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Fable of "The Road"

May 4, 2010 - Jim Anderson
A copy of Cormac McCarthy’s novel “The Road” found its way into my library.

Not sure how it got there, or how long it had been on the shelf, but I finally got around to reading it.

Afterwards, I learned that it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2007. There’s a movie, too, released late last year, probably now available on DVD. I haven’t seen the film. Not many have, I think.

(McCarthy is also the author of “No Country for Old Men,” the novel on which the Oscar-winner is based.)

I came across an interview in which McCarthy said he’s received similar letters from a number of fathers about “The Road.” They read late into the night to finish the book and then awake their children to hug them.

Not sure whether they admit to the tears that precede the hugs.

“The Road” is about the end of the living world as we know it; from a cause unspecified. A journey of father and son.

If you’re unfamiliar with “The Road” and you’re curious about how bleak the book may be, it’s the “Grapes of Wrath” — minus the comforts and comedy. (That’s a joke of course. And probably why the film slipped through largely unnoticed.)

But “The Road” is well worth the read. Parenthood, family, spirit, faith, call it what you will, are put to a grim test. In the end, it’s not so different from Steinbeck’s 1940 Pulitzer winner. Each tale has its joys of triumph, measured as they may be.

Unlike the “Grapes of Wrath,” it’s hard to extract political themes from “The Road.”

In “The Road,” the bad guys are beyond politics — they’re killers and cannibals. Inherently evil, or born of desperation, their plausibility is the book’s overriding horror. With the world finished as we know it, show kindness towards thieves if you dare, but no mercy for cannibals. That’s as much politics as I could decipher from the fable of “The Road.”

Before my eyes welled up, heart soaring, at its poetic simplicity of goodness.


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