Writers and entertainers who do not follow the happy ending plotline archetype will often not be published or even considered. But in my opinion, some of the most beautiful literary works of art have been born through pain, sadness and brutality.
Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel, “The Road” is a post-apocalyptic novel about a man and a boy making their way through the barren wasteland of what is left of the world. This roughly-hewn sketch of the plot I have provided is really the only explanation needed in terms of raw data.
The beauty and intrigue of this novel, as in many of McCarthy’s novels, is rendered in the way that he portrays even the simplest of details.
Take this quote selected from the very beginning of the novel for example: “Like pilgrims in a fable swallowed up and lost among the inward parts of some granitic beast. Deep stone flues where the water dripped and sang. Tolling in the silence the minutes of the earth and the hours and the days of it and the years without cease.”
This is what I was met with right off the bat and I loved it. I find it to be both hopeless in tone and enrapturing in structure. McCarthy’s unique mastery of the English language is both mystifying and baffling. He is able to create a riveting mental image with such a small amount of words. The literature nut in me absolutely melts at these things. Who am I kidding, I’m all literature nut.
“The Road” is not a happy novel. Is that really such a travesty though? I say no. McCarthy keeps such a dreamy almost ethereal quality present throughout the novel that it serves as a contrast to the cruelty and harshness of the plotline.
For all my praise and commendation of this novel, though, “The Road” is not for everyone. McCarthy’s style of writing can be confusing and encumbered for some. The fragments he uses when he inserts dialogue serve to portray to the reader the sheer simplicity and crudeness of the world the man and boy live in, but this also can be very perplexing to the reader at times. When there is hardly any punctuation or following of grammatical rules, this can make for a fairly difficult read.
At times I found myself being forced to read through entire sections again because I did not realize that I was reading a dialogue between the characters due to the lack of quotation marks, or I misinterpreted a section due to the absence of apostrophes and commas.
My interpretation as to the reason for the lack of punctuation in this novel is that there is no room for conversation in the world the man and boy live in, therefore they speak only when necessary. This then creates an aura of vast and impregnated silence about each piece of dialogue.
In addition, allusions to religious sources are heavily
scattered throughout the novel. I did not find this to be bothersome, but alas, some may.
Altogether, “The Road” is lovely, but not for everyone. This is a book that I brand: “Read at your own risk, it may just break your heart.”
About the Author:
Cormac McCarthy was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1933. His novels fall into the genres of Southern Gothic, Western and modernist, respectively. He is said to be one of the greatest American writers of our age. Three of his novels have been made into major motion pictures, including “The Road.” His writing has won numerous prestigious awards including the Guggenheim Fellowship for creative writing, the MacArthur Fellowship, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Believer Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.