Monday, November 3, 2008

Listening to McCarthy's The Road

A little over a year ago, my family and I made what would be our last annual trek anywhere as a family. We drove from Colorado Springs to Sunset Beach, NC. We took two vehicles, my Jeep Grand Cherokee and my oldest daughter's VW Beetle. For much of the journey, whoever rode with me in the Jeep consented to listen with me to an audible book. Somewhere just west of Nashville, I finished the book I had been listening to, and began listening to a work I'd already read, The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.

I'd had little success in interesting my spouse in anything McCarthy had written. His works are too violent and dark for her. Fair enough. But this book had been one of Oprah's selections, so I thought it might at least be tolerable. Still, that wasn't the primary reason I wanted to listen to it as we made that last day's journey. The more important reason would be that, driving I-40 across the Appalachians, and knowing that McCarthy never writes about a place he hasn't personally set foot, I knew that much of the terrain we would be covering would be that which McCarthy had in mind when he envisioned the post-apocalyptic world of this novel. And though I suspected it was not the NC coast at which the father and son finally arrive, I knew nonetheless that the dunes of Sunset Beach were much like those described in the book. I knew that the topography we would traverse, crossing the French Broad River east of Knoxville, and shadowing the Pigeon River through the mountains, and transitioning through the NC Piedmont and Sandhills and into the Coastal Plain, would mimic the journey of father and son in the book.

By the time we arrived at the coast, so had they, father and son. And when we finished it, finally, on the road one day from Sunset Beach up the coast to Wilmington where my eldest would begin her college career in another month, I was sad that it was over--much sadder than I had been the first time through it, in print.

Most ironic of all to have made that journey, already suspecting in my heart that it would be what it was, listening to a book whose central point may be that love is the only place where hope resides.

I look forward to the movie.