How do I know you're one of the good guys?
You dont. You'll have to take a shot.
Are you carrying the fire?
Yesterday I read Cormac McCarthy’s new novel The Road from cover to cover, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. The language is as curt and sparse as the landscape the two main characters are traveling. McCarthy brilliantly gives no explanation for the seemingly post-apocalyptic world he has created, no tidy backstory for those incessant whiners who constantly seek answers, no silly flashback to when the world was still happy and cheerful. Things are the way they are because the author says they are, period. You have a choice when you begin this novel: you can take what you are given and read with relish, or you can whinge and quibble over the eternal mysteries which will never be answered.
To reiterate, there will be no answers in this novel. I guarantee it.
And so rejoice. Thank heavens for a novel of withholding! Here is a tale that does not suffer from the disease of banality because it does not concern itself with trivial things, with explanations, or simplistic psychological realism. It cuts straight to the marrow of humanity and continues to slice at those nerve endings we try so hard to cover up. It does not make sense, it is not logical; it is beautiful and beauty is beyond logic.
The love between a father and son, the fear of living in a world where we have absolutely no hope, the struggle to survive, these are some of the realms of exploration happening here. Sure there are moments of pure terror, of heart wrenching sentiment, of true ache and suffering, but more than anything there is a sincere feeling of hope, of longing to be what the son refers to as “one of the good guys” - a term that refers more to our basic human decencies than to any analogous treatment of our current, highly politicized, rhetorical usage of this concept, which is another refreshing treat afforded by this novel: it seems to be totally without shallow political mirroring. This, to my way of thinking, is a fantastic achievement: the creation of a timeless parable, not a didactic warning to contemporary America.
I leave you with two of my favorite passages...
from page 10, the father speaking to his son:
Just remember that the things you put in your head are there forever, he said. You might want to think about that.
You forget some things, don’t you?
Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.
from page 116, the father speaking to his son
This is what the good guys do. They keep trying. They don’t give up.