Saturday, 7 February 2009

The Great American Novel

There are certain books that stay with you long after reading. The power of a compelling, well written story is haunting.

Sometimes you come across one of these books quite by accident. A serendipitous meeting of story and reader in the right place, at the right time. It's interesting how some novels have a greater or lesser effect on you, depending on the age or stage of life you are at during the time of reading. Rereading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar recently, I was disappointed to find that it didn't have nearly the same impact as it did when I read it initially in my teens. I'd outgrown it.

I'd recently be given not just one but two recommendations to read The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. I'd been toying with the idea of writing a post-apocalyptic teen novel. I also have a slightly strange fascination with the idea of the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it. This may have started after reading The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, which remains one of my all time favourite novels.

McCarthy's bleak future is perfectly captured in sparse prose and minimal, often repetitive dialogue. It's a perfect example of the power of what is left unsaid. Interestingly, McCarthy leaves the reader to speculate about what has happened. The land is charred and essentially lifeless, forcing the few survivors to plunder the remnants of civilisation for sustenance - or resort to cannibalism.

Incredibly sad, yet beautiful, it encapsulates themes of love, self-sacrifice - and hope. The relationship between the father and son is tender; reading The Road you find yourself hoping against all the odds that they will find a way out.

The Road is due for cinema release later this year, starring Viggo 'Aragorn' Mortensen as 'The Man.' It will be interesting to see how the poignant minimalism of the novel translates to the big screen.

No comments: