Friday, June 4, 2010

On reading The Road

As you may already suspect, I am a voracious reader. I devour books with the fervour of a fat masterchef. What I don't do often enough is let them settle when I'm done. Digest. I scoff them down one after the other without thought for indigestion.

After having Cormac McCarthy's The Road staring at me from the bookcase (pantry) for over a year I finally took it from the shelf and read it. I'd heard all the talk about how horrifyingly bleak it was, but had (& have) not seen the film, so I came to it with a fresh palette so to speak.

I read The Road in 3 days, beginning it on the train to the
Emerging Writers Festival (which I'll blog about later). The writing style is plain and honest. The structure leads you into the story one paragraph at a time and keeps you reading. There are no chapters. The writer's use of "the man" and "the boy" is clever. By not assigning names and therefore fixed identities to these characters he has made them "every man" and "every boy"; representative of humankind.

The boy's constant need to be reasured that they are the "good guys" is understandable given his child's perspective. To survive in the face of such widespread devastation; the total breakdown of society, is a difficult, seemingly impossible, thing to do. In order to do it, lines must be crossed. There is no room for regret, for weighing the right and the wrong of a thing; action (& sometimes inaction) is primal; instinctive.

What sustains "the man" is not the food they manage to find along the road, nor is it the gun he carries. What sustains him, what motivates him to keep going, is his love for "the boy". Though he is forced to face the very vilest parts of mankind, both within himself and in other people, it is humanity - the goodness of it - that makes survival possible. The human spirit needs a reason to fight; needs something worth fighting for. Without it, why would we bother, when it's much easier to give up.

When I'd finished reading
The Road I chose another book from the shelf, but I found I didn't want to start it just yet. If we don't ever allow ourselves to feel hungry, how can we ever fully appreciate what we eat.

I have found that The Road is a meal best digested slowly; thoughtfully.