Favorite Things, 2007: The Road
Some fifteen or so years ago, I read Cormac McCarthy's Suttree and found it such a strikingly perfect novel that I decided to refrain from reading any of his other books. Hey, I never claimed to have risen above juvenile idealism.
Last year, enough time had passsed that I felt up to risking disappointment, so I bought No Country For Old Men. I should have known better. The serial killer is the least interesting archetype in film or literature, and No Country For Old Men was no exception. I don't doubt The Stylin' Coen Brothers' ability to pull off a watchable adaptation. In terms of expectations and forgiveness, I'm generous with movies in a way I am not with books.
Because McCarthy is such a reclusive figure, I caught a portion of his interview with the doltish Queen Oprah. By that point, having read a few brief reviews, it was clear that those who read the The Road - my wife among them - were haunted by it. So, being a sucker for creepy, I reluctantly forgave the author for the fresh disappointment of No Country For Old Men and hit The Road.
I'm damn glad I did.
If people are reading books in five hundred years, assuming people or books exist at that inconceivably distant point, they will still be reading The Road.
McCarthy's economy with language, his sparse prose as vast as a desert sky, presents the reader with a post-apocalyptic landscape which is heartbreakingly real. Each page is saturated with the grief, despair and terror of a dying planet's last gasp. It is a testament to the author's sublime talent that he was capable of threading this agonizing tale with just enough love and hope to keep the pages turning at a breakneck pace. I was moved to tears by this book. It restored my faith in fiction.