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The Road


Hazel
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I've just finished reading this and I can't make up my mind...

 

The writing is, undoubtedly, very good. It's so atmospheric and chilling. The problem I have is the distance he puts between the reader and the characters. I never really felt like I got to know the two main protagonists. On the other hand it's that same distance that lets you observe the world and what happens in it to such great effect.

The absence of punctuation did annoy me to begin with but I thought it helped to separate the reader from the story. Instead of speech I felt like I was reading a transcript or something very formal. It gave what was said more importance somehow.

I usually rate a book by how much I enjoyed it and I can't really say that I did. I can appreciate what it does and how it does it, but the distance I felt from the story did, still does, bother me.

 

As for the end:

 

I think it was justified by something that the father says before he dies: "Goodness will find the little boy. It always has. It will again."

I think it was an effort to inject a bit of hope at the end, but I don't think it worked that well.

 

I found it hard to read a book that displayed so little hope, only the grinding optimism of the human spirit. I guess that's why it's so effective as a piece of writing but I personally didn't find it fulfilling as a story.

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I found it hard to read a book that displayed so little hope, only the grinding optimism of the human spirit. I guess that's why it's so effective as a piece of writing but I personally didn't find it fulfilling as a story.

I can see what you mean, K20. The story is grindingly bleak and the remoteness of the characters is part of the way he creates this athmosphere. If you like to get to know the characters and feel part of the story then it's going to be hard work. You raise and interesting point about not enjoying it so not being able to rate it highly by your usual criterion, I often feel that I appreciate a novel (or film or documentary) without actually being able to say I enjoyed it because it wasn't really designed to be enjoyable. (I hope that makes sense, I struggled with that sentence!)

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I know exactly what you mean Jen.

I can say I didn't enjoy reading it but I did appreciate it for what it was and what I think it was trying to do. The fact that I didn't enjoy it means that it was a success. I don't think you're meant to enjoy this book in the conventional sense of the word.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've just finished reading this having had it strongly recommended by a friend. I hadn't come across Cormac McCarthy before, but will certainly keep a look out in future.

It was a bit hard to get into at first, but once I was past the first few pages, it was compelling. Others have commented on the spare writing style, but the vivid imagery it creates. And I too found myself pondering whether this could be how the world might end (and wondering if that end is round the corner, and would I want to be a survivor).

I would also say that I found the end, and also one particular piece of good fortune, to be a little too convenient. But the really horrific incidents that took place keep you on your toes, never taking anything for granted.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just finished this book, and can honestly say it's the most depressing book I've ever read! I wasn't perturbed by the lack of speech marks, but one thing which did annoy me somewhat was the single section (? in the middle) which was written in the first person, the rest of the book being in third person. I agree with the author that had there been speech marks and the usual 'he said' 'she said' it would have detracted somewhat from the bleak and empty world he was trying to create. I found some of the imagery in the book powerful, but I felt a little cheated that you never got to find out what had happened to America or indeed the world, and why they found themselves living like that.

 

A good but deeply disturbing read.

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  • 2 weeks later...
I wasn't perturbed by the lack of speech marks, but one thing which did annoy me somewhat was the single section (? in the middle) which was written in the first person, the rest of the book being in third person. I agree with the author that had there been speech marks and the usual 'he said' 'she said' it would have detracted somewhat from the bleak and empty world he was trying to create..

 

I didn't even notice this! I am going to have to get the book out again and have a look. For the record I liked this book but then I am a fan of this type of plot anyway.

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  • 4 weeks later...

This was my most recent read and I can't quite make up my mind, I have conflicting thoughts about it. Something made me want to keep reading it and find out what happened at the end but I can't say that I liked it; I found it quite repetitive and dull (controversial! :yikes: )

 

I know that most others posts in here have raved about it and I can see why but it just didn't really do it for me. I don't understand why McCarthy wrote it like he did, with no speech, apostrohpes etc. Was it to enhance the bleakness of the story?

 

I have rated it quite highly in my 2007 book list, as I said something made me keep reading it so McCarthy did something right for me.

 

I didn't find it that disturbing and found it hard to imagine myself in the predicament. Maybe that's because I would have been The Man's Lady in the story :rolleyes:.

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Maybe that's because I would have been The Man's Lady in the story :rolleyes:.

It's interesting, though, that you responded enough to the story to identify with her as a character. I sort of imagine that I would be in the father's predicament.

 

I want to live, I think I would want to live however bad the living was.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I don't know about CM being a sci-fi writer - The Road is to my knowledge his first work to have a future setting. Blood Meridian draws upon documented incidents from the 1850s. I have read eight of his books, he doesn't use much punctuation, and stretches the language to its limits. You can picture him poring over a paragraph for days or weeks to get it the way he wants it. It's true that he's no easy author, and he certainly will not please everyone (what writer could?). But the prose is deeply rewarding for those who can put up with his style and wealth of vocabulary.

