable. I was reminded of Thomas Hardy for beauty of language, but it is a different sort of beauty. McCarthy uses short declaratives, as if even language was short of breath in the devastation, and terrorizes generations of elementary school english teachers by tossing off verbless phrases as sentences (p 27 - A river far below.) He is effective in turning nouns into verbs, as on p4 – “when it was light enough to use the binoculars he glassed the valley below.” Forgetting the content of the narrative this is a masterwork of style. I was deeply moved by not only the technical skill with which he molds language to his purpose, but the effective emotional impact of the work. This is a book to read slowly, to savor, not one to speed through to hasten ingestion of the plot. There are events that are exceedingly grim in this, focusing on despair, suicide, cannibalism. Yet the love of the father for his son is palpable and despite the omnipresent gray ash, there remain slivers of hope. Highly recommended, but this is not a book for those with a weak stomach.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cecily

    Phew. This is a brilliant, bleak, beautiful book, but an emotionally harrowing one, albeit with uplifting aspects (they always cling to a sliver of hope, however tenuous). PLOT There isn't much. But that's fine by me. In the near future, a man and his son traipse south, across a cold, barren, ash-ridden and abandoned land, pushing all their worldly goods in a wonky shopping trolley. They scavenge to survive and are ever-fearful of attack, especially as some of the few survivors have resorted to Phew. This is a brilliant, bleak, beautiful book, but an emotionally harrowing one, albeit with uplifting aspects (they always cling to a sliver of hope, however tenuous). PLOT There isn't much. But that's fine by me. In the near future, a man and his son traipse south, across a cold, barren, ash-ridden and abandoned land, pushing all their worldly goods in a wonky shopping trolley. They scavenge to survive and are ever-fearful of attack, especially as some of the few survivors have resorted to cannibalism. Much of the time almost nothing happens, yet that makes it all the more compelling. The boy is very imaginative, empathetic, moral and scared - a difficult combination in the circumstances. There is a deep love and care between man and boy, each projecting their own survival instinct on to the other. In their anxiety, aspects of their relationship take on a ritualistic tone, and some of their conversations are almost liturgical, invariably ending with an assurance that they're the "good guys" and things will be "okay", yet without becoming banal. Sometimes they are more wary of being seen than others, and at one point I wondered how much was "real" and how much might be imagined or paranoia, but that doubt passed. Whatever disaster caused the destruction (it is never explained) was some years before and the father realises that despite their closeness, in some ways "to the boy he was himself an alien. A being from a planet that no longer existed." WRITING STYLE Very distinctive and controversial. It is written in a sparse, somewhat poetic style ("cold autistic dark"), often detached (the characters are never named) and fragmented, to match the setting of the book. Even quotation marks and apostrophes are almost absent (used only where their absence might create ambiguity, e.g. we're and were). Initially, I found this pared down language and especially punctuation distracting and infuriating, but when I let go of that, treated it as more of a poem, the minimalism became integral to my appreciation. In fact, it somehow enhances the impact of the story, rather than distracting from it. If it were typset as a prose poem, it might raise fewer hackles. In fact I think I think one reason some people don't "get" this book is that they read it as a novel that hasn't been proofread, rather than immersing themselves in it as a prose poem. Much has been made of the intriguingly odd phrase "The snow fell nor did it cease to fall", which leapt off the page at me and is also discussed on Language Log: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/.... RELATED WORKS A film is coming out in the autumn. It could be excellent, but if they try to make it too cheerful, it would lose its purpose. UPDATE: I saw the film, and was impressed (and surprised), but still prefer the book. WARNING: Having enjoyed this, I had high hopes for Outer Dark (my review here http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...), but unfortunately I really didn't like that. I'm unsure whether to read more Cormac McCarthy now.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Apocalyptic The Road tells the story of a father and son warily travelling across post-apocalyptic America, hoping to reach a place of sanctuary. The atmosphere drapes the reader in a throbbing dread for the character's lives and the acute fear of a father to keep his son safe. In a very unique and unexpected way, Cormac McCarthy creates a mesmeric story out of pure gloom and hopelessness. Everything is stripped away including the man and the boys names. The writing style is concise and the Apocalyptic The Road tells the story of a father and son warily travelling across post-apocalyptic America, hoping to reach a place of sanctuary. The atmosphere drapes the reader in a throbbing dread for the character's lives and the acute fear of a father to keep his son safe. In a very unique and unexpected way, Cormac McCarthy creates a mesmeric story out of pure gloom and hopelessness. Everything is stripped away including the man and the boy’s names. The writing style is concise and the dialogue is short and clipped, all adding to the scarce sense of existence. The environment is dreary and lifeless where nothing grows and the only way they can live, is on finding food stores