I finished Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" this afternoon. Nevermind the terrible cover, the book's amazing. There are no chapter breaks, only double spaces between sections. The prose is stark -- in most cases McCarthy's sentences make Hemingway's writing look wordy and overcooked. My intention was to pick up the book from time to time but it didn't work out like that. I got 70 pages in yesterday and then sped through the rest today. Yes, the story's setting is unceasingly bleak, but it feels important; elemental. McCarthy assigns no character names to his two main characters, referring to them only as "the man" and "the boy". This minimalism, combined with a litany of stripped down sentences appearing to give little more than the basic facts of the story, gives the impression that "The Road" isn't just a story, but one of The Stories.
The man and the boy, a father and son, walk down a road pushing a shopping cart filled with their belongings. A nuclear war years ago killed off most everyone else. Nuclear winter obscures the sun and food exists only as what the first wave of scroungers. Though they're mostly on their own, the biggest threat to their existence, aside from starvation, are other people, many of whom have been driven to cannibalism by the scarcity of food. Harrowing throughout, but damn riveting. Not a moment of this book seemed off-key to me, but many parts were illuminating and nightmarish at the same time. I thought at various times while reading the book, "Would people really do that to one another?, but then again, of course they would. When a Mahdi army soldier in Iraq boasts to a reporter a month ago about how he uses a drill on the skulls of his live victims, how can a sane person underestimate the depravity humans are capable of? This is how the end of the world could very well look and its sobering and moving. The ending of the book is brilliantly done and makes perfectly clear from a technical standpoint why the crushing despair that preceded it was necessary. Emotionally, the ending's a wrecking ball. Anyway, it's damn good stuff and I reccomend it.
In somewhat related news, tonight Bush gave his speech trying to justify sending an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq. Did anyone else watch this? Was it just me or did it seem like he was bringing his Texas ranch-hand accent down a few notches to make himself seem like less of an asshole? Anyone think it'll work?