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  1. #46
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    I read The Road on the plane home yesterday. Much, much to admire but what I found annoying was the inconsistent omission of apostrophes and quotation marks and the many, many phrases in place of sentences. I use that technique, I know, but here is a narrator using it even though it's not part of a dialogue sequence. Correcting the grammar would not have diminished any portion of the ideas, the story, nor the description. And, no, I don't seen the deterioration of the writing as an effect of the apocalypse, sorry.
    Things I wondered about in addition to those Fung Koo wondered about:
    (1) The wife was alive for the end and therefore unwilling to endure both her blindness and the end of the world. But, she was alive long enough to deliver a baby.
    (2) The baby appears to be born post-acopalypse but when we meet the pair, the baby is now a boy of indeterminate age but old enough to speak in complete sentences, carry on in-depth conversations, perform deductive and inductive reasoning. How'd that happen?
    (3) The first good guys they meet arrive in the final scene in the book and the good guys have a place where they can live and survive and no one else knows about it?

  2. #47
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    All that, and it was still brilliant.

  3. #48
    and I like to party. Seak's Avatar
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    I agree. It was still a book that I couldn't stop thinking about for days. I really felt like I was a part of it. I'm excited to see how the film version goes.

  4. #49
    Master Obfuscator Dawnstorm's Avatar
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    And now I've read The Road, too. I bought a cheap edition; an Austrian publishing company (Reclam) routinely publishes books in their original language with some vocabulary help for the more outlandish words (that a normal school graduate can't be expected to know). That I didn't buy it for so long (despite the almost universal praise) indicates that I didn't really expect to enjoy it. Well, I was wrong. It was a good book, and the time reading it was well spent.

    1. As Brian said: Prose and theme reinforced each other very well. (There's a scene where the man remembers a falcon catching a gull/pigeon(?). Read that and compare the prose with the rest of the book.) The lack of dialogue punctuation and apostrophes didn't bother me at all; it actually did enhance the reading experience for me. (It didn't so much envoke the apocalypse, though; it's more about the road.) I never had trouble telling speech from non-speech, not even if it occurred mid-paragraph. That's quite a feat, I'd say. The prose is definitely a strong point of the book.

    2. Setting. You livethe road. A repetitive barrage of cold and dust, with supense in the form of whether it will rain or snow. All this broken with a few powerful images, filtered mostly through the depression of the man (the setting would have been less impressive through the boy's experience, I think).

    3. The differen moral centres of the man and the boy. The man's primarily motivated by loss (I think he's lost his child and as a result mum couldn't go on either; it's not certain, but the reading makes sense to me - reasoning below). The boy's primarily motivated by loneliness. The man's always looking backwards; whereas the boy's looking forward. The boy's all the man has left (in my theory a stand-in and obsession; he's trying to protect a remnant of all he's lost rather than a person). The boy keeps wanting to help people and maybe take them along; the man keeps refusing.

    The beauty is how this is covered up in the rather cliché "take care of yourself" trope that's so common in post-apocalyptic setting. Trust no-one, can't afford to share resources, etc. Give that attitude to the man, and you get a superficial reading of "the naive little boy doesn't know any better."

    But there's a subtext running through this: if you don't take risks and reach out to others, you'll remain alone. Is this a life worth saving? The man doesn't think about it in this manner, because his social life's behind him - he's a zombie anyway. But the boy's just starting out. There's more to the boy's compassion than naivité in the face of danger. There's a sense of value in human contact that might just trump sheer survival.

    The moment the man dies, the boy finds help. I've heard people call that contrived, but actually I don't think so. I think the man was (passively) preventing these sort of encounters through his behaviour.

    The difference surfaces again and again: the phantom boy the boy's seen; the dog; the lightnigh victim; "Ely" the blind doomsday prophet... but it culminates in the thief scene, where the boy goes for compassion where the man goes for some abstract ideal, or poetic justice.

    I don't think the boy would have survived without the man; but he might have had a better life with someone better at accepting what the world has become.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hereford Eye View Post
    (1) The wife was alive for the end and therefore unwilling to endure both her blindness and the end of the world. But, she was alive long enough to deliver a baby.
    (2) The baby appears to be born post-acopalypse but when we meet the pair, the baby is now a boy of indeterminate age but old enough to speak in complete sentences, carry on in-depth conversations, perform deductive and inductive reasoning. How'd that happen?
    Add to that the boy's dream about a toy penguin he once had. He wouldn't be able to remember that if he'd been a baby.

    Add to that, that it's always "the man" and "the boy". Does anyone ever recall the narrator calling "the man" a "father", or the "boy" a son?

    I don't trust the man's memories. He might have been in a state of depression before the apocalypse hit. Miscarriage, post natal depression of mother - suicide. Apocalypse. Man finds boy/boy finds man. Re-rationalisation of what went down...

    The text doesn't actually support this, but there is something fishy about what we're actually told. It's not elaborated, because it's not important to the story. But I do think that the man's depression (I in my mind there's no doubt about the depression) has a source that's got nothing to do with the apocalypse (also lack of sunlight = lack of serotonine, which would be an enhancer...).

    (3) The first good guys they meet arrive in the final scene in the book and the good guys have a place where they can live and survive and no one else knows about it?
    The good/bad dichotomy is filtered through the man's depression, and the boy picks it up. Take a look at the thief scene, to see this. To the man, good and bad is remnant of the old world he's clinging too. An obsession, much like the boy. Note the scene where the boy says something to the extent of "Why should I talk when you don't listen anyway?"

