Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tomorrow… Together

April A-to-Z: must-read books

The Road (2006)
by Cormac McCarthy
(1933-) USA

People have called this novel “the most depressing book I couldn’t put down.”

It is dystopian to the very max. A man and his son are on a mission to survive against all odds as the very biosphere of the Earth appears to be shutting down. It is largely seen as a very simple story, perhaps even a love story, between father and son.

But I believe there is something extremely critical happening here. I believe that McCarthy looks at the human circumstance as I do: That we humans are a doomed creature; doomed at the genetic level with all of our current global threats simple manifestations of this necessary flaw (basically our greatly misunderstood slavery to instinct) BUT… with the marvelous and severely under-developed miracle of consciousness our only hope to pull survival out of the jaws of extinction. I’m sure I could write an entire book on my reasoning for all of this by the way. I have studied this for years.

I’m going to give you a hint: I believe that the man represents instinct and the boy represents consciousness. Keep that in mind and apply it especially, to the ending. It says something profound. I won’t give away anything else – and by the way – I fully admit that I could easily be mistaking applicability for intent. McCarthy for all I know might be scratching his head if reading this. Regardless, I’m sure that he is at least commenting on our species chances of survival, and not just the chances for these two characters.

The writing is brilliantly precise. Every word is perfect, every sentence powerful.

This is simply a must-read book for any adult; perhaps fathers especially. Stock up on kleenex.

A passage:

They came upon him shuffling along the road before them, dragging one leg slightly and stopping from time to time to stand stooped and uncertain before setting out again.

What should we do Papa?

We’re all right. Let’s just follow and watch.

Take a look, the boy said.

Yes. Take a look.

They followed him a good ways but at his pace they were losing the day and finally he just sat in the road and did not get up again. The boy hung on to his father’s coat. No one spoke. He was as burntlooking as the country, his clothing scorched and black. One of his eyes was burnt shut and his hair was but a nitty wig of ash upon his blackened skull. As they passed he looked down. As if he’d done something wrong. His shoes were bound up with wire and coated with roadtar and he sat there in silence, bent over in his rags. The boy kept looking back. Papa? He whispered. What is wrong with the man?

He’s been struck by lightning.

Can we help him? Papa?

No. We can’t help him.

The boy kept pulling at his coat. Papa? He said.

Stop it.

Can’t we help him Papa?

No. We can’t help him. There’s nothing to be done for him.

They went on. The boy was crying. He kept looking back. When they got to the bottom of the hill the man stopped and looked at him and looked back up the road. The burned man had fallen over and at that distance you couldn’t even tell what it was. I’m sorry, he said. But we have nothing to give him. We have no way to help him. I’m sorry for what happened to him but we can’t fix it. You know that, don’t  you? The boy stood looking down. He nodded his head. They went on and he didn’t look back again.


Sandy said...

Think I have to agree with the others, it sounds horribly depressing. There's always something you can do, if nothing more then give a person a smile, chat with him a minute.

Sandy at Bridge and Beyond

Stephen Tremp said...

I sentiment Sandy's comment. Always something positive one can do.

Stephen Tremp
A to Z Co-host
T is for Telepathy, Telekinesis, and Teleportation

Fantasy Writer Guy said...

Ha! Your comments mystified me for a moment, then I realized, of course... they're taking this scene completely out of context. The environment in which this scene takes place is nothing like the society we live in at all.

There is no food, no medical care, nothing to chat or smile about, very few people left alive and no organized structures but for slavery and cannibalism which makes every human encounter riddled with peril.

And what is far more horrible and depressing then this book is the circumstances of our world now. A world where our avoidance of depressing thoughts are exactly what will make the above scene become reality. We are a ferociously horrendously irresponsible society; a thousand times more so than we speculate in our most courageous moments.

Our pursuits of happiness are dull and illusory while there is tremendous joy in grasping reality though so few ever do. And I speak from experience, not speculation.