Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thoughts upon The Road

We interrupt 'The Character Assassination of William Moulton Marston by the Coward Darren Maher' to give you a book review:

A while ago, I went to The very wonderful Moviedrome to rent me the flick called 'The Road'. Which I had a hazy notion of as a 'post-apocalyptic something or another'...
I love Moviedrome, and think of it as one of the reasons I even live in this town but I've been avoiding it of late (for similar reasons that 'Rick' from 'Casablanca' might have continued to avoid Paris even after the war).
Long story long,-it was out (I think I got 'Kick-ass' that night instead) but because it was out, I made the internal decision; "D'you know what? - I think I'll read the book first". And so some time last week I was in O'Mahony's searchin' out the volume.

I don't like cover blurb, and as a general rule I don't read it until I've seen the thing; but I do like a well-designed front cover. My copy of The Road lost instant points on this score. I bought 'One Day' a while ago (not bad) and was majorly irritated by the first two pages, which were crammed with emboldened and enlarged 'OMG this book is SO Cool!' type-comments.
The cover of my copy of 'The Road' is entirely text: the author's name, the title, and then "A WORK OF SUCH TERRIBLE BEAUTY THAT YOU WILL STRUGGLE TO LOOK AWAY -the Times" and that's it.

This is what the cover is:

I actually put it back on the shelf and picked it up again twice before resigning to myself to the fact that even though I could never get the cover out of my mind, that these things happen, and once I got into the book, the cover would fade from memory with every page. So I bought it.

But the cover was still on my mind so I couldn't really read it right away.
Yesterday, disillusioned with the flicky-screen-typer and all things related, I figured I'd save on the heating bill if I ensconced myself under the duvet and gave it ago.

Not a good idea.

I have a piece of advice now;- which is tantamount to blurb and spoiler in its own way but the book and film are both out a while now so I hope not to infect anyone's brain too badly. I feel I must say it, out of fairness to Mr McCarthy and my reaction to his creation,that if you are having a grim, all the-bills-came-in-at-the-same-time week, and your newly-re-found addiction to cigarettes, penchant for Shakespearean theatre and desire to buy a daycent book, has left you with a less than adequate food budget; if your days have become so entirely without structure that you've evolved a sleeping pattern that does not necessarily involve much daylight; if you feel isolated and alone in a Godless universe, and all you can see around you is a planet in decay and a system that cannot save it: then , perhaps 'The Road' is not the book for you.

Now, it is good and I do recommend it under other circumstances. It's nice, it's quiet, it 'feels true'. Mr McCarthy does tend to use a little-used word every now and then, :'Canebrake' 'harrowtroughs' 'palladian' 'clerestory' 'cakebell' 'hasp' 'palimpsest' 'isocline' 'haspstaple' 'soffits' 'kerfs' 'rachitic' -( I just had a quick flick back through the pages and picked out words that I don't know right now) but that's part of the power of the thing.

Just on words; the dialogue is sparse and never placed in "inverted commas" which suits the 'bare bones' feeling of the story, but one exchange that I personally found didn't scan, was when the dislocated and and dispossessed boy (who has no concept of where Mars is, or what 'the crow flies' means, or what a train sounds like,) arrives at the sea, which he's never seen and later comments to his father: " I couldn't hear you. I couldn't hear you because of the surf"

Which made me think: "How come he knows what 'Surf' is?"

Okay I found that bit now, and upon reflection it could be what the father says to son. This is why inverted commas are handy.

Anyhoo, there's my ten cents 'orth on 'The Road'. I wont say I enjoyed it, and it's possible I'm just too ignorant to appreciate it. It made me feel two things: hungry, and distrustful of strangers.

At no time did I struggle to look away.

Fathercrow has referred to an alternative cover in his comment,
this is the one he's talking about:


  1. I found that book on a library shelf once, well before the film adaption, though, maybe around the time No Country for Auld Fellas was doing the rounds.

    I must have picked McCarthy's name up subconciously, it was all twisted right up in there with all that ambient cultural static, registering just enough that it made me notice of his name on a book spine, but not enough to make me realise why and where i knew the name from.

    I remember thinking he was a Irish writer and i was indulging in Irish authors at the time, anway i picked up the book.

    I then read the overhype and squeal on the cover flaps and determined to put the book back on the shelf, because i really hate that sort of guff.

    I changed my mind when i saw how sparse the text was, how big the print was, and, how thin the book was, besides it was raining and i had some time to kill.

    So i started into it rattled through a good three quarters of it and then decided that i really did'nt care overly for the man and the kid, their dystopic trip to the seaside could wait for another day, and, back to the shelf i put it, knowing all to well that i would never bother to finish it.

    I have watched the movie though,and, that seems to fit fairly well with what i had read, the tone and temper of it all is resolutely dour and ashen, and, at times,terrifying. So it seems pretty faithful to the book.

    I suppose that some people will complain that its not their personal picture of a dystopian hell on earth(personally, i pictured Tom Hanks in the lead and the wee one from the krankies as the boy)but thats a given moat with any movie adaption.

    Make sure and post a film review if you get around to viewing it.

    I meant to ask you when you were posting about dystopic novels a while back, have you ever read 'In the Country of Last Things' by Paul Auster?

    Its sitting on a library shelf available to read but i don't know if i'm all that bothered, the host of fullsome praises clustered on the covers are really putting me off.

    A dystopic top ten, anyone?

  2. Personally, McCarthy's one of my favourite writers, and yes, that damn cover is completely appalling. My copy is a little better, link after the waffle.

    However McCarthy's best book, "Blood Meridian" seems to no longer be available, at least in Dublin bookshops. which is most likely because his writing style is so different in this book, more "old testament" crossed with Clint Eastwood as bigot on pcp. One of the best books of the 20th century for my money, in fact when I was reading it, I illustrated my copy with the characters as I was reading it.

    Something I've done with no other book.

    Sorry for the long link:,r:4,s:0&tx=40&ty=61

  3. In fact, Blood Meridian as a meditation on what hatred can do to a man, gives Moby Dick a run for its money.

    And if you want unfamiliar words, its the motherload, makes Will Self look like a monosylabic marsupial (sorry have a bad case of alliteration today)

    Peace and Hope


  4. Alliterate away, but I think you comment might be taken to infer that marsupials command a more limited vocabulary than their mammalian cousins: a point of view which I have to admit I find positively anti-antipodean; I'm all for equal marsupial rights me.
    Peruse 'The truth about Kangaroos and Dogs' May 2010 on this blog for evidence of pro -marsupial leanings.