of canned or dried goods, from homes long abandoned. Other survivors have resorted to cannibalism and the two have to be constantly aware of the dangers and risks, as they travel The Road. The father’s greatest fear is of dying and leaving his son to the mercy of scavengers. That reality is fast approaching, as the father’s health is unavoidably deteriorating and he is starting to cough up blood. Should he use his pistol to kill the son rather than leave him alone? The decisions and torments are palpable. With everything brought to its bleakest and most despairing state, what screams out loudly is the deep, unconditional love between the father and son. The ending won’t disappoint and will resonate with you long after you’ve finished the book. This novel is a classic in atmospheric horror writing! I would highly recommend this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Nomen-Mutatio

    The main point I want to deal with is how I managed to walk away from this book with a trenchant sense of gratitude at the forefront of my mind. I certainly wont mislead and paint this story as one that directly radiates things to be happy about, but I do think it does so indirectly (and the term "happy" is far too facile for my purposes here). This is an extremely dark tale of a world passed through a proverbial dissolvent. A world stripped of its major ecological systems. Small pockets of homo The main point I want to deal with is how I managed to walk away from this book with a trenchant sense of gratitude at the forefront of my mind. I certainly won’t mislead and paint this story as one that directly radiates things to be happy about, but I do think it does so indirectly (and the term "happy" is far too facile for my purposes here). This is an extremely dark tale of a world passed through a proverbial dissolvent. A world stripped of its major ecological systems. Small pockets of homo sapiens remain and virtually all other animal and vegetative life has vanished. For the Father and the Boy—the core characters of the novel who are holding onto to their existence by the most tenuous of threads—for them nearly every moment consists of terror and misery. Food is extremely scarce. Fellow humans are often very likely to kill and eat them. There’s an utter lack of good prospects on the horizon. And when terror seems less immediate and they have a moment to become lost in the luxuries of long-term memory, the thoughts tend to be ones of painful regret and helplessness and are just as bleak as the immediate surroundings and circumstances. A REALLY, REALLY SAD AND SCARY TALE. Okay. It’s fitting—albeit in a superficial, mundane coincidence type of fashion—that I’m reading The Road for the first time as soon as the temperatures in my cartographic slice of things have just plummeted to single-digit degrees. The slow death of autumn has given way to the inescapable, temporary halt of much organic hustle and bustle. The skies often tend to merge with the washed out grays and whites of the landscape. As almost goes without saying, the world of McCarthy’s unexplained apocalypse is one in which each day is more gray than the last. So there seems to be some veneer of kinship between this world and my current surroundings, but what’s more important—far, far more important—are the manifold differences. Compared to the bleak world of the book that sits to my left, the nonfictional winter of the Chicago tri-state area is a veritable paradise. Colors are still abundant, if you choose to notice them. The buildings, cars and clothes we encase ourselves in—in sum—still display a wide range of colors, patterns, novelties, and so on, which to an eye accustomed to and expectant of tattered gray wastelands would appear as an orgiastic celebration of beauty and eyesight like none other. Though sunlight is less abundant now than in other seasons we are still, often enough, visited by a warmth and illumination that comes from that distant, worship-worthy star above, as opposed to a random explosion from some chunk of flammable infrastructure releasing its dying breath, or from a meager fire knelt over and struggled to bring to life. In full disclosure, I can’t say that anyone has ever accused me of being an optimist. I’ve held the deed to boatloads—jam-packed harbors of them—of cynicism, despair, and all the other synonyms for negative emotional states and psychological dispositions. But I also feel that the struggle against nihilism, apathetic numbness, and ascetic ideology of all stripes is The Great Foundational Struggle for myself, and for my fellow strange hairless primates to take up and take up with vigor. To be able to look uncertainty, intuitive pessimism, our own impending demise, and even the gaping void of eternity squarely in its facelessness and still wrest away something profoundly good and meaningful. I’ve also been no stranger to the wishful-yearning to abandon my human cognitive faculties, our apparently unique ability to look forward, to anticipate, to construct possibilities, outcomes, goals, to direct wonder and desire at and upon the world around and within us, and to reflect upon these very things and the reflection itself, the reflection itself, the reflection itself... These useful evolutionary adaptations (and their attendant byproducts) often feel like a burden to those who also have the aforementioned boatloads somehow connected to their person. The burden is simply in the fact that where one can see ahead they can see ahead to miserable outcomes. I used to mentally nod in agreement when Craig Schwartz, in Being John Malkovich, remarks to his wife’s pet chimpanzee that "Consciousness is a curse." I used to quasi-proudly cite the Samuel Johnson quote at the beginning of Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas that "He who makes a beast out of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man." And one dramatic