Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Moon Rising in Grasses, originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

On the cover of Sunday's New York Times Book Review, William Kennedy wrote about Cormac McCarthy's new appocalyptic novel.

"McCarthy has said that death is the major issue in the world and that writers who don't address it aren't serious."

I'm thinking about that.

I'm also thinking a lot about The Road, a novel that takes on the end of civilization in McCarthy's blade-sharp, unflinching prose. Basically, I'm of two minds about it: some days I think everyone should read it so that we'll work harder for peace. Other days I think the vivid post-nuclear war world McCarthy creates so vividly is just too dark and terrifying a vision.

A few weeks ago I put in a request at the library for it. But Ted got his hands on a copy first.

Every night he's been reading it in bed wearing my reading glasses and his own furrowed brows.

Occasionally, I look up from Half of a Yellow Sun, the novel I'm reading for the Third Day book club, and say, "How is it?"

Then, before he gets a word out, I put my hand up. "No, don't tell me. I'll never sleep."

"Okay, I won't," he says, but he does anyway. Then he rolls over and falls into a deep and immediate slumber while I stay up worrying about things like where we'd get food if nothing was growing from the earth, if the sea was empty and the animals all dead.

Fortunately, Ted whipped through The Road quickly because by the third day, I was strung out and exhausted from a book I hadn't even opened.

Tonight, he brought it downstairs and to put it in our library return basket.

"Well?" I said. "Should I read it?"

"It's a great book; sure to get some major awards" Ted said, hesitating, the book still in hand. "But should you read it? Probably not." He tossed it in the basket conclusively

"Why? What could possibly be worse than the parts you already read to me?" I asked, slightly offended, and ready to go right over and dig that book out.

Then, realizing it was almost bedtime, I stopped myself. "Nevermind. Don't tell me."

But of course, he did. Looks like it's going to be a long night...


Darlene said...

So nice to meet you :D

And I must say that 'Breakfast At Tiffany's' jumped out at me from your profile....and I said, "Now that's my kind of woman *wink*"

The conversation you posted today read like it came right out of a movie. You got me to smile and it's way past my bedtime....(i'm known to get a wee bit grumpy when i'm tired) So, good job!

tender warmth to you love,


GiggleWorks said...

Now I want to read the road. I can;t go to sleep anyways, so what damage could it possibly do? Plus, Post-apacolyptic worlds are my favorite settings for stories. I don't know why. Maybe its because I grew up knowing the Russians were going to bomb us (Ronald Reagan told me so) and I always invisioned what the world might be like afterwords. If there is a world I mean.

gerry rosser said...

The power of mere words expressing others' thoughts can affect us so much. The juxtaposition of those written thoughts with the lives we've led can leave us shaken. It is early, I didn't sleep well, I'm glad you are here to read.

rdl said...

oh no, don't tell me. I'm still recovering from reading Fail Safe as a kid - all those years ago, probably reads like a fairy tale now.

robin andrea said...

Buy a piece of land. Make sure there's water on it. Save your seeds. Learn to identify what's edible around you. Teach your children. Wish for the best.

Bernita said...

The cycle of apocalyptic novels has returned?
I found them fascinating.

Patry Francis said...

b/sistersshoes: Thank you and welcome to the movie known as my life. I only wish it was as glamourous as Breakfast at Tiffany's--a movie that makes me smile every time I think of it!

giggleworks: If you read it, come back and let me know what you think. (Just don't tell me too many details.)

gerry: Blog world frequently consoles me and keeps me company when I'm not able to sleep, too. I'm grateful you chose to come here.

r: I don't think I read Fail Safe either--and probably for the same reason. I couldn't even handle Old Yeller.

robin andrea: Good advice--especially "wish for the best." Sometimes I think that's all we can do.

bernita: You are clearly a braver and hardier soul than I am! Love your attitude.

Anonymous said...

Wow, if The Road is more frightening than No Country for Old Men, I'm not sure I'd want to read it; at the same time, that's sort of CM's ouevre, violence and death.

celestialmtn said...

Now you have me wanting to read it, and I thought that I sworn myself off of apocalyptic reading!

Patry Francis said...

Todd: Death and violence is definitely McCarthy's turf. To quote the Book Review again, "Death reaches very near totality in this novel. Billions of people have died, as well as all animal and plant life, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dead." I think the reason this scares me more than any of McCarthy's other novels is that it doesn't sound entirely implausible.

nova: If you can't sleep at 3 a.m. after you read it, give me a call. I'll probably be up.

Kay Cooke said...

