22 September 2009

Cormac McCarthy: The Road




In anticipation of the new film with Viggo Mortensen, possibly the finest man ever to exist (actor, poet, multilinguist and craggy beauty - ooft), and because of my love for all things American or rather americana I bought this on one of my forays into the big smoke. I'd read 'All the Pretty Horses' and 'The Orchard Keeper' and various others and loved the wide, sweeping images of the States and, of course, anything with cowboys and horses is generally good. Fact. I even liked the movie 'No Country for Old Men', although found Javier Bardem's role as a Wild West Uncle Fester somewhat bemusing and unfortunately hilarious.




'The Road', as my mother would say, is a different kettle of fish. It is clearly a McCarthy book - those staccato rhythms, glaucous images of nature and monosyllabic characters all stand out as his trademarks - but the subject matter (a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by fire) is something new. His nameless characters in a featureless landscape managed to evince such emotion from yours truly that I spent two hours wandering around the streets of Stirling thinking the world had ended. It is, admittedly, quite easy to do this in Stirling, being as it is a semi-wilderness, but it is the kind of book any writer would give their teeth to get close to creating.




Now any book I read after seems clumsy, pretentious and longwinded. Strangely when I started 'The Road' I though his habit of piling up short sentences was to be his downfall, but the build up of tension obviously works as I could not put the book away. It is not often that you come away from a book feeling so entirely ravaged, wretched and yet strangely elated, and it shows a master at work when the cityscape you are trudging around is blurred out and you are left lost in a landscape straight out of a book. Very pleasing, in a way, and the best kind of escapism.




Can't wait for the film - of course there are shallow reasons, but one must never overlook ogling as a pointless pastime. Cormac McCarthy is probably the best American writer of his generation, all things considered, and now that he's captured the future of our human race so succintly as well as the past and present, he seems to have reached heights previously undisturbed.




The film also stars Guy Pearce and Charlize Theron. Checking out the cast list I notice a chap called Mark Tierno bagged the role of 'Baby Eater' - a clue as to what you might find on a post-apocalyptic menu.




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