I broke my "no novels" rule and read Cormac McCarthy's two most recent this week. No Country for Old Men was excellent, and very close in every respect to the film, which I recently decided needs to be on my favorite movie list. The Road on the other hand I thought very overrated by critics -- I have heard it called his best novel, the best book of the year (or decade or whatever), and it won the Pulitzer Prize. Ridley Scott is planning to make it into a movie, but this seems like an awful idea based primarily on the success of No Country for Old Men. No Country for Old men has the structure of a thriller. In addition to being a disaster narrative, The Road is also a narrative disaster -- well, there really is no narrative. A man and his son travel across a post-apocalyptic landscape: they find food, they loose food, they find food again they loose food again, there are brief flashbacks to the pre-apocalypse world, they avoid bad guys, they deal with the weather, they have tense meetings with other people because you never know who is going to screw you, and at the end -- well this ending is just sort of tacked on because it needs to end somehow. Scott is basically going to have to put the alien from Alien in this movie to make it interesting.
But the novel has many many passages that are just stunning. And I thought -- hey, this would be so much better as a volume of prose poetry. Of course McCarthy would have lost a TON of money publishing his work as a volume of prose poetry, and I do not begrudge him that, but I thought I might, in a series of posts, whittle the book down to what makes it work. In a published volume edited by me these passages would get their own pages. Here are my first three selections:
Nights dark beyond darkness and they days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world.
In the dream from which he'd wakened he had wandered in a cave where the child led him by the hand. Their light playing over the wet flowstone walls. Like pilgrims in a fable swallowed up and lost among the inward parts of some gigantic beast. Deep stone flues where the water dripped and sang. Tolling in the silence the minutes of the earth and the hours and the days of it and the years without cease. Until they stood in a great stone room where lay a black and ancient lake. And on the far shore a creature that raised its dripping mouth from the rimstone pool and stared into the light with eyes dead white and sightless as the eggs of spiders. It swung its head low over the water as if to take the scent of what it could not see. Crouching there pale and naked and translucent, its alabaster bones cast up in shadow on the rocks behind it. its bowels, its beating heart. The brain that pulsed in a dull glass bell. It swung its head from side to side and then gave out a low moan and turned and lurched away and loped soundlessly into the dark.
Barren, silent, godless.