I generally endorse the comments made, and would also draw your attention to the title Suttree, said to his most autobiographical. Blood Meridian and The Road are not for the squeamish, but the ability to convey the sheer horror of the subject matter testifies to the power and quality of the writing. The Border Trilogy, Suttree and No Country For Old Men are perhaps more accessible if you are put off by the gory element. One of my favourite passages of prose is the Chapter 'The Matrix' from Blood Meridian, but I'm not going to spoil it for you by saying why. I understand the recent film of NCfOM has done some justice to the writing, and expect sales will burgeon once the film has achieved wider exposure. There won't be a need for me to bore you at such length.

 

To balance this (just so you don't think I'm a complete horror-merchant) other frequently read chapters include Riddles in the Dark from The Hobbit, and The Lay of Beren and Luthien from The Silmarillion.

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It seemed more apt to reply in this forum, rather than Introductions.

Kimberley wrote:

 

'Hi finrod and welcome

 

I was very interested in your post on The Road which was one of the first McCarthy's that I've read and also one of my reading highlights for the past year or so. It's an amazing book. I wasn't quite as keen on No Country for Old Men but I have a feeling there was some post-The Road disappointment in that and it's also a very good book, it's just that it had so much to live up to.'

 

I read them the other way round, and did not experience any sense of anticlimax. In my experience Suttree and Blood Meridian stand out, but I do not regret delving into any of his titles. I enjoyed NCfOM and look forward to the film (which, unlike All the Pretty Horses, seems to have been well received) bringing the author something like the recognition he deserves.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Novelist Sells Archive

By THE NEW YORK TIMES

Published: January 16, 2008

 

The archives of Cormac McCarthy, below, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, have been bought for $2 million by the Southwestern Writers Collection of Texas State University-San Marcos, The Associated Press reported. The university said the archives included correspondence, notes, drafts and proofs of 11 novels by Mr. McCarthy, 74, who won the Pulitzer for his 2006 novel, “The Road,” and a 1992 National Book Award for “All the Pretty Horses.”

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  • 1 month later...

I finished this yesterday. I listened to it on audiobook rather than reading it, so I wasn't aware of the textual issues that some previous posters have mentioned.

 

"The Road" struck me as a virtuoso take on the end of the world novel. It does have precedents - JG Ballard's early novels "The Drought" and "The Drowned World" deal with similar subject matter - but having the relationship between the boy and the man centre stage puts the focus on the indomitability of the human spirit in the face of disaster. In some ways, it's a very positive book. The ending, which others have expressed concerns about, sort of reinforces this although

 

 

the very last paragraph about the trout is a little odd and jarring, I couldn't work that out at all.

 

 

The few other people they meet may have been reduced to near savagery, but they refuse to lie down and die.

 

I found it quite repetitive and dull (controversial! )

 

The relentless, grinding monotony of the man and the boy's situation is key to the book's bleakness, to demonstrate that this is what human life has been reduced to, possibly by its own hand but we don't know. It reminded me of Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London" in that sense, which employs a similar repetitive technique.

 

I felt a little cheated that you never got to find out what had happened to America or indeed the world, and why they found themselves living like that.

 

I was expecting lots of ambiguity in the novel. I read "No Country for Old Men" last year, where similarly McCarthy gives the reader the minimum amount of information to work with. In this novel, it seems to me McCarthy was striving to make the setting as vague as possible in order to suggest that anywhere on Earth could become as devastated and desolate as this.

 

By making it more universal, the book becomes easier to relate to. Not naming the characters does the same - I did not find this distancing as others have suggested.

 

Also, if McCarthy had said that, for example, this scenario is due to an environmental catastrophe, then the novel has a political dimension in terms of how we read it that would have taken the focus off the central relationship.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm joining Radders here in the minority who don't rate this book that much :eek: Initially I thought it was mesmerising - it actually gave me nightmares on the first evening I read it (there was no way I could read it straight through like so many seem to, it was far too unremittingly bleak, I needed a break) but then it started to lose its power.