evening the man singing the song [which has been removed from the top of the review now] literally slapped me and metaphorically awoke me from this nihilistic slumber by pointing to the words "pain of being man" which were scrawled, in my hand, upon a miniature American flag and screamed something to the effect of "This is something you can't ever fully get rid of!" What is basically an obvious truth hit me like a ton of bricks, the way that certain obvious yet somehow elusive truths are want to do. It was a moment that, say, Nietzsche would’ve been proud of, as he was brilliant at and adamant in his fight against nihilism and opposed to treating pain as something merely to be avoided rather than faced and even, in some ways, embraced. In sum, wishing away our nature, our circumstance, our humanity—this is no better and no less cowardly than blissfully strolling along as if everything’s coming up roses when the world crumbles around you. It’s a rejection of the present world--a sigh of resignation, signed, sealed, delivered. We have to learn to do something with our terror and woe. Pronouncing it terminal and sitting back to watch the world turn to cinders and dust is no longer an option, and precisely because of how dire many of our situations truly are. There’s a tremendously powerful scene in which the Father and the Boy discover an underground bunker filled with food and various supplies. The joy and relief they feel in that bunker is the metaphorical core of where gratitude lies in terrible situations. My bunker, our bunker, is generally much more vast in the present nonfictional world of circumstances--both the circumstances that we share and the ones that are enclosed within. And yet somehow this gratitude is not really any easier to find and possess in a lasting way than the literal bunker that briefly acts as a protective womb for the central characters of this dark and harrowing tale. This is all to say that there is something very important about finding real silver linings and that in rejecting so many false ones we may accidentally toss out the genuine ones. Genuine goodness gets caught so easily in our blind spots. "What a wonderful thing to be alive and given to hungering." —Death Rattle Orchestra, "The Hand's Mouth" Books like this that contain such magnificently terrible visions of a doomed planet, also contain the impetus to appreciate things once taken for granted and to cherish and protect these things with every fibre of one’s being. They also contain a pulse of something that is purely beautiful such as the relationship between the Father and the Boy. Clearly, they represent some sort of triumph of perseverance, but not at all in the glib, mindless language of motivational posters, but in a hard-nosed, realistic manner that taps into deep and serious feelings and verifiable realities, rather than delusional slogans recited to keep general unpleasantness at bay. The story doesn’t end happily ever after, not by a long shot, but there are real triumphs all along the way and these don’t vanish simply because we aren’t served up every fulfilled desire on a silver platter. Such is life. The world is not drained of meaning simply because it is finite and partially composed of fallibility, uncertainty, and things generally that fall short of our yearned-for ideals. The triumphs are real. He held the boy by the hand and they went along the rows of stenciled cartons. Chile, corn, stew, soup, spaghetti sauce. This richness of the vanished world. Why is this here? the boy said. Is it real? Oh yes. It's real. Anything that can shake a person to their core and set off a chain of thoughts that leads to the desire to live better than before, perhaps ethically, or to allow them to feel things more profoundly—such as gratitude and amazement at the very fact of anything existing at all—deserves all the praise it can get. As far as I’m concerned Cormac McCarthy’s writing is now praise-worthy in this way.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jaline

    Five Stars For Brilliant Story Telling: It really doesnt get any better than this. The story is a journey, an epic journey, a heros journey. The prose is sparse and real in its immediacy. We not only read it but feel it, smell it, taste it. That is a rare treat for any reader. Five Stars For Best Father and Son Relationship: The father and his son in this book have such a strong bond, it is both heart wrenching and inspiring to share it. On their long journey, they teach each other, mostly by Five Stars For Brilliant Story Telling: It really doesn’t get any better than this. The story is a journey, an epic journey, a hero’s journey. The prose is sparse and real in its immediacy. We not only read it but feel it, smell it, taste it. That is a rare treat for any reader. Five Stars For Best Father and Son Relationship: The father and his son in this book have such a strong bond, it is both heart wrenching and inspiring to share it. On their long journey, they teach each other, mostly by example, how to live in a world that is unlivable. How to survive, how to protect, how to love. Five Stars For Most Creative Environment: The world of this book is not beautiful. It is filled with ash, the sun is barely visible through the thick pollution of the atmosphere, most trees destroyed or falling down; roads have melted and then cooled again, streams and rivers and even the ocean an off-shade of gray. It is a dead world that has not yet begun to come back to life, and we do not know if it ever will. Six Stars For Pulling Me Out of my Comfort Zone and Making Me Like It: Post-apocalyptic or dystopian writing is not a genre I feel comfortable with for various reasons. Having said that, this is one of those very rare stories that seems to cut across all genres, grabs hold, and doesn’t let you go – even after the last page. I loved this book, and recommend it to anyone who might be interested in the above Star points.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    Two lonely figures appear out in the sparse, dark landscape walking by in the gloom going forward to oblivion probably, never resting until they find the nebulous nirvana; which may not be. A man and his boy both remain nameless throughout the book, hungry, tired dispirited wearing rags living if this is the proper word trying to survive a world changed forever ... a bleak atmosphere where the strong kill the weak looking for any food...animal, vegetable or human, nothing is more paramount than Two lonely figures appear out in the sparse, dark landscape walking by in the gloom going forward to oblivion probably, never resting until they find the nebulous nirvana; which may not be. A man and his boy both remain nameless throughout the book, hungry, tired dispirited wearing rags living if this is the proper word trying to survive a world changed forever ... a bleak atmosphere where the strong kill the weak looking for any food...animal, vegetable or human, nothing is more paramount than getting a mouthful of nourishment no laws no parameters. The disaster that ended civilization is never explained some kind of plague? Man- made or natural does it matter either way...The father wants to move down the road from the excruciating cold of the snowy mountains urging his son unceasingly to reach the sea on what was California but not anymore. Former cities never given their former names rivers likewise what's the point, the dead places will never arise again. Meeting the few people trying to exist but trusting no one the strangers steal everything, and leave nothing behind but mayhem, the only importance is to keep on breathing...the others are very expendable, even human flesh can be edible. The father loves the son yet he doesn't believe in the goodness of beings unlike the boy who sees the sufferings and wants to help the unfortunate. Still the dad knows the consequences himself of chance encounters some people are of dubious nature. They destroy without feeling slaughter or be slaughtered their belief and get out of the way the unlucky. No birds in the sky, fish in the sea or animals roaming the terrain an eerie ambiance which brings depression to all as the desolation prevails. The rains come down soaking the two as they push their shopping cart with little inside mud hinders, water temporary stops the hopeless journey, illness causes much misery lying on the freezing wet ground, entering homes which have seen better times grabbing the essentials however unappetizing it looks. Sleeping in the woods with fruitless trees hiding from the bad guys as the boy calls them, empty stomachs skinny bodies that weaken in each succeeding gray day, death around each corner. A classic in this genre the writer shows that this Earth is very unfeeling it does not care if the human race lives or dies. The question may be asked what price will humans strive for in order to continue, is the strong the future and the less sturdy buried in the past...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Im trying to find solace in the fact that Im probably not the only one to be humiliatingly hoodwinked into taking the time to read Cormac McCarthys much-celebrated yawn-fest The Road, although this hardly makes this bamboozling something to boast about. In spite of the fact approximately three-fourths of the world seemed to readily embrace this as worthy fare, I managed to keep my distance for some time, mainly through ignorance of the general plot of the book and my usual stubborn reluctance to I’m trying to find solace in the fact that I’m probably not the only one to be humiliatingly hoodwinked into taking the time to read Cormac McCarthy’s much-celebrated yawn-fest “The Road”, although this hardly makes this bamboozling something to boast about. In spite of the fact approximately three-fourths of the world seemed to readily embrace this as worthy fare, I managed to keep my distance for some time, mainly through ignorance of the general plot of the book and my usual stubborn reluctance to blindly jump off a bridge with the masses. I should have obeyed my gut instinct and remained one of the few spared the tedium of “The Road”, but then I had to go and actually examine a copy from a carefully-arranged pile resembling some kaleidoscopic, symmetrical form that some unfortunate, underpaid bookslut had to labor over for hours to create, and noticed that not only did this win the Pulitzer Prize, but happened to be a post-apocalyptic tale, and nothing stirs my loins nearly as vigorously. I’d even had it suggested by one of my fellow goodreaders, and after brief contemplation as to whether to waste my money on this alleged masterpiece or another box of nitrous cartridges, I decided that it was time to see what all the fuss was about (regarding “The Road”, I think I can understand the allure of the EZ Whip cream chargers, especially when you’ve got one of those bigass punch-ball balloons). I sat in a numbed stupor while I read this, completely baffled as to how the hell this managed not only to win awards of great prestige, but, more importantly, just how it managed to be a commercial success with the ordinary reader. I’m almost interested to hear why someone might have actually enjoyed “The Road”, in which McCarthy somehow managed to make boring the concept of post-apocalyptic America. While I usually happen to be a fan of the genre, I found this to be everything which I don’t desire within that intriguing realm. At this point, I’m obviously begging for someone to come along and tell me that I ‘didn’t get it’, and probably point out that I’m a moron for good measure. I’m not denying that these are certainly valid arguments, but convincing me that I didn’t like this book is going to be impossible, my cheeky little friend. So, what did I get from “The Road”, which stupefies me with its status as a #1 bestseller and Pulitzer-winning tour de force? Several things, all of them sucky; a whole lot of repetitive and boring conversation and redundant let’s-trek-towards-the-coast plodding, a lot of stupidass and harebrained compoundwords, and an insipid amalgam of fiftyword paragraphs that seldom accomplished anything as far as entertaining me as a reader. Here’s the story in a nutshell, for anyone who might be inexplicably reading this without having read the book; probably because they were wise enough to invest in the EZ Whip instead, and are now dicking around with their iTunes trying to find the song that best complements that flanging sound in their head. Some sort of catastrophe has befallen planet Earth, and I have to admit I was pretty interested to find out the nature of this calamity, but McCarthy decides to keep that a secret for some reason beyond my grasp, maybe as the highlight of “The Road 2: Thoroughfare”. Ok, I can dig it, whatever it was, I know that it had no trouble fucking up Earth’s weak and fragile little blue ass. Score; Unexplained Devastating Event 1, Earth 0. Does it really matter what might have happened, seeing as all it resulted in was the end of almost all life as we know it? Actually, yeah, the lack of any sort of input regarding the origin of this chain of events does suck, and badly. Score: Utter Buffoonishness 1, Cormac McCarthy 0. In the wake of, well, whatever cataclysmic shit happened, we’ve got a father and son struggling to survive in the resulting aftermath, and things aren’t very promising for this enterprising duo, as whatever wiped out the inhabitants of planet earth also eradicated not only all plant and animal life, but in a shocking display of sheer spite also managed to do away with quotation marks, colons, semicolons, and most hyphens. Survivors of this worldwide holocaust are few and far between: scattered bands of humans that have largely resorted to thuggishness and cannibalism for lack of other hobbies or nutrition, a few mushrooms, and question marks, periods, and a wily subset of apostrophes have managed to escape extermination. The father and son have managed to eke out a regrettable existence for an unknown number of years, and the approaching winter promises to be outrageously cold, so they make way for an unnamed southern coastline, where I can only presume they're expecting to encounter something more accommodating. Their journey is perhaps the most ridiculously boring shit I’ve ever read. They push a shopping cart along with their scant supplies while alternately stomping through ash and sleeping in ditches. Once in a while they encounter another survivor, each meeting completely preposterous and without substance. They ransack homes and forage for food, they abandon the weak and feeble, they ramble incessantly, engaging in snippets of pointless conversation, usually about how they cannot give up, as they are ‘carrying the fire’. I’m assuming that ‘the fire’ is the inextinguishable hope for mankind, a barely flickering light personified in the child, or maybe the fact that any chance of repopulating may depend on their ash-coated and unwashed swinging schlongs, who the hell knows, the ‘fire’ could be their undiminished belief in god which they’ll impart on the cannibal savages running unchecked when not feasting on fetus. That’s it. Seriously, that’s the story, and I’ve long since abandoned any attempt to discover what all the hype surrounding this supposed ‘story’ is. Despite my generally low opinion of our collective taste as a species, I found myself shocked that “The Road” was deemed favorable by so many. But what I really can’t wrap my head around is the critical acclaim, which applauds this for reasons I’ll never understand, and sincerely hope the critics don’t either. I found the storytelling utterly regrettable and lacking in all possible aspects, once in a while McCarthy bizarrely waxed poetic, and he also made the completely unforgivable mistake of mentioning how the ‘sun went around the earth’, which, if intended to be literal, at least offers an explanation as to why the planet is becoming so inhospitable. Otherwise, all Cormac has to offer is a bunch of really short, uninteresting sentences, banal murmurings between father and son, and a whole lot of tedium. I might almost be impressed that on several occasions McCarthy busted out some word which I’ve previously never seen before in my life (woad and siwash come to mind, both forever burnt in my brain as examples of meaningless gibberish), but when the use of these words is considered next to the rest of the prose, composed of rudimentary language, all it called to mind was the disheartening suspicion that McCarthy stumbled across these relics from some Word-Of-The-Day vocabulary-enhancing calendar, making them seem improbably forced into the story: June 14th: WOAD: n, some absurd, obscure shit. “Hmmmm,” Cormac ponders this treasure, “I may have to have the protagonists come across a load of woad.” He chuckles idiotically. “A load. Heh. Of woad. Heh heh.” While the Woad Incident was bad enough, McCarthy also uses ‘wonky’. Christ, the last time I heard wonky used was in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, coming from Master Blaster. This made for a pretty fitting connection between the two, both being pieces of post-apocalyptic poodle piddle. After getting an unsavory sampling of the author’s propensity for rarely-seen words, I was half expecting to see rampike, which would have actually worked in the context of the story on countless occasions, but apparently that one was included in Roget’s Word-Of-The-Day and our man McCarthy was given the Merriam-Webster last Christmas. Now I’m just nit-picking, for lack of anything else to comment on, since this was so devoid of action, intrigue, or anything remotely thought-provoking.

