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The Road by Cormac McCarthy

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Alan
Posted on Wednesday, October 03, 2007 - 07:14 pm:   

Lucius:

I was wondering what you thought of The Road. Yeah I know its on Oprah's list and everyone is reading it for their book groups, but nevertheless I thought it was significant and powerful. And I don't usualy like Cormac McCarthy.

I think one of the things it was about is objectification -- the inclination of people to treat other people merely as a means to an end -- something common in sexual behavior as well as economic relationships. To consume other people like commodities, as most of the people in the Road literally consume other human beings. I.e., the near-universal violation of Kant's categorical imperative, written in stark, unmistakeable terms.

I also thought the book is about being a father, and the compulsion to protect your child at all costs (amazingly lacking, I think, in lots of folks, like the people that eat their own babies in The Road).

I also think it is about the difference between being what in Jewish is called a "mensch" (which means literally, "person" or "human being") and an animal, and how few mensches there may be out there if conditions are bad enough.

Did you like it, and what did you think it was about?
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, October 03, 2007 - 10:16 pm:   

I don't read like that, Alan, thinking about what a book's about, When I read for pleasure, I let a book impact me and don't really analyze it, so I'd say it was about the end of human life. When I read writers like McCarthy and Denis Johnson and so on, I read with an eye toward techinque, looking for tricks I can use. That said, I'm a big fan of McCarthy's early stuff, Suttree, the Orchard Keeper, etc. I didn't much care for the Road. It seemed to me Cormac McCarthy lite. His ferocious existentialiism seemed turned into a comic book simplicity. I know it's one of five trunk novels he's planning to release and I thought that showed. Truthfully, I read about seventy pages and didn't finish it. I felt it was very cynical, a book written for money (which he deserves), and for me it lacked the depth, the striking imagery, and was McCarthy doing an uninspired riff on his Old Testament voice. Yeah, it was about those things you said, but people have done it better. An example? Keith Robert's post-apocalyptic short stories. I don't think they've been collected in this country.

Anyway, that's my take.
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Alan
Posted on Monday, October 08, 2007 - 06:02 pm:   

Lucius: When you say "trunk novels" -- is that a series McCarthy is doing, or does it mean something like "novels you take out of your trunk when you run out of ideas"? I will look for Keith Roberts; have not heard of him?
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, October 08, 2007 - 07:00 pm:   

By trunk novel, I mean one he removed from his trunk, written some time ago.
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Michele
Posted on Monday, October 08, 2007 - 07:49 pm:   

Unrelenting bleakness doesn't appeal to me, so I decided not read The Road, despite having read and enjoyed other post-apocalyptic books.

I thought some of you might be interested in a non-fiction, speculative book I came across yesterday, The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman. "If a virulent virus or even the Rapture depopulated Earth overnight, how long before all trace of humankind vanished?" This sounds intriguing to me, both from an sf point of view as well as an environmental point of view.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, October 08, 2007 - 08:21 pm:   

Yeah, it's a cool book. I really dug it.
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Marguerite Reed
Posted on Saturday, December 01, 2007 - 03:23 pm:   

Ah! Nice to see other people not mindlessly lauding this book.
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William Preston
Posted on Sunday, December 02, 2007 - 05:06 am:   

I liked it plenty at the time, but recently my oldest daughter asked me which book to read, *The Road* or *No Country for Old Men*, and I realized the clear superiority of the latter.

And, though this is something of a spoiler, Lucius, it turns out that the book wasn't as cynical as it seems to be at the start. Quite the contrary, I'd say.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, December 07, 2007 - 04:38 pm:   

I'd read Suttree and leave the other two on the shelf.
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William Preston
Posted on Friday, December 07, 2007 - 04:51 pm:   

I'll give it a look-see. Thanks. (Didn't like *No Country* either?)
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, December 07, 2007 - 05:10 pm:   

Well, I thought it was a bit of a potboiler. Most of latter-day McCarthy doesn't impress me nearly as much as books like Suttree, The Orchard Keeper, Blood Meridian from his prime....

I just saw the movie again and really think its flawed. Not a great movie. A great movie can't have extraneous characters (woody harrelson) in it, for ome thing.
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William Preston
Posted on Saturday, December 08, 2007 - 05:19 pm:   

I haven't seen the film, but I'd hesitate to make a flat-out "no extraneous characters" argument as a bar to greatness (and perhaps they don't see him as extraneous). In any case, I'll have to read the earlier McCarthy and see how that reshapes my opinions on his work.

Cheers.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, December 08, 2007 - 05:34 pm:   

"..and perhaps they don't see him as extraneous"

Well, they were wrong. :-)

Structurally, it's a big mistake.

You may not like the early stuff, but it's for sure not as driven by a concern to comply with pop cultural notions of profundity as evidenced by post-apocalyptic scenarios and serial killers...
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Alan
Posted on Tuesday, December 25, 2007 - 06:25 pm:   

Nonsequitur: Has anyone read The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield? I was thinking of buying it, for some reason I can no longer recall.

Regarding the road again, I read in Natural History magazine that there is strong evidence of a comet hit in North America 14,000 years ago that cause widespread fires, resulting in death by starvation of the Clovis civilization and the north american megafauana. I think that THe Road depicts such an event, not a post-nuclear scenario.