 

Firstly I think because I've read a lot of post-apocalypse books and seen several post-apocalyptic films such as The Day After (which gave me nightmares for weeks ) so there was a slight feeling of deja vu about the setting. Then the pedant in me started to kick in and I began to ask why mankind was the only living species left on the planet - I can see why the herbivores would have died out if there was no vegitation left but what about the scavengers, the omnivores, the animals that live in burrows, the insects, worms, cockroaches, ants... Lots of other niggly little points too, like how come two starving people can down a conveniently found tin of peaches and not be violently ill? How come the boy can apprently read (he reads the label on a tin) since he was born after the apocalypse and surely his father would not have been wasting time on lessons? Etc, etc

 

Then I realised that what McCarthy is doing is not telling a thought out narrative as such with a beginning, middle and end (even if he doesn't tell us what they are) but relating his own personal nightmare, and nightmares are indeed illogical, reasonless,

you can have a baby roasting on a spit without questioning how it managed to get from within its mother to campfire that quickly, you can have all those convenient co-incidences of finding food when they've almost given up hope or being shot at by a group of people who want to stay hidden

 

 

The problem is that other people's nighmares aren't very interesting precisely because they are reasonless and illogical and while I agree that McCarthy's language is in places superb I began to be increasingly distanced from the novel and by the end I didn't really care that much about what happened to the boy.

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  • 1 month later...
I've read a few snide comments on the likes of Amazon obviously from people who just don't get it.
Well jfp has decided to nail his colours to the mast and say, though hopefully without being snide about it, that he just didn't get it either.

 

"One of the most shocking and harrowing but ultimately redemptive books I have read", blurbs Kirsty Wark. While I have to confess The Road was one of the most disappointing and tedioius books I've read in recent memory.

 

If there is anything shocking or harrowing, it is surely the realisation that the horrors of the post-apocalyptic world herein depicted could come into being. But for McCarthy to go and bite off so much and then do so little with it (other than repeat himself) is really seriously frustrating. My hopes were raised by this bit:

The clocks stopped at 1:17.
And then by this bit:
How do you live?

I just keep going. I knew this was coming.

You knew it was coming?

Yeah. This or something lke it. I always believed in it.

Did you try to get ready for it?

No. What would you do?

I dont know.

But the reader's frustration is quickly resurrected, given that

there will never be anything other than the obliquest hints as to what "this" was... And if I'd known that I'd have given up.

.

As for the recurrent bits of petering-out dialogue along the lines of:

You dont think I should go.

You can go.

But you dont think I should.

No. I think you should.

Really?

Yes. Really.

Okay.

Surely a seven-year-old could have written that?

And, for some rather obscure reason, don't is consistently written as dont, but you'll is not written as youll, and nor is that's written as thats... Go figure.

 

And now that I've stuck my nor in... how about this?

The snow fell nor did it cease to fall.
Weird, eh?

Or what about this?

He raised up from time to time to look to the east and after a while it was day.

Don't go casting about in the context to find out what he raised up, though, because you won't find anything...

I've been called a "grammar Nazi" in my time (on another forum, and behind my back...) but no one's going to tell me that either of those two sentences is in any way plausible, even in a pared-down style, or even in a post-apocalyptic world.

 

Come on, Mr McCarthy, have a look at Margaret Atwood's brilliant post-apocalyptic Oryx and Crake, see how brilliantly she both researched and plotted it, how we gradually learn what happened and how and why... and hang your head in shame.

 

**

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  • 3 months later...

I bought this novel the moment it came out and, rare for me, I couldn't finish it.

 

Sorry, but as regards the book, I don't kno what all the fuss is about.

 

Anyway, its book award and the film will make my first edition go up a bit in value, so i can't complain that much.

 

 

Phoebus

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  • 5 months later...

Well, I enjoyed it, but I like bleak, and I like end of humanity / the world stories. And boy was this bleak!

 

I think it will stay with me for a good while which is a sound measure of the power of the writing (as opposed to the story itself) but I did come away thinking it could have been better.

 

I enjoyed his prose on the whole, but found some of it just didn't work, or actually looked plain wrong! Some sentences I read and re-read several times before moving on with a shrug...

 

I can definitely see this being studied in school - the classic question being "what the hell was he getting at with the very last paragraph in the book (about the trout)? OWTT effect.

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Just bought this on Amazon to take my order over £5 (I was buying Revolutionary Road for £3.99 for my next book club read). Struggling to find something that seemed worth buying just to cover the postage, this looked to be a worthwhile bargain buy for it's princely sum of £2.99!!

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Bloody Hell!

 

That was one amazing book. It was written to perfection. I hadn't read blurbs and had no idea what the novel was about - just a name and a cover to go on. Glad I did it this way. The opening pages were bewildering - who were these people? are they good or bad? what happened?

 

I'm still digesting it.

 

 

but I have read others' comments about the ending and I didn't have a problem with it. If anything, I thought it added to the novel. The point was that the man and the boy had believed they were the only good guys left - everyone else was a bad guy. The boy had wondered about this, first, when he saw the other little boy, and then in response to his father's apparent cruelty towards people in real distress. The point made in the novel, and reinforced at the end, is that good and bad is not an inherent quality, it's about circumstance and perception. Everyone on that road could have seemed like a good guy or a bad guy, depending upon when and where you saw them.

 

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