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The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road (original 2006; edition 2006)

by Cormac McCarthy

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
26,721124768 (4.07)1 / 1379
Title:The Road
Authors:Cormac McCarthy
Info:Knopf (2006), Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:cormac mccarthy

Work details

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006)

  1. 250
    Blindness by José Saramago (browner56, ateolf, lilisin)
    browner56: Two harrowing, well-written looks at what we can expect when society breaks down
  2. 294
    Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (goodiegoodie)
  3. 285
    The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (mrstreme)
  4. 171
    I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (PDcastello)
    PDcastello: Same type of small and silent epic
  5. 150
    The Children of Men by P. D. James (macktan894)
  6. 130
    Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  7. 132
    The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (JD456)
  8. 111
    On the Beach by Nevil Shute (Navarone)
  9. 112
    A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. (skroz, goodiegoodie)
  10. 169
    The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition by Stephen King (2810michael)
  11. 103
    No country for old men by Cormac McCarthy (dmitriyk)
    dmitriyk: Written simply, with a very similar style and attitude.
  12. 70
    Into the Forest by Jean Hegland (owen1218)
  13. 83
    Earth Abides by George R. Stewart (psybre)
    psybre: Earth Abides, a classic post-apocalyptic novel published in 1949, is a bit less dark, and as an ecological fable, contains more science than The Road. When pondering to read The Road again, read this book instead.
  14. 72
    The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (hazzabamboo)
    hazzabamboo: Two post-apocalyptic masterpieces, with much of their power coming from their focus on a couple of characters and the exotic horrors that threaten them.
  15. 30
    I Who Have Never Known Men by Jacqueline Harpman (Tanglewood, tottman)
    tottman: Both are dystopian novels with engaging and driven main characters. They are bleak but extraordinarily moving and compelling.
  16. 51
    The Pesthouse by Jim Crace (llishman, MarkYoung)
  17. 40
    The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosiński (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Kosinski & McCarthy were born 5 weeks apart in 1933 and were ages 6-12 during WWII. Both books are dark violent fables told from a child's view.
  18. 30
    Ashes, Ashes by René Barjavel (grimm)
  19. 30
    Close Range by Annie Proulx (chrisharpe)
  20. 30
    Rivers by Michael Farris Smith (GCPLreader)

(see all 41 recommendations)


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English (1,176)  French (19)  Spanish (15)  Dutch (8)  Italian (6)  German (5)  Danish (4)  Swedish (4)  Norwegian (2)  Catalan (2)  Finnish (2)  Czech (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Bulgarian (1)  Hebrew (1)  Polish (1)  All languages (1,248)
Showing 1-5 of 1176 (next | show all)
Interestingly bleak. But sadly lacking. ( )
  Fiddleback_ | Dec 17, 2018 |
(Original Review, 2006-09-30)

“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”

In “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy

To me this novel raises the question in how far literature should be exempt from moral judgements. "It's art!" has never been a good excuse for producing something disturbing. Torture itself can be done artfully and writing a story painful enough to disturb the reader for weeks or more should not be done without a good reason. Sure, we need disturbing, because things can't keep going the way they are. That's why I admire McCarthy's "The Road". But does the abyss of horror have a bottom which we can plumb to dispel the fear that it is bottomless, or is there always a greater horror that need to be explored and we are eventually forced to retreat, beaten and deeply hurt, when we can't take any more. Should we spend our lives engaging with the very worst we can think of, or would we do better to know these things exist and act to keep them down without looking at them to closely?

I wonder the same myself especially in the age of the Internet. We used to be somewhat shielded from extreme horror, unless we were directly linked to it or chose to pick up a book such as American Psycho- in that instance we make a definite choice to engage with horror, albeit in a remote, two-dimensional way, i.e. through the pages of a paperback which we can put down at any time.

Now, with the careless clicks of our laptops or by simply touching a screen, the world of true horror is laid bare whether it's through terrorists posting its latest horrible execution or mistakenly finding yourself in a very disturbing Twitter feed (done that myself & trying to dislodge it from my brain weeks later...).

The distinction between "mythical" and "realistic" is not a bad starting point if we want to write about “The Road” - but it's quickly exhausted in the face of the variety of 'real' and fanciful world-disclosive techniques in literature. “Blood Meridian” is carefully 'realistic' in the sense that, for example, the characters kill and die as people did and do beyond the pale of civility. Because it's so unrelievedly violent and discompassionate, I'd call it "fantastic" or "phantasmagorical" or some such categorization, but McCarthy's sentences and phrases aren't unspooled at the expense of the characters feeding themselves realistically, say, or of the natural verisimilitude of south-western botany and geology, and so on.

