Quantcast

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Road: Sparse but Stunning, Bleak but Beautiful

What's the bleakest, most depressing book you've ever read?  If you've meandered down Cormac McCarthy's The Road, chances are it's in your top 5. I read the book about a year ago, and was absolutely blown away by the beauty of the prose, and the bleakness of McCarthy's vision.

For those unfamiliar, the novel is about a father and son (simply called The Man and The Boy) trying to survive a post-nuclear world, dodging roving gangs for whom desperation has led to cannibalism. The goal of The Man and The Boy is simple: "to keep carrying the fire," to remain good in a slowly dying world that is increasingly debauched. The book is really about what happens when humanity is boiled down to its essence, when all notion of culture and decorum is removed. A father's love for his son remains, and love, therefore, must be the source of hope. Otherwise, humanity and decency decay into chaos.

I've hated everything I'd ever read by McCarthy, including Blood Meridian and The Border Trilogy, and only read The Road because it was short, it had won the Pulitzer Prize, and I'd heard it was different than most of McCarthy's other work. It is, and then some, and I absolutely loved it!

I write about this now, because earlier this week, I went to see the movie-ization of The Road, starring Viggo Mortensen. Putting real, concrete images to the bleakness of McCarthy's story certainly had its pros and cons. The landscapes in the movie, gray and lifeless, were beautifully rendered. But several of the more shocking scenes in the novel were even more frightening on the big screen, making me, at least, just incredibly uncomfortable. Even though it takes some intestinal fortitude to enjoy the movie, enjoy it I did. Mortensen is his usual brilliant self, and the child prodigy actor, Kodi Smit-McPhee, who plays The Boy is pretty solid, also. And, for the ladies, there are the usual Viggo Mortensen gratuitous nude shots -- though, thankfully, they don't rival the naked knife fight scene in Eastern Promises. Sweet Lord, that scene scarred me deeply! ;)

Have you read The Road, or seen the movie?  What were your impressions?

16 comments:

  1. Just found your blog. The Road's on my list of reads that I haven't gotten around to just yet. It's sitting on my bookshelf collecting dust at the moment. I'll have to read it before I watch the movie though. Hope you enjoyed the holidays.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey, 'rico! Thanks for the follow -- and the comment. Yeah, pull down The Road, it's fantastic. Happy holidays to you and your family, too! --GZ

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Road is the only Cormac McCarthy book that I've ever read(most of his others just don't appeal to me)and it's beautifully bleak writing. I'm sure the movie is well done but in no hurry to see that-the way I saw the book in my head was mind chilling enough for me.

    As for that scene in Eastern Promises,I thought it was pretty badass and good,too:D

    ReplyDelete
  4. The Road remains in my top 3 most favourite books of all time. I won't be seeing the movie, I want to keep the book as pure in my mind as possible. :0)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I know, right? I cry just thinking about it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm still up in the air as to whether or not I want to read this one. Just not sure it is a good fit for me.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I loved this book. I found it to be a wonderful story about the love between a father and a son and to what lengths that bond can be stretched but never broken. They were, for eachother, the reason to go on living. This book, as bleak and horrible as it was, was a "love" story between the father and the son.

    I saw the movie on Christmas and while they added some elements and changed the order of a few minor things I found it to be beautiful to watch. The movie was wonderfully framed and kept my attention the whole time even though I knew everything that would happen.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I picked this up in the bookstore and read the first 20 pages or so and it's stayed with me since - I'm kicking myself for not buying but I will. I'll avoid the movie til I've read the book, I always prefer the book! :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I tried reading it a month or so ago, and just couldn't get into the writing style. But I keep hearing so many great things about it that I plan on giving it another shot in 2010.

    ReplyDelete
  10. i loved this book too, and is the only cormac mccarthy book i've ever read. i really loved the language, i thought it was powerful and unique. i'm looking forward to the movie as i love viggo mortensen (eastern promises is one of my favourite movies of all time :-)). I'm glad to hear the adaption is a good one!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Loved the book; have yet to see the movie. But I am looking forward to it!

    ReplyDelete
  12. First of all I want to tell you that every time I come to your blog I find something I want to read. This is now going on the top of my TBR pile for sure. I have a strong fascination with post-apocalyptic survival stories. I have loved them sense I read The Giver as a child. Thank you for the review and keep them coming!!!

    www.geebsbookclub.blogspot.com

    P.S. Happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm with you on this one. Not a huge McCarthy fan, but my son and a friend strongly encouraged me to read it and I loved it. Blown away to be quite honest. I put this on my blog as well and would be interested in your take. http://onebookoneweekoneyear.blogspot.com/2009/06/book-six-road-by-cormac-mccarthy.html

    Glad to hear you like the movie since I was a bit nervous about it. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I think I need to read this book. I'm afraid, though, that it'll give me a hankering for all things gray and gooey.

    This year, though, this year. :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi! My first time here, and I've been spending half an hour reading through your posts or following your links. It's a wonderful blog.

    I haven't read The Road yet, either, though I truly intend to this year. The only McCarthy I've read was No Country for Old Men. I found that truly disturbing, though it was one of the best books I read last year.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Finally come to check out this post!
    It's weird, because, while I agree with everything you say, my reactions to the exact same things were different. I found the book so bleak (which is a great word for it, by the way) that it turned to boring.
    While in the movie there were several scenes that did end up being more frightening, which helped me to really get into it more.
    I'm always amazed how people can have different reactions to the exact same thing, even if that thing is a thought.
    What did you think of the Coca Cola scene in the movie? I've read lots of things about it seeming far too much like product placement, which took away from the tenderness that was felt in the book. I disagree, though, as I thought the scene translated well. I'd be curious to hear what you think.
    And whoa, I think I had blocked out that knife scene from Eastern Promises, but now it is coming back full force.

    ReplyDelete