Reading Cormac McCarthy

I had to see the Coen brothers’ realization of Cormac McCarthy’s novel No Country for Old Men because I knew it had to be superb. It was. I hadn’t read the book, so I had to read it after rather than before seeing the film. The book was magnificent, and made me want to grab another one that I hadn’t read, The Road. That’s when I ran into a little trouble.
For a learned assessment of The Road, go see this NYRB review. All I have to say is that I am about 200 pages in and I find it exceptionally disturbing and distressing. None of the cliché adjectives like “searing” come close. It is as dreadful, horrible, bleak, dark and depressing as it is beautifully written. Perhaps what makes it hard to bear is the singularly anguishing nightmare scenario in which a parent struggles moment to moment to keep his child from starvation, freezing, or worse — struggles to no end, for there is no future. If you are not in robust mental health I would say stay away. I think mine is pretty solid and yet this book makes me wonder.
Why? What’s the big deal, it’s only a book, right? Yes, a work from the imagination of one person. But the horror and suffering it points to is all too real. It exists. We usually avoid facing that fact in order to survive. The Road forces you to confront that horror straight on, no flinching or averting your gaze.