It's not where Cormack writes about is HOW he writes it. And he writes beautifully.

Can true horror really be woven into literature? Or does the horror dominate so that is the only thing we really remember from such books? How do we benefit from immersing ourselves in this horror?
I'm not sure. ( )
  antao | Dec 9, 2018 |
In this austere and brutal post-apocalyptic tale, McCarthy’s prose recreates the desolation and despair that the end of the world has engendered. While the cause of the Earth’s apocalypse is merely hinted at (everything is covered in ash, so nuclear winter is a plausible inference), its effects are inescapable—and they are encapsulated in this tale of a nameless man and his nameless son, their relationship a microcosm of humankind’s struggle to survive—physically, morally, and spiritually—amidst hopelessness and destruction.

Everything about this novel is bare—the dialogue, the action, the plot. McCarthy can’t even be bothered to spare quotation marks or apostrophes. The minimalist dialogue lacks the usual stylistic markers of punctuation, and rarely is a speaker identified. The reader is thus obligated to concentrate clearly on the verbal exchanges throughout the novel (the majority of which take place between the man and the boy); the spare prose of these conversations carries weighty subtext, and so few words contain such profound meaning that the prose is elevated to poetic power.

The few “action” scenes contained in this tale are genuinely gruesome and brutal—their intensity balances their scarcity—and the reader is left struggling between wanting something to happen (presumably some sign of hope) and dreading whatever might happen next. So few writers can achieve this degree of narrative tension using such minimal style, yet McCarthy has mastered it in devastating fashion. ( )
  jimrgill | Nov 14, 2018 |

The view that there are two independent, primal forces in the universe, one good and one evil, is called dualism. According to dualism, the good God does the best he can to promote good and combat evil but he can only do so much since evil is a powerful counterforce in its own right. The ancient Gnostics were dualists with their scriptures emphasizing the mythic rather than the historic and positing our evil world of matter created not by an all-powerful God but by a flawed deity called the Demiurge. In contrast to the Demiurge, the good God of light resides above our earthly material universe in a pure, spiritual realm called the Pleroma.

I mention dualism and Gnosticism here since I read in Cormac McCarthy's novel No Country For Old Men the following dialogue between a good old Texas boy by the name of Sheriff Bell and his old Uncle Ellis:
Sheriff Bell asks: “Do you think God knows what's happenin?”
Uncle Ellis replies – “I expect he does.”
Bell then asks – “You think he can stop it?”
To this Uncle Ellis answers – “No. I dont.”

By these answers, whether he knows it or not, Uncle Ellis is expressing Gnostic dualism. Of course, McCarthy's worldview isn't necessarily the worldview of one of his characters, in this case Uncle Ellis, but my sense after reading No Country for Old Men McCarthy's worldview isn't that far removed from Gnostic dualism; rather, the world and society McCarthy creates is absolutely soaking in evil. The evil is so strong in this McCarthy novel, one could say evil is the primal force of the universe.

A world where evil is the primal force is given an even more complete and deeper expression in McCarthy's post-Apocalyptic novel The Road, where a man and his son travel south to avoid the oncoming winter cold. Why am I saying this? Let me offer a couple observations around two quotes:

We read a reflection of the man when he was a boy about age thirteen prior to the apocalypse, "Standing at the edge of a winter field among rough men, watching while they opened up the rocky hillside ground with pick and mattock and brought to light a great bolus of serpents perhaps a hundred in number; the dull tubes of them beginning to move sluggishly in the cold hard light. Like the bowels of some great beast exposed to the day. The men poured gasoline on them and burned them alive, having no remedy for evil but only for the image of it as they conceived it to be. The burning snakes twisted horribly and some crawled burning across the floor of the grotto to illuminate its darker recesses. As they were mute there were no screams of pain and the men watched them burn and write and blacken in just such silence themselves and they disbanded in silence in the winter dusk each with his own thoughts to go home to their suppers." One can only wonder what brought about the actual apocalypse in the novel. Perhaps, similar to these men, world leaders attempted to remedy the image of evil on a macro level.

Here is a typical scene the man and boy come upon: "Beyond a crossroads in that wilderness they began to come upon the possessions of travelers abandoned in the road years ago. Boxes and bags. Everything melted and black. Old plastic suitcases curled shapeless in the heat. Here and there the imprint of things wrested out of the tar by scavengers. A mile on and they began to come upon the dead. Figures half mired in the blacktop, clutching themselves, mouths howling." No more quotes are needed as I am sure you get the idea - a shadowy, menacing, ash-filled landscape populated by humans hunting and killing and eating one another.

