Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Reporting on McCarthy's 'The Road'

We promised a few days ago to offer an assessment of Cormac McCarthy's postapocalyptic novel, The Road. As regular readers will remember, we were prompted to read the book because of McCarthy's first (and only) television interview, conducted recently in Santa Fe by Oprah Winfrey, who had chosen The Road for her popular book club.

The Road, as we noted in a previous post, is a stark but richly imagined novel. In fact, one of the most striking aspects of the book is the beauty of McCarthy's language.

In The Road, McCarthy constructs a bleak father-son survival story in sentences and paragraphs that appear simple, even ordinary. And yet the music of his prose and the power of his vision grow and bloom in the reader's mind, steadily becoming something greater and more mysterious than the sum of the words themselves.

The result is an austere but compelling language that keeps the reader fully involved in the narrative, anticipating each page with a combination of fear and hope.

We admit that McCarthy's end-of-civilization landscape is not the most uplifting setting for a contemporary novel. The father-son journey through the violent twilight is by turns horrific and redemptive. Yet the pleasures and provocations of The Road are in their own way magnificent.

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