Review: “The Road”

I don’t usually do book reviews–consider me compelled into this one.

“The Road” by Cormac McCarthy has all the makings of a successful book.  It says “National Bestseller” on the top, it’s being released as a Hollywood film in the near future–it even has Oprah’s sticker on it!  (I’ll let you take that last bit as seriously or sarcastically as you need to.)

But the problem is that this book was a nearly complete waste of time… and I bought it from Value Village for $3.

A bunch of big newspapers are quoted on the back cover, calling this “one of the best books of the year”.  I’d like to believe that the journalists who write such words are required to read an actual plurality of books in a given year, but I’ve got my doubts.

To be fair, McCarthy receives a lot of praise for his imagining of a post-apocalyptic world.  And I can appreciate that–he’s got an imagination, and that’s worth something.  Now if he’d spent some time on the plot and on the story that would actually unfold in this wonderfully imagined world… now, that would have been a book!  When my wife asked me at page 127 what was happening in my book so far, and I replied with, “Nothing,” that should have been my hint to bail out.  But I’ve got an anti-bailing clause in my book-reading mentality.  I broke it once, but I couldn’t do it again.  May have been my latest mistake.

Donald Miller’s latest book (one that IS worth reading) shares some behind-the-scenes ideas of how directors and producers go about converting written stories into movies.  One point I remember is that movies have to have action–the visual story happens through events and happenings.  That’s how the story moves.  With that in mind, I’m feeling a bit fearful for “The Road” as a film.  I mean, If a book is almost always better than a movie, then yikes!  Why would I pay even 99 cents at my local corner store to rent a movie based on a book that was bad enough to drive me to blog about it?  That said, the world imagined in the book could likely be depicted quite well post-blaze in a forest fire zone, so perhaps the film can make back its low budget simply from Oprah and her friends buying tickets.

I’m sure someone will read this post who LOVED the book and claims that it changed their life.  All I can say is I’d be curious to see inside such a life; perhaps I’d be enlightened.  But for me, this book just confirmed that there is a realm of art that I simply don’t get.  It gets praised as brilliant (and I don’t doubt the creators of such pieces are indeed bright), but it lies in a landscape so void of concrete meaning and shape that I just can’t grasp it.  This is, of course, assuming that there IS something to be grasped.  It seems to be wandering aimlessly.  And when a guy whose blog is “a disorderly pile of who-knows-what” calls out “aimless”, you can take that as something of an observation.

The image I just found to attach to this post shows that this book also won the Pulitzer Prize.  Did all the authors of the world take sabbaticals in 2006?!  Speechless–that’s all I’ve got.

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