October 24, 2008

Cormac McCarthy - "The Road," God and Toothpaste


Finally got round to reading "The Road" this week and it does most of the things it says on the tin, even if I'm slightly concerned about how many times it's acceptable to use the verb "to lave" in a book (I would have said once, but McCarthyland is no country for old pedants). Anyway, once I'd finished blubbing and tearing my hair out and promising to remember to turn off all the lights behind me, I couldn't also help wondering about America and the God Thing. I mean, really the only reason the boy doesn't get spit-roasted and eaten is because he stumbles across some Chrissies. And his papa gives God and the Carrying The Fire thing quite a working over, too (someone should do a fan fiction version about a Salvation Army brass band). Following hot(tish) on the heels of the publication of David Foster Wallace's commencement speech (?) to Kenyon College in which he seemed to say that if you didn't worship one god or another you were doomed to a life of misery, and a US presidential election in which everyone's pastor has been scrutinised, I was wondering if there's anyone left in America who doesn't believe in God? Or, even better, who - placidly, calmly, without screaming - doesn't believe in any Big Thing?

Talking of ol' Cormac, I was having a writer's whinge to a friend a few month's back about my general lack of success and, to cheer me up, he used McCarthy as an example of a writer who had spent years toiling in obscurity before his rise to the tippety-top.

"Yeah, it got so bad, apparently," he told me, "that to eat he had to steal the toothpaste samples from other people's mailboxes." My family will sleep sounder for that...

"More Colgate, darling?"

4 comments:

Cash said...

haha, told you. warms the cockles eh?

gnomerroamer said...

*giggles* Did you happen to notice how the boy is basically written as a girl with a boy's name, simply for intimate effect? It's also one of those books that is fun to apply the sort of questions like: "How come they never go to the bathroom?" (specifically in reference to the bomb shelter thingy they inhabit for a few days; I imagine it got pretty rank in there) McCarthy's more complex though, and there's always something to abstract from his oft-times sentimentalizing "God" stuff. His other literature reflects a drastically contrary view though, The Road was simply a market-friendly relenting on his behalf, to say the least.

Blah said...

I dunno, I think the boy is well done (but perhaps that's because I'm an effete Englishman). I have to read more by him, really. I'm open to recommendations...

gnomerroamer said...

Sorry it's been so long--yeah the boy is well done, I just always like to push the interpretive what-if's with books, kind of like when you quit watching a really bad movie halfway through and just start mentally recording the inconsistencies. McCarthy's "Blood Meridian" is truly his best work, but its a problematic book to analyze, or even read, because of its violence. "The Crossing," and "All the Pretty Horses" are excellent as well, and contain some pretty good existential insights into the meaning of history. All his stuff is really good, though, once you get used to it. And for an Englishmen, they also provide some pretty good insights as to why so much geographic freedom drives everyone nuts here in the states, looking at our politics, churches, and whatall...

And thanks for adding a word to my vocabulary: "effete." Always a good thing.