    As I said, they never took any risks with regards to people. What about the communities in the cities for example? They pass through, and when the boy sees that phantom boy, the man urges them to move on. Ask yourself the question: if the man had been alive in that last scene, how would it have played out?

    It's not as sudden as it seems. The suddenness of the ending, I think, is a result of the point-of-view shift. Up to then, we had the boy's point of view only in scenes where they were alone. (Or do I misremember?)

    Finally, about the "no-one else knows about it": I thought that was a very clever reversal. Have you scene 28 Days Later, there's this scene where the protagonist lies utterly exhausted in the dirt, and then he sees a jet-trail in the sky. The final scene had much the same reversal effect on me. The man said something about getting the road as soon as possible and that he's surprised they made it so far. He's also described - from the boys point-of-view - as a survivor type.

    Imagine a catastrophe. Then imagine fat little city boys like me. How would I survive? I'm clueless! But there may well be people - army-training, farmers, hermites... - who don't rely on civilisation's amenities so much. It's quite possible that there are ways of surviving without a can-opener in that setting. (I'm hardpressed to imagine what they are: farming mushrooms and mosses? They wouldn't need too much sunlight... *Shrug*)

    Still, I do think that the ending tells us the Road =/= the World.

    ***

    On the other hand, I disagree with the idea that the Road is tight. You're reading a novel and expect more pages; I'm reading a bloated novella. There's too much repetition. The baby on a spit is redundant, there only for shock effect. Things like that.

    There's also a lack of variety in the situations they encounter. Every scene contributes directly to the difference of attitude between the man and the boy; it's all "we should help them"/"we can't afford to". I don't need that many scenes to get the point. I actually lost interest around the time they reached the sea (it picked up again for the finale, though, so that wasn't too bad). In a novel, I expect more variety. As I said, to me that's not a tight novel; it's a bloated novella.

    But that's really a minor niggle on an otherwise powerful read.

  5. #50
    Speaks fluent Bawehrf zachariah's Avatar
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    Very interesting thoughts, I enjoyed reading them. I must admit it never occured to me that Man and Boy were anything other than what they appeared to be on the surface, but now I'm not so sure. Can't wait to see if the film tackles these issues.

    One thing: I don't have the book to check, so could you tell me where it mentioned the wife was blind? I don't remember that at all.

    And to answer HE's questions (1) and (2), it seemed fairly conclusive from the flashback scenes that Boy was born just after the apocalypse and was raised by Man and Wife for about 5-6 years, after which Wife lost hope. Doesn't look impossible for Boy to have learned the necessary skills during this time (and to have had a toy penguin).

  6. #51
    Master Obfuscator Dawnstorm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zachariah View Post
    One thing: I don't have the book to check, so could you tell me where it mentioned the wife was blind? I don't remember that at all.

    Here:

    Quote Originally Posted by Cormac McCarthy
    For the love of God, woman. What am I to tell him?

    I cant help you.

    Where are you going to go? You cant even see.

    I dont have to.
    It's the very scene that supports this:

    Quote Originally Posted by zachariah
    And to answer HE's questions (1) and (2), it seemed fairly conclusive from the flashback scenes that Boy was born just after the apocalypse and was raised by Man and Wife for about 5-6 years, after which Wife lost hope. Doesn't look impossible for Boy to have learned the necessary skills during this time (and to have had a toy penguin).
    In a critical essay, I'd have to do better than what I said above. The text supports that they are father and son, and little else. But there is a subtext. In the very scene the wife says:

    Quote Originally Posted by McCarthy
    The one thing I can tell you is that you wont survive for yourself. I know because I would never have come this far. A person who had no one would be well advised to cobble together some passable ghost. Breathe it into being and coax it along with words of love. Offer it each phantom crumb and shield it from harm with your body.
    Add that to the fact that the memory scenes come after he got rid of the picture of his wife...

    There is something fishy about this.
    Last edited by Dawnstorm; August 17th, 2010 at 01:19 AM. Reason: delete excess quotes (after quite some time)

  7. #52
    Speaks fluent Bawehrf zachariah's Avatar
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    SLIGHT SPOILER WARNING FOR 'THE ROAD'
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    Another interpretation about The Road just occurred to me:

    I think it's a retelling of the Odyssey.

    Reasons:
    Man & Boy = Ulysses & Telemachus

    Numerous encounters are analagous to each other. The cyclops taking some of the crew to eat/the people in the basement, the siren call of the bunker, the wrecked yacht that fascinates the man...And the clincher for me, the final trial by bow and arrow, after which victory is assured.

  8. #53
    I finally saw the official trailer for the movie in theaters. Up to this point, I'd only seen short clips of what the movie would offer.

    They showed the wife a lot, but I thinks she's only going to be in flashbacks. Hopefully. I'm pretty excited for this movie, and I really hope Hollywood doesn't take too many liberties and changes the whole story around.

    My boyfriend hasn't read it yet, and he's picking it up this week. I'm curious to see how he interprets it.

  9. #54
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    I just closed up this book a few hours ago and what a stark and powerful novel. Its power is in the simplicity of the tale. The lack of punctuation did get to me initially, but it eventually helped to further the bare-bones approach to the novel.

    The ending did sneak up on me emotionally - I wasn't surprised by what happened, but my reaction to it surprised me.

  10. #55
    Quote Originally Posted by Rob B View Post

    The ending did sneak up on me emotionally - I wasn't surprised by what happened, but my reaction to it surprised me.
    Same with me. I didn't expect to be so moved by the ending. I knew it was coming, but I was so emotionally drained after reading it, and I thought about the book for days after.

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