Cormac McCarthy. An intensely private author who has won the Pulitzer Prize and worked with Faulkner's editor. A Tennessee Texan. A married three times-played on the island of Ibiza-squints his eyes in all the good pictures kind of guy.
And he writes about the hard stuff.
The gritty stuff.
The kind of stuff that you almost don't want to read.
In The Road - a post-apocalyptic novel I used to teach to my seniors - a father and a son (unnamed) are traveling south. Just ... south. Ash continuously falls from the sky. Everything is grey. Cold. No sunshine. No food. No running water. No electricity. And every man for himself.
The father's wife? The boy's mother? She was blinded by whatever natural disaster occurred (or wartime event - the book never specifies) and is defeated by their new life. She takes off for the forest one night and leaves her husband and the young son to fend for themselves.
I stopped teaching the book because reading it out loud and making up study guide questions and talking about all of the hard decisions the family makes together - it's draining.
And listen. There is no happy ending. There is no HEY! They make it to Mexico! There's sun! And people that don't eat each other!
Nothing like that.
Just a dad that dies from pneumonia, and a boy that finds another family (that probably wont eat him) to continue on with.
Towards who knows what.
The conversation in the above picture is one of the last that the father and son have together. Always - always - their priority is a fire. Because it's cold. And wet. And constantly dreary. And they're both consistently sick. As the book progresses, of course the fire takes on a new importance. Eventually, the reader begins to see that the dad isn't preaching about the actual wood fire in front of him. He's preaching about the son's heart - teaching him to live ... to continue on ... without him.
Because he's a doctor, you see. And he knows he's dying.
I used to challenge my students to find a sliver of hope in the novel. I even made a pretty chart. They used to scour pages. Searching for the easy hope. Searching for the "it's going to be okays". Searching for any sign of a happy ending, or a this-wasn't-real-the-whole-time. Searching for a moment when the dad or the son see a ray of sunshine, even.
They found nothing.
In fact, I didn't see it at first, either. Not until my third or even fourth reading.
The hope isn't obvious. It doesn't seep up from the pages and in through your fingertips. It doesn't yell for you to listen. But it's there.
It's in the way that the dad and son wake up every day. Pack up their stuff. And continue on their journey.
It's in the way that the dad is often teaching his son - how to read the worn billboards, how to open cans, how to hide.
It's in the way that the dad teaches his son about the fire within.
It's there. Even when you don't even know it. Deep in the pages, hidden under all of the ash, under all of the cloudy days.
. About Moi .
I love, love, love flannel sheets and I am really passionate about lists on post it notes and most of the time I'm sad that no one else is as excited as I am about Diet Mountain Dew. I also adore run-on sentences.
He saw her before he saw
anything else in the room.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
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