14,000 years ago is a temporal near miss in geologic time. We got lucky, so far.
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Aajiv
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Username: Aajiv

Post Number: 4
Registered: 12-2009
Posted on Saturday, December 26, 2009 - 04:54 pm:   

" It seemed to me Cormac McCarthy lite."

The Road.
Being an almost 60 year reader of modern science fiction I was somewhat gobsmacked when a friend of mine wrote me to say a science fiction novel that had won a Pulitzer in 2006.
I knew of McCarthy but never read any.
So read Blood Meridian and was poleaxed!
Read The Road, and found out that this SCIENCE FICTION novel did not even make the Hugo ballot the year it was qualified.
Queried several respected FAN friends, they did not like the novel.
I liked THE Road , and don't (personal opinion) consider it 'lite' just 'different' .... but then I did not know what to say ... my fifty years of honed science fiction inclinations (with Theodore Sturgeon my favorite author ).... cast to the winds.... no way to argue.
Alas I feel some parallel universe passed SF fandom to elsewhere and I stand bumfuzzled.
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Lucius
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Username: Lucius

Post Number: 8126
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Saturday, December 26, 2009 - 07:23 pm:   

I liked early McCarthy, Suttree, Blood Meridian, etc, but haven't dug his later work, All The Pretty Horses, No COuntry, the Road.

Thought the movie bit, too.

I don't pay attention to the SF Awards even when I'm nominated.
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Aajiv
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Username: Aajiv

Post Number: 5
Registered: 12-2009
Posted on Sunday, December 27, 2009 - 03:01 pm:   

"I don't pay attention to the SF Awards even when I'm nominated."

You stand in good company , P.A.M. Dirac and Richard Feynman both considered turning down their Nobel Prizes)(did not want to face the press or the media noise... they both realized by doing so they would attract more attention, they gave in to pragmatism ...)(I think, one can not refuse a Nobel, I guess you could burn the check and sell the medal!)
However one can refuse a Knighthood, (I did not know that!) which Dirac did in the 1950's. Which leads me to recommend the biography:
The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom by Graham Farmelo out this year. The three greatest physics magicians of 20th century were Einstein, Dirac and Feynman...

(By the by Lucius , if that is really you, we met at some convention somewhere , where I told you that I had cut and pasted some of your film reviews into Google Groups (a useless exercise),
and that had had irritated some people, you said good!, that left a positive impression on me.
Al
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Lucius
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Username: Lucius

Post Number: 8128
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Sunday, December 27, 2009 - 03:35 pm:   

Who else would it be?
r
Ballard tuned down a knighthood...in fact the list of those who've turned it down is far more impressive than the one of those who have accepted.
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Aajiv
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Username: Aajiv

Post Number: 6
Registered: 12-2009
Posted on Friday, January 01, 2010 - 08:07 am:   

The Road engendered some interesting film reviews.... just two examples ...Roger Ebert and A.O. Scott...felt McCarthy's prose framing of the story overwhelmed John Hillcoat and Joe Penhall's adaptation.
I remember seeing the film attempts at Ulysses and Finnegans Wake and thinking "some prose is just not adaptable".
Todd Field has Blood Meridian in production hell right now I see no escape!


"When you've nothing else construct ceremonies out of the air and breathe upon them."
Cormac McCarthy (The Road)
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Lucius
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Username: Lucius

Post Number: 8129
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Friday, January 01, 2010 - 10:37 am:   

I felt it was just a dead bore...but then I didn't finish the book. It wasn't McCarthy's best work.

When you nothing else to say invent bullshit out of the air and make it sound profound.
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Aajiv
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Username: Aajiv

Post Number: 7
Registered: 12-2009
Posted on Monday, January 11, 2010 - 04:39 am:   

"Glanton and the judge sought them out. A rude tent thrown up out of an old tarp. A sign said: See The Wild Man Two Bits. They passed behind the wagonsheet within a crude cage of paloverde pole crouched a naked imbecile. The floor of the cage was littered with filth and trodden food and flies clambered about everywhere. The idiot was small and misshapen and his face was smeared with feces and he sat peering at the them with dull hostility silently chewing a turd."
--Cormac McCarthy ...(Blood Meridian)

That better?
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Lucius
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Username: Lucius

Post Number: 8141
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Monday, January 11, 2010 - 07:26 am:   

My favorite McCarthy book is Suttree and one of my favorite pieces of writing is the opening of that book, the description of water beneat h a bridge, et al. IMO, Blood Meridian stands a bit behind Suttree and The Orchard Keeper, but it's very effective and contains some breathtaking imagery.
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Aajiv
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Username: Aajiv

Post Number: 8
Registered: 12-2009
Posted on Saturday, January 23, 2010 - 10:16 am:   

Got Suttree, dang! you are right. Bout to the end, McCarthy is a gifted writer. Will have to get The Orchard Keeper now.
All can say is as great as Suttree is ... don't find it trumping Blood Meridian.
Have read that novel twice and am still blown away by it, and have yet to figure it out.
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Lucius
Moderator
Username: Lucius

Post Number: 8151
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Saturday, January 23, 2010 - 08:06 pm:   

I just think Blood Meridian is a comic book done as a literary novel. Suttree is straight-up literary.

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