23 April 2007

Foulweather... On 'The Road'

The above illustration is by Viktor Koen and accompanied the New York Times' review of 'The Road'.

William Burroughs once wrote, 'Life is an entanglement of lies to hide its basic mechanisms.' I refer to this quote frequently as it seems to me, worthwhile art should either be a celebration of these 'basic mechanisms' or an expose of the 'entanglement of lies.'

Cormac McCarthy's 'Blood Meridian' is one of my favourite novels. A re-writing of the American West and the war with Mexico. It is brutal and bloody and dense in vivid imagery. 'Blood Meridian' is McCarthy exposing the entanglement of lies that the American West was fought and conquered with.

When I opened 'The Road,' I was expecting the same but in a post-apocalyptic setting. However, within the first few pages it is immediately apparent that McCarthy's latest novel is a completely different beast. The language is economical and the descriptions sparse, like the landscape. Minimal and cold but all encompassing.

Someone once told me that the life of a street kid can be described as extended periods of time interrupted by moments of shear terror. Life on the edge is like this and 'The Road' is like this. The earth is burnt to an ashen core, no life remains, save for the occasional commune of survivors and roving bands of cannibals. We never know what brought this about and we don't need to. A boy and his father make their way to the ocean in the hopes of finding 'the good guys' but really because their is nothing else for them to do but keep moving, that or allow themselves to die. And that is where the reader finds the core, the basic mechanisms that keeps them alive.

In the end, the boy who only knows the dead world he lives in, has more hope and compassion than his father who is a product of the world that was destroyed.

It is an absolutely stunning read. As honey bees drop from the sky, confused and disorientated by the signals from our cells phones, as mentally ill young people open fire on their fellow students and as the glaciers melt, I can't help but think 'The Road' should be mandatory reading. I don't think I've ever been so disturbed yet simultaneously moved by the final pages of a novel.

'Big Up' to Stiv for hooking me up a copy.