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desolation relieved

Gray Winter Morning

Feels like I might recover after all.

Last night I subjected myself to a reading of The Road,  Cormac McCarthy's most recent (2006) book. It feels like he resorts to frequent usage of invented language. Or maybe my vocabulary's not very good. But his imagery is clearly striking, and obvious why his books have been adapted by Hollywood in recent years. As always, they get the imagery, but jettison the language. And it is the language that sets him apart from other story tellers of the land. Its sparseness, especially revealed during the few encounters that take place during The Man and The Boy's journey from inland to the coast, is remarkable for its precision and truthfulness. He has a penchant for descriptions of the most evil acts imaginable, so a story set in a post apocalyptic world seems a natural fit.

What is our fascination with end-of-the-world stories? It certainly has a long history, from the Book of Revelation (69-90 C.E. - itself probably based on Hebraic revelations from 165 B.C.E. and earlier) to The Book of Eli (2010 C.E.), and beyond. The cinema in particular is enamored with the genre.

In a world where the ordinary has been destroyed, and only a few strong survivors prevail, the central story gains power from the focus. External concerns are jettisoned. How to live in a complicated world of daily compromise amongst those we know and love becomes irrelevant. Existence is reduced to the level of survival. All that counts is how clever you are about using the tools and few resources that can be scavenged. Life and Death amongst the few.


The focus achieved, at the core of The Road is a simple message of Good vs Evil. The Good Guys don't eat people, the Bay Guys do. Maybe they each "carry the fire" for their continued existence, but at least in this world of destruction, the end of humanity in its most noble dimensions is not definitive. They may not prevail, but at least the Good Guys will continue to exist. Through resourcefulness and complete self sacrifice to ones progeny the continuation of the morality of the species will be assured.


In the bleakest of wasted landscapes imaginable, a glimmer of hope prevails - an affecting tale of parental love.

Reader Comments (2)

Have you read Earth Abides by George Stewart? Uniquely uplifting in how the world without man is framed. Makes an interesting comparison to The Road.

January 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Reifer

No, haven't heard of Earth Abides. I guess the thing about The Road is McCarthy's language and the severity of the situation. And the ultimate sacrifice that is made by The Father. Should I bother w/ the film version? The Netflix comments don't lead towards devoting the time for it.

January 23, 2011 | Registered CommenterKMW

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