I picked up The Road, by Cormac McCarthy the other day. Pulitzer prize winner, National Book Critic's Circle Award finalist, and post apocalytic science fiction. All in one package. What's not to love?
I'm a bit muddled in that I have several books going at once, an approach I've never been very good at. It's like dating more than one man at once, something I also was never very good at. I can never remember who says what. My little list includes Whispering Woman by AS Byatt, Snow, by Orhan Pamuk, and a YA series that hooked me in a popcorn sort of way when my eight year old read me a chapter (Seventh Tower series, not great, but it's by Garth Nix, and I was very impressed with his novel Sabriel).
So I decided to complicate things further by picking up The Road last night. Really, I couldn't wait. I got well past halfway through it last night, and will probably finish it tonight. It's a fast read, and mesmerizing, if pretty unrelentingly bleak. It manages to convey a really visceral sense of the end of things, while at the same time maintaining a lovely delicacy around the loving relationship between a father and his young son. Who are trying to survive in some way, though it's not clear how that will ultimately be possible.
I'm also struck by how representative of its time this book feels. It seems there is a snowballing sense of terror and helplessness at the trajectory we are all following. I see it increasingly in media, both print and film. J and I recently watched Children of Men, a movie based on a novel by PD James that I read many years ago. Interesting that it was made now. It's intelligent, thoughtful science fiction, if a little light on the actual science end of things. But I will watch just about any filmed attempt at science fiction that doesn't involve bloodthirtsy alien monsters who would like nothing more than to dismember and eat any human being they encounter. And for no particular reason except that they are Bad. And Alien. Also, this one stars Clive Owen, my current Most Gorgeous Man Ever. Again, what's not to love?
But what a brutal, hopeless movie. My god. Well done, though. I don't know where they got some of the locations they used. Thay can't have been sets. Somewhere that has been just devastated fairly recently. An ongoing atmosphere of filth, of polluted water, of black smoke smudging the sky. They throw you a little bone at the end, but even that is in question.
Both novel and movie emphasize the animal brutality people sink to in the face of catastrophe. I think to myself, would it really be like that? Everywhere? I would like to think not, but honestly, I have no idea.
I'm glad people are starting to take the severity of our situation seriously, I think that's the first step. I'm afraid the fear surrounding it could paralyze us though. Oh, and those who worry about the impact on business. This one actually makes me giggle. What kind of business will there be if the world is uninhabitable?
When I read The Road, and I think about my husband and my children, and about the world that I love, I get really scared. And wonder what I can do about it.