29 April 2008

Reading The Road, Waking to the Light

A father, a son. They walk together through a barren, grey, postapocalyptic landscape, pushing a shopping cart and rifling abandoned houses for food.

They are the "good guys" the father tells the son. They push south, hoping to find others like them--trying to avoid the gangs that roam the countryside plundering the only edible things that remain: other humans. There are signs of horror, but no hints as to what could have caused all this--no hope that there is a single other place on earth that might have been spared. The only hope is in the "good guys," which may be the father and son only.

Before Cormac McCarthy's book, No Country for Old Men, became an Oscar-winning movie, his book, The Road, was a postmodern gospel. The father and the son: the father always watching always protecting, the son's humanity reaching out to the pitiful humans they do run across, reminding his father that there is hope in "the good guys."

I bought this book a month ago. Jenny picked it up, and she didn't go to bed until she was done. It was powerful. "You have to read it," she urged, but I was still trying to wrap up Moby Dick. I didn't get a chance to read it until two weeks ago.

It took awhile to sink in. I read it over several nights, and couldn't really get into it.

Then, last weekend, we were in Huntsville, Alabama, for a short weekend away. I had a dream. I was in a car, racing through a postapocalyptic landscape, dodging debris on the freeway. I was in the back of a convertible, barking at the driver.

We saw a shadow next to the road, and the driver pulled over. I had a terrible feeling. "No! No! No!" I screamed. "Keep moving."

It was too late. The shadow pulled something up to its chest. I saw a bright flash. My head hurt. I felt something rattle around, and then my eyes flew open. This is what it is like to be shot, I thought.

I didn't get back to sleep for a long time. I lay awake, and as I lay there, I thought about The Road and its peculiar vision that had rattled my unconscious in the same way the shotgun blast had done. I thought about my own sons, and I thought about the good guys--about hope.

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