Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

I bought Cormac McCarthy's most recent book, The Road, at the airport recently, and finished it the same day, even having spent most of my four-hour flight watching the airheads on CNBC explain how essential for my personal well-being it is for me to not raise too much of a fuss while their employers, associates, and benefactors borrow from China my alotted portion of $700 billion and give it to, um, themselves. Not that I have much say in the matter, anyway. But it makes the airheads feel better about taking their cut if they feel they've persuaded some of us to emotionally invest in our own bamboozlement. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I heard George Bush muttering, "If you don't hand over $2000 to my buddy Hank right now, the terr'ists have won."

Guess I was slightly behind the curve on this book, since Oprah endorsed it to her viewers about a year and a half ago. Better late than never.

The Road is, in literary parlance, some dark and foreboding shit. Reading it, I found myself scraping the empty corners of my soul, trying to dredge up some contemporary context, straining to find a moral purchase from which to defend against the horrors McCarthy was projecting into my visual cortex. Then tonight, researching this shitty post, I discovered that McCarthy's apocalypse was not a nuclear holocaust, as I had assumed, but an impact event. So in his world, it doesn't actually matter what happens through the puny self-serving machinations of governance, the construction and arrangement of social interaction to delude the masses for the enrichment of the few, the cosmic paper-shuffle known variously as "productive employment," "public service," "spiritual enrichment," or what have you . . . in McCarthy's world, most of us are inevitably the walking dead, existing only to prepare the ragged remnants of our progeny to endure unspeakable horror and degradation in the service of no greater end than the meagre comfort of a half-empty belly and a warm campfire. And there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Even taken as a metaphor, it's pretty depressing. So Onward and Upward! Toward a Bright and Prosperous Future! Can't wait to see the movie!

And I'd offer a note to McCarthy's other readers, and to Oprah: The Road may seem familiar to some, for whom similar travails constituted their childhood. Like the horror movies and churches to which Western audiences/parishioners flock to reassure themselves that death is only a nightmare (before dying--you'd think the Creator could have come up with a less predictable plot!), the post-apocalyptic genre serves to comfort the world's wealthy billion that they will never experience the sort of deprivation and hopelessness that periodically intrudes at the margins of their consciousness. Maybe that's the moral I was looking for.

1 comment:

kyledeb said...

I love post-apocalyptic films! lol. Isn't it funny how we always imagine ourselves to be the ones to survive?