Friday, January 8, 2010

The Road

This morning I finished The Road by Cormac McCarthy. My husband and son had read it and handed it over to me. It is indeed a bleak and yet beautiful book, as people had told me. The prose style is so compelling! It is not ostentatious in any way, but it makes use of both rare and precise words, something I love to see. And it is not as honey-heavy as Marilynne Robinson's prose style in Housekeeping or Gilead (Home is upcoming reading for me, too!), but it demands that same close attention. I like that in a prose style!

This year I will keep a list of books read in 2010, as a friend does, whose list I always enjoy. Also keeping a list of movies viewed, as the family loves to watch movies together and sometimes discuss them....sometimes just ponder and feel together but on our own. But if we have the movie in common, we can refer to it later in a conversation about human things. "It's like that scene in...," we can say.

My most recent Wow! film of the year is Synecdoche, New York. As with books, which I read eventually, I see movies when I can--often when they are available at the local library!

These two connect in an odd, bleak, and loving way. The devastation of the set at the end of SNY is like the devastation of the world in The Road. There is fear, rage, hatred--people are capable of doing appalling things to one another. And there is undeniable love, human connection. But SNY is also about making art. There, it seems like such a waste to harm or neglect one another for the sake of making art. I suppose whatever we are making, or doing, there is terrible waste in harming or neglecting one another. In The Road, everything we made or did turned out to harm us, or to waste our lives and damage our world.

Seems like we are in a turnaround now. We are paying close attention to the prose style of our lives.


Paul D. Brazill said...

I thought it was a pretty good book- very good in parts -a bit like Stephen King with the edges shaved off so they don't hurt you. A horror novel for people who don't like horror novels. The 'message' isn't so scary. The planet will die, people die. No shocker, is it? When the world ends mine's a pint!

John Guzlowski said...

I think I would add a couple of words to the message. The world does end, people do die, and we know that and still we need to do something.

Despite death, evil, war, suffering, despite the terror in the rain and the misery in the snow, despite the hatred even that we may feel for each other, we must care for each other, help each other.

It's the message of much great writing, and maybe my favorite example is from Eavan Boland's poem Quarantine:

In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking — they were both walking — north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

Kathleen said...

Thank you both.

John, I know that poem. Amazing.

The world will end, and everything matters. We can be kind to one another while we have one another.

And if we humans destroy ourselves (war, greed), the earth can survive and restore itself without us, as long as we don't do too much harm while we are here, something to consider.

Just as long as we don't kill off the ants. According to E. O. Wilson! The earth needs the ants, the work they do!

SarahJane said...

I thought The Road was very good. I passed it on to a friend, too. (I was less crazy about the Rick Bragg book!)

That's a gorgeous poem by Eavan Boland. I'd never read it.

Mike Peterson said...

Kathleen: I've had a colleague tell me to read "The Road", but instead of taking his advice, I took Nick Hornby's who wrote in "Shakespeare Wrote for Money," "why is it so good when a critic calls a novel 'unflinching'? Flinch, I say." I did see the movie, however.