There’s plenty of Southern and plenty of gothic in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (out 9/26), but it’s actually a rather astonishing departure for the cult Southern Gothic novelist.
The South here is merely a vague, urgent destination: A father and his young son are heading down from the unspecified North through an ashy, post-apocalyptic landscape to the Southern coast, in hopes of not freezing to death as winter descends. And “gothic,” really, understates matters: Their world is sparsely peopled by the desperate and deranged, most of whom must be avoided like the worst of the Mad Max lot.
The simplest, sparest dialogue here — the father reassuring the son, and the son saying “Okay” — can have the force of a gut-punch. And putting down the novel even momentarily can leave you wracked with worry as you wonder if the two will be okay.
It’s incredibly bleak, but it’s also a deeply moving metaphorical direct hit, given our current post-9/11, Christian Rapturist, post-Katrina, pre-whatever-the-hell cultural moment.
The Road is riveting and devastating — and one of the best novels of the year.
“>BUY Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (Knopf; 256 pages)
This post is from Observer Short List—an email of three favorite things from people you want to know. Sign up to receive OSL here.