Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Brian Says "Read 'The Road'"

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?


harwell said...

I didn't see the Bush speech but I tried to read it. I was doing pretty well until about the fourth or fifth paragraph when he brought up September 11th. I wonder: is it possible we will have a President this decade who actually understands that NO ONE has forgotten September 11th and that were not all stupid children who need to be reminded of it to promote their own political agendas??? Yeah, probably not.

Anyway, flipping through Maxim magazine and saw something of interest - there's a bar called Mulligan's in Decatur, GA that serves an entree called a "Hamdog." What they do is meld a hot dog and hamburger together, cook 'em up, put it in a bun and dump eggs, chili, and french fries on top. You gotta go try it, Crane! You could probably walk there and back to counter the massive caloric intake! It'll make a great topic to post about - and take pictures.

Anyway, thanks for the ringing endorsement of "The Road." Premise sounds awesome and quite different from what I'm familiar with from Cormac. I was thinking though, isn't it a little odd how much esteem the literary community seems to place upon minimalism now? You'd think the writer who shows the greatest ability to use ALL the language at his or her disposal would be crowned top dog (like Shakespear was?), but instead it's the guy who says the old man was an old man and the shark was a shark. Maybe I'm thinking about it wrongly, I dunno.

Anonymous said...

Okay Brian, there has to be something in between a picture that doesn't flatter your rugged good looks and a picture that makes you look so wild-eyed and crazy. don't you think?


blankfist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blankfist said...

I was watching the Daily Show just last night (or maybe it was the night before), and during 'Your Moment of Zen' they played a snippet of an interview where the reporter (can see his face, but cannot remember his name) said to Bush, "You're not popular right now." Bush replied almost with the first sign of human sadness in his eyes, "Yeah, I bet you're right." The reporter followed with, "Does that bother you at all?" And, in true Bush fashion, he slipped right back into his Texas arrogance with, "[chuckle] No, it does not."

Arrogant jerk.

Anyhow, the book sounds impressive, Crane. I dig stories like that. It seems you and I, moreso than the rest of our clique, see an innate evil in humans. I don't see it as pure evil, and I'm sure you don't either, but moreso a kind of complex set of reactions based on deep motives of survival which I tend to generalize as evil. You know, I was at the Museum of Tolerance on MLK Jr day, and I was going through the super informative Holocaust exhibit. They were making a very important point during their presentation, saying Germany was once a thriving, modern country, but after WWI they felt angered by their recent loss in the war and poverty spread quickly through the country. German's long hidden prejudice against the Jews resurfaced as they started to blame them for their poverty, and that soon morphed into Jews being of lesser intelligence than the Germans, and then ultimately of lesser health - a lesser species. They were seen as a plague that made the Germans weak, and the only way to rise again as a military strength was to cure themselves of this disease. The point, Germany was a modern, well-educated country, but somehow group think became the order of the day - and even when given the option without reprisal to walk away from killing the Jews (and I'm talking specifically about the men who pulled the triggers), not a single one of them stepped away. Not a one in the entire country. That's the sort of group think that scares me, because these men and women chose for their own personal survival to commit genocide. Were that many people evil?