Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"The Road"

Okay, literary arts aficionados, here is one for those of you who aspire to be Buddhists of the mind and spirit:

"The Road" by Cormac McCarthy, 2006, Random House, Inc.

I have about 50 pages left in my re-read and I've had wild dreams every night since picking up the book again. There is something about trekking with a man and his son through the cannibalistic horrors of a destroyed, burning, oppressively gray, ash-covered earth that tips the psyche into preservation mode, which I consider dreams to be. Steam from the id. Escape valves for emotions deeper than we know.

When I picked up the book, I asked myself, "do you really want to go on that relentlessly dark hike again?"

I got to the bottom of page one and was sucked in. This kind of writing is rare, indeed. The man awoke with a vision of their life now:

"Tolling in the silence the minutes of the earth and the hours of the days of it and the years without cease. Until they stood in a great stone room where lay a black and ancient lake. And on the far shore a creature that raised its dripping mouth from the rimstone pool and stared into the light with eyes dead white and sightless as the eggs of spiders."

Because the story is so dark, the light that emerges is bright, even when depressing. How can that make sense, eh?

It just does. The book is a series of passages, rather like a diary. Here is an entire passage:

"In those first years the roads were peopled with refugees shrouded up in their clothing. Wearing masks and goggles, sitting in their rags by the side of the road like ruined aviators. Their barrows heaped with shoddy. Towing wagons or carts. Their eyes bright in their skulls. Creedless shells of men tottering down the causeways like migrants in a feverland. The frailty of everything revealed at last. Old and troubling issues resolved into nothingness and night. The last instance of a thing takes the class with it. Turns out the light and is gone. Look around you. Ever is a long time. But the boy knew what he knew. That ever is no time at all."

That passage took 10 minutes to read and reread and guess at all the meanings contained therein.

The light comes from appreciating that, in our contentious and trouble-strewn lives,  we have it so well. So very, very well.

I won't go into the plot. You have to hike that hike yourself.

Don’t expect it to be easy.

But expect to grow somehow richer.

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