My eyes scan the spines of unorganized used books. I have no titles in mind. Too many authors of interest to remember. Too many titles. I gravitate to the big names, the Joyce Carol Oates and the Beckett I have looked for everywhere recently. I make a stack, keeping track of the few dollars the load will cost me. I pull out another as a joke. “Hey, Sam, should I buy it and burn it?”
Nearly two years after being assigned Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in an American Lit course, I still think of fire at the sight of its cover. Several copies at the local bookstore seem a tempting purchase for use as kindling. One of Bruce Springsteen’s favorite books? And to think, his music made him seem so intelligent.
Now, I don’t advocate book burning and I understand that their are differences in taste, but The Road is one of the most artless works I have ever read. A sentence fragment can be great, hell, choose never to use sentences as a comment on the fragmentary nature of the world or in a book about teens who have forgotten the English language due to too much text lingo, but do it well. McCarthy instead follows pages and pages of incomplete descriptions and dialogue with run on sentences which hold zero significant purpose.
“The blackness he woke to on those nights was sightless and impenetrable. A blackness to hurt your ears with listening. Often he had to get up. No sound but the wind in the bare and blackened trees. He rose and stood tottering in the cold autistic dark with his arms outheld for balance while the vestibular calculations in his skull cranked out their reckonings. An old chronicle. To seek out the upright. No fall but preceded by a declination.”
This is not good writing, and the fact that such a work was awarded a Pulitzer prize actually did bring me to tears and thoughts that felt like nights dark beyond darkness. The word choice is archaic and the fragments are unnecessary. The story is all that anyone could possibly defend, and really, is the dark apocalyptic world really anything new?
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