“I’ve been on the road so long/ Been tired and cold so long…”
This book, The Road, by Cormac McCarthy is a great work of literature that I had never heard of. It’s even been made into a movie, which I don’t want to see (even though it’s set mostly in or near Pittsburgh- in February.) I know the father and the son from inside their heads, and I struggle with the paths they must take and the pains and starvation that fill most of the book. It’s the writing that makes it real.
More important than Silent Spring, Small is Beautiful or Walden says George Monbiot: it is a portrayal of a world where the whole biosphere has collapsed. I was so affected by this book that I looked it up online – which I rarely do at least until after I have done my first thinking and blogged about it.
More moving than the book of Job or Everyman, though it shares elements with each of these. Within a world of environmental disaster, how can a human respond? How survive? For what cause and at what cost? The father, like Job, is angry and curses God, though as his odyssey continues, he loses any sense of anything beyond the dust, ash, death and greyness that surround him. How many people say they can sense God as Creator and pray better in wilderness than in church. But if that wilderness is dead- what sign is there left? Or how can he find any sense of human community when he must fear, avoid or fight any human he meets? His son, the boy, is what keeps him moving, south from the bitter cold towards the hope of warmth and maybe people. “Are we the good guys?” the boy asks. The man struggles to be that for him, but still keep him alive. And his love for the boy is where he can still see some beauty and goodness beyond the devastation. McCarthy describes the world as secular but the boy as sacred, his fair hair, while his father washes him, glowing like a chalice. The man’s image is that they hold the light, and must continue to hold the light.
“And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot comprehend it.”
The ending is ambivalent to me. Real or Myth? Or is the whole story mythic? The unrelieved lack of life in the ashy landscape, the lack of any hint of increasing warmth or feeling of destination at the coast do not lead into any possible future- but there is one.