aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

The Road - a must read

Cormac McCarthy has won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. I've never read any of his books before, put off in part, perhaps, because I feared they would be too literary.

I just finished The Road. It's set slightly in the future, after some cataclysmic event has reduced the world to a few survivors fighting over the scraps of what's left. A father and his son are travelling to the coast along old roads, hoping to find something better there. What a marvelous book! If that's the right word for a book stripped nearly bare of hope, not to mention adjectives and adverbs. It's a great book for a writer, because you can learn just by reading it. It gets under your skin in so many ways.

Like take this portion of a paragraph. I think about using rhythm to make a point, to follow long sentences with a short one that serves almost as an exclamation point:
"Then they walked out to the road and he took the boy's hand and they went to the top of the hill where the road crested and where they could see out over the darkening country to the south, standing there in the wind, wrapped in their blankets, watching for any sign of a fire or a lamp. There was nothing."

Or look at this example of an adjective - shoddy - used as a noun. "In those first years the roads were peopled with refugees shrouded up in their clothing. Wearing masks and goggles, sitting in their rags by the side of the road like ruined aviators. Their barrows heaped with shoddy."

He doesn't use apostrophes for common contractions - so it's "doesnt" - and he doesn't attribute dialog much - it's usually only the two of them - and the dialog is stripped down with very little but the words coming out of their mouths.

Tell me.
The boy looked down the road.
I want you to tell me. It's okay.
He shook his head.
Look at me, the man said.
He turned and looked. He looked like he'd been crying.
Just tell me.
We wouldnt ever eat anybody, would we?
No. Of course not.
Even if we were starving?
We're starving now.
You said we werent.
I said we werent dying. I didnt say we werent starving.
But we wouldnt.
No. We wouldnt.
No matter what
Because we're the good guys.
And we're carrying the fire.
And we're carrying the fire. Yes.

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