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Book Review: The Road

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The Road

I don’t often weigh in with book recommendations here, largely because I don’t care for them much myself. There’s some perverse mental block – presumably a holdover from my school days – that still bristles at “suggested” reading, and it’s rare that I find and acquire new reading material with assistance from friends and/or family.

But Cormac McCarthy has been a long time favorite, and warrants an exception. Like many, I first encountered his work through the National Book Award-winning All the Pretty Horses. [1] While a lot of the fiction I’ve read recently has regrettably been of the “me too” variety, McCarthy is – as much as Garcia-Marquez – indisputably one of a kind. He throws words around like they’re manhole covers. You probably haven’t read anything like him before, and you probably won’t again. Certainly nothing quite like The Road. David called it “one of the best pieces of contemporary literature I’ve read since Don DeLillo’s White Noise.” The only DeLillo I’ve read was Underworld, a simultaneously impressive and yet meandering piece of work, but suffice it to say that I’m similarly impressed with The Road.

Or perhaps you know another author that can cram as much into the sparse dialogue that follows, which is a conversation between the father and son protagnonists:

There are other good guys. You said so.
Yes.
So where are they?
They’re hiding.
Who are they hiding from?
Each other.
Are there lots of them?
Some. Yes.
Is that true?
Yes. That’s true.
But it might not be true.
I think it’s true.
Okay.
You don’t believe me.
I believe you.
Okay.
I always believe you.
I dont think so.
Yes I do. I have to.

I won’t try and persuade you to read the novel, because frankly it would be a waste of time. You’ll read it or you won’t, and it’s no affair of mine in any event. In fact, those of you that are new to the parenting gig might be better advised to not read it; the back cover adjective “searing” was not applied haphazardly.

There are two scenes in particular that were disturbing at some reptilian fight or flight level, but nothing between the covers is easily absorbed. The book hit more viscerally than anything I’ve read in a long, long time.

If you’re more partial to bodice rippers or poorly written techno-thrillers, this is most certainly not the book for you. If you’ve got a bit of stomach, and enjoy virtuosic performances regardless of the form, The Road is worth a few hours. I promise.

[1] If you’ve only seen the movie with Matt Damon, I’m not asking you – I’m telling you – go out and get the book.

5 comments

  1. And it won the Pulitzer for Fiction — well deserved too

  2. I assume you read Blood Meridian? That’s one of my all-time favorites.

  3. David: very well deserved, indeed. a remarkable work.

    Bill: long time ago, but yes. terrific book.

  4. […] my personal hiring philosophy. Spurred on by nothing more than an appreciation for the novel, I reviewed Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. For my brother’s bachelor’s party, I visited New […]

  5. First novel i’ve read by McCarthy. It truly affected me unlike any other novel i’ve read–in that halfway through I put it down convinced that I did not want to finish it, didn’t want to know how this one ends–somehow felt a stake in the outcome. Of course, i did end up finishing. Yes, it is remarkable and it certainly stays with you

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