That is so funny! Thanks for a wonderful wee read before setting off to work!

The Curmudgeon said...

I hate to reveal myself as a middle-brow Philistine, but I read a lot of sci-fi, and a lot of that is just, well, depressing. Lately I've been reading a lot of Stephen Baxter -- talk about depressing. Another favorite is Harry Turtledove -- the alternate history guru -- the two books he did on what if the Japanese had followed up on the Pearl Harbor attack with an invasion of Hawaii are very good... and very depressing (and true to events -- just moving them from the Phillippines to Hawaii).

But even these depressing books don't disturb my sleep. I think sometimes our speculations about what a 'scary' book or movie might involve are far worse than the book or movie itself. Hearing about it from your husband may be scarier for you than if you'd read it yourself.

(I am, however, unwilling to test this theory out with movies.)

Anonymous said...


Beautiful and amazing photo that captures that haunted landscape of sleeplessness.

I know exactly what you mean with this blog entry. Just two nights ago, a friend told me that her husband went out and bought the hardcover of the Road--that's how anxious he was to read it. And my friend doesn't even want it in the house. And to top it off, her husband wants to discuss the book as he's reading, while she wants to cover her ears. Though she said, "I know it would probably be a lot better for the Earth if all the people were gone."

Patry Francis said...

chiefbiscuit: Hope it is (was?) a good work day!

curmudgeon: The scary/depressing thing about a lot of sci fi is that sometimes it doesn't seem so far out any more. I don't read much of that, but I wrote a suspense/thriller type novel. Guess that makes me a Philistine, too.

susan: Sometimes I spend more time searching for the right photo than I do writing the post--or cleaning the house, but that's another subject.

Anwyway, maybe your friend and I should start a support group: women who are traumatized by their husbands' reading habits. (Or something like that.)

Shannon Hopkins said...

I shouldn't leave comments when my kid is looking over my shoulder. The last one was incoherent, so I deleted it. Anyway, I wanted to say that the elephant article was heart-breaking, and that "Half of a Yellow Sun" is beautiful, so thanks, on both accounts.

Maureen said...

Patry, it was so interesting to me to read your experience with not reading "The Road" ... and your conversations with your husband about it as he read it ... or as he advised you (maybe) not to read it.

I just finished reading The Road. We had given it to my 25-year old son, Mickey, as a birthday gift -- something he requested, as he is an avid fan of C McCarthy's. Mickey finished the book quickly (as always) and brought it for me to read when he came home at Thanksgiving. He told me it was very very very sad (exactly his words) but that he thought it was worth reading. He also told me he didn't think I would like it, as in "Wow, this is such a good book!" but that I would probably think the book was a good book anyway. (if that makes any sense ...)

The Road was the saddest book I have ever, ever read. I read all the time. somebody else mentioned "No Country for Old Men ..." well, "The Road" is definitely more sad than that one.

Others wrote about it being "scary" ... for me it wasn't at all scary. I can keep it clear in my mind that I am reading a novel. At least with McCarthy's books I can. I felt incredibly sad for the Earth, for humankind, for all the plants and birds and insects, fish, creatures ... though I know it was fiction, you are right when you say it is so close to what is plausible ...

McCarthy's way of writing dialog -- sparse, stark, succinct ... and his way of not naming his characters ... so that the 2 protagonists were "the boy" and "the man" .. makes it even sadded. So much more real. So much more the way the primitive mind might think. So much closer to the kind of reality that might happen if we somehow destroyed the world, life, everything save for a few not-so-lucky souls.

I had a hard time sleeping each night when I would put the book down on my nightstand. My husband didn't want me telling him ANYthing about the story. I tried to a few times, just to have someone to console me. He just fell asleep.When I finished The Road, I gave it to him. He put in on the bottom of his pile of books under the nightstand on his side of the bed. I know he won't read it.

There was a tiny flicker of hope in all the sadness in that book. For me, it was the idea held between the man and the boy, that they were carrying the fire ... somehow that idea, that thought of theirs, held the only glimmer of redemption in the whole story. Fire is an important part of the spiritual path I share with my husband. So, somehow that really sank in -- touched me deeply. And for that reason, I would read the book again. And recommend it to anyone who knows they like Cormac McCarthy.

sorry about the length of this comment. I got carried away. Guess I should have just posted something on my own blog. But wanted to introduce myself here as well.

I like your writing style, Patry. And I think I'm gonna look for your new book in our local bookstore. Good luck with sales of your book.

Maureen (aka MontanaRaven)