Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cormac McCarthy

If you are in the mood for a light quick read, you may want to let your fingers wander a little further down the bookshelf and not stop on this one.  Do not be deceived by the fact that this book is thin in size. Its message is heavy. It stays with you and lingers like a piece of dense dark bittersweet chocolate. 

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world, where there is no date or location given.  The man tells the boy that they're walking the "state roads" seeming to indicate a highly industrialized world like our own. Your mind is left to supply this detail along with the possible names of the man and the boy, which are also not given..
Adding to this lack of common details found in most books, the writing style is in very short, sparse sentence structure which mirrors perfectly the bleak word defying conditions the man and boy are in.
The man carries a pistol that only contains two bullets. He guards that pistol above all else as he believes his sole mission is to protect and care for the boy. 
As for his part, he boy is very concerned with making sure they are "carrying the fire," thus reassuring himself that he and his father are the good guys and not one of "the others". The boy is aware of the awful truth that these "bad guys" do not "carry the fire" as they eat pets and even people. This phrase has come from stories that the man tells the boy in the long nights. Stories of justice and courage from the world that was. Hoping the boy can keep these values alive in the future. 

If there is a future.
Even though the man and boy are cold and starving all of the time there are a few moments that exude a warmth and nurturing of their own.
One is when they find a waterfall. The father teaches the boy to float. A useful metaphor for getting by and getting through when one is out of ones element as they are in every aspect.
Another is when they come upon an abandoned house. There are a few amenities still left that allow the man to cut his hair and the boys. Another tiny space in which they get to imitate the normalcy of the life they knew before.  In both these instances there is extraordinary tenderness displayed by the actions of the father that stand out against the dire bleakness of their circumstances.
The story ends without answering many questions. The reader is not supplied with a neat and tidy bow in the conclusion to tie up around the words "The End".
 If most peoples minds can only take them to the verge of imagining a future apocalypse and if a very few imaginative minds can go even to seeing a survival of such, maybe one with butterflies and open fields, this novel explores that space in between.  What it would actually be like to try to actually
transverse the gap between the end of one world and the beginning of another.
 In doing this, it takes the reader in to a place few would ever even know how to explore on their own.

Perhaps that is the reason that in turning the last page, one is left with a feeling of not despair, surprisingly but one of hope. An abstract message that the most important things, love of family, goodness of people and the light of hope endure. Always.

The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries. - Rene Descartes

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