Book Review: The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

thHey everybody! I hope everybody is well! Just thought I’d check in and post a book review. I am forming the outline for a new novel. Hopefully, this one will be a little more readable. Hey, I’m learning as I go.

I recently read The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. I have to admit, I had pretty high expectations going into this one. I had been told, by many people, that this book is a masterpiece. I had also been told that the book is profoundly bleak and depressing, moving. And, as a lover of post-apocalyptic fiction, Mad Max: Fury Road being the finest film ever made, I was eager to finally read this instant classic.

Oi. I’m terribly sorry. Maybe I’m not smart. Maybe I’m not cultured enough. Maybe I didn’t get it. But I am here to tell you: I found this book to be profoundly mediocre. Don’t get me wrong, there were some good things in it, but I also had some serious problems with it.

Here’s the plot, in a very brief nutshell: A father and his young son walk down the remains of the western United States, southwards, towards Cormac never says where, after some catastrophic, society-destroying apocalypse. They look for food and hide from bandits. Yup, that’s about it. I know that harrowing tales of survival can be compelling, but, seriously, that’s about it.

Here’s the good stuff: The descriptive narrative is actually very well written. McCarthy does a fantastic job of painting a brilliant mental picture. You really can feel yourself in the story. The action moves along well enough, with a few spots of pausing for contemplative situations. McCarthy’s command of the English language, and his penchant for poetry, is quite strong.

Here are the problems I had with the book: Remember my synopsis I wrote a couple of paragraphs above? Seriously, that’s all that happens. As a reader, you do care about what happens to the father and son, and you root for them, but there is literally nothing in the way of character development at all. They walk, say they are scared, they look for food, they hide from bandits. They say ‘okay’ a lot. That is seriously about it. Now, I know full well that I am no literary genius, but you’ve got to give us something! But it gets worse: You never, ever get to find out what caused the collapse of civilization. I get it, McCarthy did not feel that relevant to the plot, but at least give me something! Nuclear war? A terrible plague? Four more years of Trump?

Ultimately though, here’s the biggest problem I had with the book: McCarthy, being the genius that brought us No Country For Old Men, which had all the closure of the Mueller Report, did not feel, when he wrote The Road, that he needed to follow basic rules of grammar. Like punctuation. I’m serious. When the father and son have a conversation, which usually consists of dialogue saying how scared and hungry they are, McCarthy does not bother with quotation marks. Not kidding. So when the dialogue gets longer than a few exchanged lines, you actually lose track of who is saying what. Also, McCarthy leaves out the apostrophe of contracted words. For example, he writes the word ‘won’t’ as ‘wont.’ Or ‘didn’t’ as ‘didnt.’ I found this odd and confusing. I honestly thought Maria and I were reading an unpublished draft copy or something. I don’t know if McCarthy’s choice to do this was because it’s considered meta, or avant garde, or if Cormac McCarthy is just too good to be bothered with proper grammar, but it got kind of distracting.

So there you go. I know I will probably get some flak for this, but I found the novel to be underwhelming. Maybe if I did not have the preconceived notions before I read the book, I might have enjoyed it more, but I really did not get it. I don’t know, maybe it’s me. Feel free to set me straight.

I understand the book was made into a film, with Aragorn from Lord of the Rings playing the father. They filmed extensively around the ruins of Mt. St. Helens. That’s kind of cool, I guess.

Anyway, just thought I’d post my thoughts. The next review I’ll post is Stephen King’s The Outsider. You’ve heard of Stephen King. He writes the scary stuff. Well, feel free to tell me if I’m off base with my review, and I hope that everybody is having a great 2019.  Bye for now!


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