Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Road by Cormac McCarthy: Introduction

Welcome to BPL's January Online Book Discussion of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. The author was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the book was an Oprah Book Club selection.

Cormac Mccarthy was born in Providence RI in 1933 and grew up in Tennessee where his father worked as a lawyer for the TVA. Never a great student, he dropped out of college and joined the Air Force. After his service he re-enrolled in college but dropped out to write full-time. He has written 10 novels.

McCarthy is known for his unique prose style often ignoring grammar and punctuation rules. His language can be plain and forthright yet also picturesque and descriptive. The narratives also sometimes can be extremely violent.

A private man, McCarthy shuns interviews and book tours. However, he agreed to appear on Oprah and The Road was selected for her book club. Why do you think he made this decision? Was it a way to get his book out to more people?

McCarthy currently lives with his third wife and young son in El Paso.

Some of McCarthy’s early novels are set in Tenn., where he grew up and later ones written following his arrival in Texas reflect traditions of American western life.

His current novel, The Road, is vague as to time and setting. It is evidently post catastrophe and takes place in a devastated world. “The clocks stopped at 1:17. A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions.” We find ourselves in a gray colorless atmosphere of ashes and death. Bleakness surrounds everything. We meet survivors and remnants of mankind and observe how they cope and “live.”

The two main nameless characters man and his son the boy are on the road. They are on a journey to safety and to the future. We see their daily lives and their search for food and other materials to live. Some quests are successful for food and temporary shelter and yet some discoveries are horrifying, revealing what the world and humanity have become. What is good and what is bad? Who is good and who is bad?

The man and boy are on the same road, but are they on the same journey? Are they learning from each other?

What do you think? Looking forward to hearing from readers of The Road.