At only 241 pages, the book is -not- one of those epic, 1,000 page tomes in which a miscellaneous group of "good" people link up and combat a miscellaneous group of "bad" people who have linked up after America has collapsed. (An aside: Really, when did the definition of "epic" evolve in literature to mean a book of more than 850 pages and in film to mean a work with a running time of three hours or more? Scope is irrelevant.). What impressed me about The Road was its intensely dark and gritty nature. As the novel begins, a number of years have passed since some cataclysmic event, which is never directed explained but is obviously a nuclear holocaust. A nameless man and his young son (who has no memory of the world as existed before its fiery end) are making their way southward through the United States and attempting to avoid any trouble they might encounter along the way. They worry about shelter and starvation and do all that they can to avoid murderous road agents. They see only decay and death and the results of same. Their fate is to live and exist day by day in this world.
McCarthy is not writing about good versus evil or action adventure. He chronicles the struggle of a man and his son to survive in a world which cannot by its very nature survive. The man, obviously, has some difficulty reconciling this new world with the old. One particular passage , in which he fleetingly recalls his long gone wife, resonates with readers:
Rich dreams now which he was loathe the wake from. Things no longer known in the world. The cold drove him forth to mend the fire. Memory of her crossing the lawn toward the house in the early morning in a thin rose gown that clung to her breasts. He thought each memory recalled must do some violence to its origins. As in a party game. Say the word and pass it on. So be sparing. What you alter in the remembering has yet a reality, known or not.
See p. 111 (emphasis added).There's a joy in revisiting a place like that which you have not seen (or sometimes even thought of) in a decade. But, if you do so often enough, you do indeed commit violence to your memories. The past is, after all, a place which should be only occasionally conjured up in one's mind. But, sometimes, we cannot resist the temptation to revisit it even when we should not. When nostalgia forces us to do so again and again, we begin to remember our subsequent visits, and not the original, which imbued the locale with meaning in the first place. That is why, at least for now, I have no immediate plans to reread this book which I so enjoyed.