  26. 4 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    What would you do if I died? If you died I would want to die too. So you could be with me? Yes. So I could be with you. Okay. --McCarthy 4/6/18 Re-reading this for my spring 2o18 Climate Change class, and even knowing how it ends, I am wrecked, just devastated by this book, so horrific and so beautiful and moving. Sobbing as I do at the most intimate of losses, but feeling the intensity of any great passionate beauty, too. The beauty of a great book that helps you see what matters. 9/1/14 Original “What would you do if I died? If you died I would want to die too. So you could be with me? Yes. So I could be with you. Okay.” --McCarthy 4/6/18 Re-reading this for my spring 2o18 Climate Change class, and even knowing how it ends, I am wrecked, just devastated by this book, so horrific and so beautiful and moving. Sobbing as I do at the most intimate of losses, but feeling the intensity of any great passionate beauty, too. The beauty of a great book that helps you see what matters. 9/1/14 Original review, edited a bit in the light of my most recent reading. An amazing book. So powerful, understated, majestic, moving. Just blew me away. Some one said this was a "dictionary" book, meaning that they had to look up words a lot, and yes, it is a book that loves language, some of it ancient and forgotten, maybe befitting the subject of loss, but McCarthy is always this blend of Faulknerian epic-loss-language and Hemingway's power-through-simplicity-language. Some of the cadences are Biblical, as in King James elevated language, as in The Grapes of Wrath and Cry, The Beloved Country. And the simple, devastating power of Of Mice and Men and The Old Man and the Sea. Books of allegorical significance and moral power. In a way, this tale, set years after nuclear holocaust and environmental devastation, is a kind of guide for the apocalypse--any apocalypse, the Big One, your own or a loved one's death, the end of anything--with principle, with character, dignity and love; in this case, it is a father and son facing oblivion, moving forward, Pilgrim's Progress, "carrying the fire" against all odds, never giving up, and it is heartbreaking and devastating. You wonder, like them, whether you could or can go on. This simple, bleak tale has a kind of echo in it of Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night," where Thomas urges his own father to fight death and not just acquiesce to it, or give into it. The man in this story teaches his son to fight to stay alive and be one of the "good guys" (or, ethical) with any means available at their disposal. In this simple, bleak dystopian story, we are very possibly at the end of time, in an ash, Beckettian landscape, waiting for Godot, people reduced to their most animal selves. And yet, there are relationships that remain, with simple pleasures, enjoyed by fathers and sons. The find a can of Coke, they eat a can of peaches, they tell each stories, they draw pictures, they play a primitive flute they have made, the arts comforting and sustaining them when they need it. Recently, we had the suicide of Robin Williams, someone we had come to believe we knew well through movies where he played characters urging us to laugh and seize the day, every day. But he was playing characters in movies, and we began, as we do, I suspect, to make the mistake of believing that the convincingly hopeful characters he played were internalized in his own soul. And maybe they were, for a time. Camus said, post-Hiroshima, post-Holocaust, that suicide was the only important philosophical question that remained, and McCarthy, aging as we all are, helps us contemplate this question, too, as we face or imagine facing devastation, death, that nuclear winter. Throughout the book the man speaks to or reflects on his wife, years gone, who made another choice than he has, and given what they faced, she faced, a reasonable one, and one the man teaches his son to passionately resist, though in his quietest moments, he longs for it himself. When they encounter an old man, a kind of dark seer, on the road they speak of luck and what it can mean in such a time, and neither are sure what it even means anymore: Is it luckier to live or die in the face of the very end? The man has no hope, though: “People were always getting ready for tomorrow. I didn't believe in that. Tomorrow wasn't getting ready for them. It didn't even know they were there.” The old man says to the man, “There is no God and we are his prophets.” But the boy believes in and his shaped by his belief in God. They are the good guys who draw the line at barbarity, even when it makes some sense to succumb to it. Recently, in the Chicago area, I wept to read of another suicide, one of an 82 year old man whose wife was in hospice and living with his two aging children, developmentally disabled; the man first murdered the family everyone knew he had deeply loved, then killed himself. (I know, sorry, this is bleak). But no one in their neighborhood or family questioned his love for his family or even his choice. Who can blame this man, facing an inevitably harder end, his friends seemed to say. Not me, the father of two sons, one with severe autism and the other also now diagnosed autistic. I'm 61. What will happen to them when I am gone? Sam, 18, autistic, living during the week in a group home, comes here to my house every other weekend, and so many of the minimum wage folks he works with are caring and loving, but 3-4 years ago we took a young man to trial for pushing him down a flight of stairs, where he was knocked out and his arm badly broken. He can't speak to defend himself. What future does he have, and what future especially without a loving parent to help defend and speak for him? What does his "road" hold for him? Sometimes, in my worst moments, and thankfully they are few, I think we are Liam Neeson, in The Grey, facing the wolves of destruction in the Arctic (as Neeson himself did when he lost his wife to a skiing accident, facing his own emotional holocaust and nuclear winter), knife in hand, to the end. I have heard this is McCarthy's most personal novel, and since he is a father, and dedicates the book to his own so John Francis McCarthy, I can guess this maybe this is true. I can