I heard many positive statements about the work of Cormac McCarthy, and so a few weeks ago, I gave him a try with No Country for Old Men. I was not disappointed.
Because of such a sublime experience, I couldn’t wait to read another of his works, this time opting for The Road. I must admit from my previous exposure to McCarthy, I had a very difficult time finding what possible allure The Road held for Oprah Winfrey, who named it her book of the month (or whatever she may call it) a while back.
Nothing against Oprah, but I made sure to buy a used copy, one produced at a time when they weren’t yet stamping her approval upon the cover.
The Road had much in common with No Country for Old Men, but it also had many dissimilarities. The commonalities included the lack of quotation marks, the terse sentences and paragraphs, and a minimalist approach to description.
In contrast, however, The Road did not grab my interest by the throat and demand I give it my full attention as did No Country for Old Men. In fact, I found myself rather uninterested in The Road and struggled for the motivation to finish it.
I must wonder, however, if the slow, mind-numbing style employed by McCarthy meant to reflect the despair and melancholy his characters fought to overcome with every breath they took.
For The Road is the story of a post-apocalyptic world, one covered in ash where little to no life has survived. A man and a boy travel a road, desperately heading to the ocean, though they know not what they’ll find upon arriving. The boy has known no other world, but the man can remember a time without hunger, without death surrounding them like a second skin, and he wants more than anything to keep the boy alive. The hope of finding the boy a better life is the only reason the man has for subsisting.
Nevertheless, because this is McCarthy, a happy conclusion is not guaranteed.
The composition of The Road mirrored the plight of its characters, and while this is an interesting stylistic choice, it ultimately left me dispassionate. Though I am glad Oprah enjoyed it.
However, The Road did NOT turn me off McCarthy, who I still believe is an extraordinary writer, and I look forward to reading more of his work.