Cormac McCarthy – The Road

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In 2008 I picked up a copy of The Road and I hated it. In fact I didn’t even finish it. I found it boring and repetitive, a book that was aimless.

One thing I learnt from the 1001 books challenge I undertook from 2010 to 2012 is that a reread is very good at changing a perspective and so I kept The Road for that moment when I would pick it up again, or to be more specific, fate did, as I have a TBR jar.

Last weekend the jar chose it and despite some initial dread, I started to read it and was hooked. I just love it when a book absorbs me to such an extent that I’m trying to sneak a couple of pages when possible.

The story itself takes place in a post apocalyptic land where a father and his son are travelling down a road in order to settle in a better climate. This wasteland is desolate. Most houses are pillaged, grocery stores have been ransacked and there are people just hunting to destroy both humans and materials.

However the real story is the bond between the father and son, how the son trusts his father, no matter the situation. It seems that this boy is the only beacon of honesty in a corrupt world; he wants to share his rations, he gets upset when people are killed and throughout the whole book he constantly wants reassurance that they are the good guys and that his father will take care of him. Does the father reciprocate his son’s love? in some ways he does in other ways, especially food, he tends to put himself before while his son is completely selfless.

Unlike Blood Meridian or All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy’s typical descriptions of physical violence are toned down, with two disturbing scenes but the obstacles encountered while the father and son are undertaking their quest is cruel in itself, ranging from freakish storms to battling crippling hunger.

Cormac McCarthy knows how to make something ugly into a beautiful read. At times the dialogue is poetic, sometimes the descriptions of snow falling are realistic and not to mention the suffering the two protagonists undergo just prove that McCarthy knows how to make words stir emotions, and just wait until the ending.

Although the term is used a lot (and I fall victim to this) I really can’t say anything else other than that The Road is a true masterpiece of post modern fiction.

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Book 787 Cormac McCarthy – Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

One thing I am so sick and tiring of reading is the violence in Blood Meridian. True this is a book with a high body count but I see it as McCarthy’s way of telling us that the desert is a brutal place with no morals and full of savagery. It’s not  violence for the sake of it.

The book starts off with the main character (called the kid) running away from his house and travelling to Mexico. On the way he gets arrested and his only way of escape is to join a gang of scalp hunters, led by  The Judge.

The Judge has got to be one of the most fearsome literary characters ever invented. A man with his own code of morality , he kills and destroys life and yet he records the things he’s never seen in a notebook, and he adopts a mentally defective child on his journey with the scalp hunters.

Like All the Pretty Horses , McCarthy’s desert is full of nasty surprises and a certain ugliness assaults one wherever you go. Whether it is an army of blood thirsty Indians or a bear, danger is everywhere and the troop of  scalp hunters will stop at no cost to get their precious pound of hair filled flesh, even killing their own team in the process.

Yes this is a big ugly book , but McCarthy’s poetic descriptions just elevate it to another plateau. There’s even a cinematic quality to the writing, however unless it’s Alejandro Jodrowsky, I can’t really imagine anyone else trying to adapt Blood Meridian.

Book 875 Cormac McCarthy – All the Pretty Horses

My first attempt at reading Cormac McCarthy was not a good one. I had picked up The Road three years ago and I didn’t like it at all. However I was curious to see if all of his books are über negative, cruel pieces of work. When I finished All the Pretty Horses, my opinion on McCarthy changed somewhat.

It’s 1949 and Texan born and bred John Grady Cole is sixteen and has lost the ranch he loves and misses out on an inheritance. A s a result he decides to, along with his best friend Rawlins decides to move to Mexico (on Horseback) and start a new life there working as cowboys.

As they cross the border they are accompanied by another teenager called Blevins and from there onwards they discover that the wide open desert is a sinister place which is cruel and unforgiving and yet has moments of kindness. During the course of their stay in Mexico these three characters ;  fall in love, get killed, imprisoned and are banished back to their homelands and learn about themselves in the process.

You could say this is a coming of age story of sorts or maybe even a criticism on social class. Even one on politics. Although McCarthy is not writer who makes his makes his symbolism obvious, it’s up  for you to figure out what the books is about.

Which leads us to my opinion of the book itself. I loved it.  The story, writing style, characters. It’s a perfect novel and one that will haunt you. It is cruel and even violent but McCarthy writes with such panache that you are in awe of the power of his pen. Now I can see why he is considered one of America’s best writers.