imagine it as a letter to him, or to all fathers and sons, to help them face down their own terrible moments with grace and resourcefulness. In this book, the man is handy, he is always problem-solving, fixing what he has with the tools available to him, scavenging, finding food and water, reading and telling stories to his son with lessons he sometimes barely believes himself anymore. Whatever he does, McCarthy tells us the son watches his father, and learns. Without his son, there is only death, and he must to the end teach his son how to be handy, to be resourceful, to go on, to live, the best he can. My own father, the weekend before he died on the operating table for his second bypass surgery, at 76, dropped down to slide under the chassis of my aging Chevy and check out my fading brakes, to the end urging me to care about my stuff, to do the right thing, mentoring me in the right way to live. That night he held one of his last great grandchildren in his arms; less than 48 hours later he was dead, which was still the most devastating moment of my life. Reading the father-son relationship that is at the heart of this book through my own loss makes it tender, gives it depth and rich sentiment. I mean, it is harsh, and bleak, this world the father and son live in, but the story is fundamentally sweet and moving. It's about what matters, as the best of books always are. McCarthy urges me and us to go on, to be resourceful, to care for each other, and to care for the Earth we were given. There are images so terrible in this book that the man tries to shelter from his son, though the son sees them anyway, and we see them, too. Are they useful to see? I surely don't want some of them in my memory, but there they are, reminding me of past genocides and tragedies and prefiguring the ones surely yet to come on personal and global levels. Maybe it's useful to remind me of the "bad guys" who the man and boy meet on the road, who make the immoral, the wrong choices. What evil is humanly possible? But also, what good? What do we need to do to save the planet? Do we really want to? How long can we keep our heads in the sand, as humans with the power still to (maybe) reverse the environmental end? McCarthy teaches us how to live, and why it is so important: Because of love, and family, and the beauty of the planet. “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 wimpled softly in the flow. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. 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.”--McCarthy Camus suggests that we humans, post WWII--the Holocaust and Hiroshima, and Stalin, all of it- juts push that Myth of Sisyphus-boulder up that hill without any assurance of meaning beyond the doing of it. I can't go on; I'll go on, Samuel Becket has his narrator say at the end of The Unnameable, and that's what the man does and perhaps we should do in the worst of circumstances. McCarthy know his Beckett, but finally, McCarthy is not Beckett, as much as this tale owes to McCarthy's master; McCarthy gives us just a little more dignity and hope than Beckett, I think. I think, too, in my darkest moments that I understand Robin Williams, facing Parkinson's disease, and that 82 year old man, seeing the bleak future for him and his wife and children. I am not and have never yet been suicidal, but I understand their choices. I understand Camus and Beckett on these important subjects. I may have to reread this tale again and again to keep me on the road the man took instead of the one his wife chose. After all, I have sons (and a daughter) to care for. Maybe I'm gonna hug my kids a little bit harder tonight.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Luís C.

    Gray, dark, cold. Ash. Make yourself comfortable with these words. This is what remains of our world in "The Road", Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic vision set in the not so inconceivable future. At some point the reader might feel McCarthy's constant reiteration on an earth laid waste, the gray clouds and the blackened dead trees and the abandoned homes scavenged bare, is monotonous. But that's the point. This is not a pocket of America. The destruction is complete. Civilizations and order are Gray, dark, cold. Ash. Make yourself comfortable with these words. This is what remains of our world in "The Road", Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic vision set in the not so inconceivable future. At some point the reader might feel McCarthy's constant reiteration on an earth laid waste, the gray clouds and the blackened dead trees and the abandoned homes scavenged bare, is monotonous. But that's the point. This is not a pocket of America. The destruction is complete. Civilizations and order are but a memory, a distant memory. Surviving the scene are a father and son traveling south in order to escape another winter. They follow a tattered map and stick to a road where the charred and melted dead litter the streets and roadside bandits await to kill and eat. (If the world is a dangerous place now, McCarthy is hell on earth.) What makes the nameless father and son remarkable is not their ability to scavenge for food and avoid murderers and thieves in an earth pillaged bare. It is their commitment to goodness where goodness is nowhere to be seen. In this case it is the son, a young boy, who holds firm to the belief his father ingrained in his mind. They are, as the father says, "carrying the fire" in a world darker than dark. The boy is the father's conscience and ours, and he pleads the case for morality in a place where, it can be argued, morality no longer has residency. Is he simply naïve? No. Affected? Yes, he weeps for the world, but he's also impervious to the world's selfish corruption. McCarthy's prose is, once again, poetic and beautifully written. He keeps true to the story and ends on note both sad and hopefully uplifting. "The Road" is a powerful tale of survival. A survival of the noble qualities in human nature: benevolence, forgiveness and love. It serves as a reminder that though evil may flourish and, ultimately, destroy, goodness will find a way to carry on.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Matthias