What creates the drama in this dark, sinister, stinking world is the love the man has for the boy, his son, and the love the boy has for the man, his papa. Also, the compassion the boy has for those they encounter on the road. All through their experience on the road, can we say the man holds a Gnostic-like dualist view? He experiences the intensity of the world's evil to be sure. However, his belief in a Gnostic light realm is paradoxical. Sometimes he reflects there is only this evil world of matter, harrowing and unrelenting; and yet sometimes he recognizes the boy as a messenger come from that otherworldly realm of light.

Rather than attempting an answer, I suggest reading with these ideas of dualism and Gnosticism in mind as one way of contemplating and appreciating the philosophical dimensions of McCarthy’s bleak novel.

Cormac McCarthy - American novelist and independent spirit par excellence
( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
Beautifully written, a book that I could not down. But it is harrowing and extremely depressing. In a nuclear holocaust, everything living is gone - plants, animals, most humans. The surviving humans are living off of scavenging of what remains - canned food, and each other. A father and son are trying to make it to the sea to survive the winter. The road is extremely dangerous and they encounter things too terrible to see and experience. The relationship between father and son is depicted wonderfully, their love and compassion for each other coming through the dialogue, them being each other's "world entire". Ultimately what made the story so unbearable is its utter hopelessness. How long can they keep going, and where? There is nothing left but cans of food that somehow other looters could not find. No animals to hunt, no crops to raise, no fish to catch. How can they even rebuild when the land has turned to ash, the forests to charred wood, and the sun is gone? What is left to eat when there are no more cans to find? While the writing is amazing and the strory keeps you hooked, the lack of hope makes this book difficult and very, very, very depressing. ( )
  Gezemice | Oct 29, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 1176 (next | show all)
But McCarthy’s latest effort, The Road, is a missed opportunity.
With only the corpse of a natural world to grapple with, McCarthy's father and son exist in a realm rarely seen in the ur-masculine literary tradition: the domestic. And from this unlikely vantage McCarthy makes a big, shockingly successful grab at the universal.
added by eereed | editSlate, Jennifer Egan (Oct 10, 2006)
“The Road” is a dynamic tale, offered in the often exalted prose that is McCarthy’s signature, but this time in restrained doses — short, vivid sentences, episodes only a few paragraphs or a few lines long, which is yet another departure for him.
Post-apocalyptic fiction isn't automatically better when written by Cormac McCarthy, but he does have a way of investing genre clichés with fine gray tones and morose poetry.
added by eereed | editA.V. Club, Noel Murray (Oct 5, 2006)
But even with its flaws, there's just no getting around it: The Road is a frightening, profound tale that drags us into places we don't want to go, forces us to think about questions we don't want to ask. Readers who sneer at McCarthy's mythic and biblical grandiosity will cringe at the ambition of The Road . At first I kept trying to scoff at it, too, but I was just whistling past the graveyard. Ultimately, my cynicism was overwhelmed by the visceral power of McCarthy's prose and the simple beauty of this hero's love for his son.
added by eereed | editWashington Post, Ron Charles (Oct 1, 2006)

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McCarthy, Cormacprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Preis, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stechschulte, TomReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Testa, MartinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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John Francis McCarthy
First words
When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.
He'd not have thought the value of the smallest thing predicated on a world to come. It surprised him. That the space which these things occupied was itself an expectation (149).
From daydreams on the road there was no waking. He plodded on. He could remember everything of her save her scent. Seated in a theatre with her beside him leaning forward listening to the music. Gold scrollwork and sconces and the tall columnar folds of the drapes at either side of the stage. She held his hand in her lap and he could feel the tops of her stockings through the thin stuff of her summer dress. Freeze this frame. Now call down your dark and your cold and be damned.
He pulled the boy closer. Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever, he said. You might want to think about that.

You forget some things, don't you?

Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.
It took two days to cross that ashen scabland. The road beyond fell away on every side. It's snowing, the boy said. He looked at the sky. A single gray flake sifting down. He caught it in his hand and watched it expire there like the last host of christendom.
He thought if he lived long enough the world at last would be lost. Like the dying world the newly blind inhabit, all of it slowly fading from memory.
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Book description
The Road follows a man and a boy, father and son, journeying together for many months across a desolate, post-apocalyptic landscape, some years – the period of time almost the same as the age of the boy – after a great, unexplained cataclysm.
Haiku summary
His world burned away,
A man walks seaward;
Tries to save the son.

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In a novel set in an indefinite, futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, a father and his young son make their way through the ruins of a devastated American landscape, struggling to survive and preserve the last remnants of their own humanity.

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