    The road is a promise. A father and a son, survivors of an anonymous apocalypse, hold on to that promise. Cormac McCarthy follows them closely on their march through barren wastelands, dead forests and decaying towns. The footsteps they leave in the ubiquitous dust are swept away by the cold ashen breath of the grey earth. Whatever gets left behind ceases to exist. The promise is brittle. Hold on to it too tightly, dream of it too violently, and both the promise and the road will turn to dust, The road is a promise. A father and a son, survivors of an anonymous apocalypse, hold on to that promise. Cormac McCarthy follows them closely on their march through barren wastelands, dead forests and decaying towns. The footsteps they leave in the ubiquitous dust are swept away by the cold ashen breath of the grey earth. Whatever gets left behind ceases to exist. The promise is brittle. Hold on to it too tightly, dream of it too violently, and both the promise and the road will turn to dust, leaving you in a desert with nowhere to go. The father and his son know this in their hearts. Yet they go on, together, carrying the fire ever southwards. Every step they take is a rebellion against a world turned cold and dry. On a planet that no longer indulges the luxury of life, the road of stubborn survival only knows one destination. Defiantly, a father and a son, scavengers of canned goods and memories, hold the fire against the indifferent skies and hold on to each other. Ssh. It'll be okay.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Sumi

    Excuse me please while I cover my face with my hands and quietly sob. In a scorched and dangerous post-apocalyptic America, an unnamed father and son scavenge for food, look for shelter and try to avoid bandits and people whove resorted to cannibalism. The two, pushing along their rusty cart, travel the road simply because they must. The alternative is death. I admire the fact that theres no explanation about how the end of the world happened and why certain people survived. There are a couple of Excuse me please while I cover my face with my hands and quietly sob. In a scorched and dangerous post-apocalyptic America, an unnamed father and son scavenge for food, look for shelter and try to avoid bandits and people who’ve resorted to cannibalism. The two, pushing along their rusty cart, travel the road simply because they must. The alternative is death. I admire the fact that there’s no explanation about how the end of the world happened and why certain people survived. There are a couple of flashbacks, but they have to do with human relationships, not some plague, and have a dreamlike quality about them. This is my first Cormac McCarthy, and it took a while to adjust to his writing style. There are no dialogue quotes. Sentences are often verbless. Contractions have no apostrophes. The language is poetic yet not flowery or excessive. Initially, I found the novel painful to read. It was so bleak and unrelenting, and the characters had no goal except survival: finding that next stash of canned goods, locating oil for a lamp, finding blankets to protect them from the cold, making sure their shoes held out. Ultimately, the love between father and son gives the book its heart, and offers up a bit of hope to the reader. The man must, through example, pass on his knowledge and humanity to the boy. But in a way the boy teaches his father just as much. None of this is remotely sentimental. By depicting a barren universe where nothing grows, McCarthy is surely asking us to appreciate the mysterious bounty of the earth. A moving and timeless post-Thanksgiving theme. And an unforgettable book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Leonard Gaya

    This novel is both dismal and poignant. The tale is that of a man and his son, trying to survive on a devastated (possibly post-nuclear) land, covered in ashes. They trudge through on a deserted road that doesn't seem to lead anywhere. They are starving for the most part. From time to time they either find food, or they come up with a group of man-eating panhandlers. Not much of a plot to speak of in this book, and all this seems to be a pointless and painful attempt at surviving in a world that This novel is both dismal and poignant. The tale is that of a man and his son, trying to survive on a devastated (possibly post-nuclear) land, covered in ashes. They trudge through on a deserted road that doesn't seem to lead anywhere. They are starving for the most part. From time to time they either find food, or they come up with a group of man-eating panhandlers. Not much of a plot to speak of in this book, and all this seems to be a pointless and painful attempt at surviving in a world that is already charred and dead (in a way, it reminded me of some of Samuel Beckett's plays). There is at all times an undercurrent of danger and threat. Most descriptions are about landscapes or minute details: the man exploring abandoned houses or cobbling rusted things together. Most of the dialogues between the two main characters are about making sure the other one is okay. Cormac McCarthy's narration is extraordinarily subtle and avoids any explanation or judgement. In the end, this might sound quite dull and gloomy indeed, but through it all, and mainly through the relationship between the father and his son, I was startled by the genuinely stirring sense of humanity, of compassion, of love, of hope that arises from this story. Edited to add: I just watched the movie starring Viggo Mortensen. Apart from a few flashbacks with the wife (Charlize Theron), it is respectfully adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel. It’s a colourless, dreadful, profoundly wrenching film, in the best tradition of father & son movies such as Chaplin’s The Kid. Mortensen, Robert Duvall and the boy Kodi Smit-McPhee are outstanding. Edit: Watched Netflix's red hot Bird Box with Sandra Bullock. Although it's a rather gripping movie, it's packed with post-apocalyptic clichés we've all seen countless times in other alien-zombie-pandemic-you-name-it disaster movies. John Malkovich, as an old curmudgeon soaker, is the only one who plays his cards right — the music is interesting as well. I haven't read Josh Malerman's novel (feel free to comment if you have), but this is quite obviously a pastiche of McCarthy's story.

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