Thursday, September 11, 2008

roget's v. the world

i know K is waiting for my "scathing" (her words) review of "blind loves"...but i'm afraid she'll have to wait a day or two longer (but isn't the above review enough?)

in light of the fact that yesterday heralded the firing up of the large hadron collider (LHC) by the european organization for nuclear research (CERN) - thereby kick-starting not only the very real possibility that we'll be able to replicate the events milliseconds after the big bang, discover new particles, AND perhaps create a black hole and get sucked into an infinite singularity, but also adding yet ANOTHER cause for concern in my growing list of things to fret and worry over (currently taking pride of place on that list: diabetes, cancer, aneurysms, and dementia) - i'm going to review cormac mccarthy's "the road": a pulitzer prize winning novel that was ALSO given the benediction of no less an authority than the mighty and unimpeachable oprah herself.

"the road" is a post-apocalyptic tale to end all post-apocalyptic tales (quite fitting, for the genre). it follows the story of a man and his child (whose age i peg at around 8 or 9) as they spend endless days walking through a charred, benighted, sepulchral america after a nameless catastrophe (the implication is war, perhaps of the nuclear variety). the landscape is grey, the sun can't penetrate the ash-sodden atmosphere, twisted, blackened trees claw at an unyielding and remote sky. everything is burned and there is no animal, bird, or vegetable anything but this man and this boy, bound by their blood and their faith and their dumb humanity to continue to exist. what people there are who haven't succumbed to starvation and the worst of humanity in crisis have turned to cannibalism. it's a gross, haunting, bleak existence (if you can call it that), made all the more potent by mccarthy's sparse, staccato prose, stripped of the adornment of unnecessary punctuation (commas and periods). people speak in clipped statements that at the same time intimate at the immeasurably vast richness of what was lost...the spaces between the words and what isn't said becomes its own character and landscape in the novel.

i couldn't put it down, even as it ate away at me. it's a terse, powerful, novel that uses silence and negative space to create a chiaroscuro portrait of what we can be, at our very best and worst. it's at once hopeless and hopeful.

regular readers know that i have a somewhat unhealthy preoccupation with the apocalypse...i've read a bunch of the hallmarks of that genre, i appreciate the thought experiments at work and the reflection of our current situation that the totality of the end highlights so concisely. i like the idea of starting over, off the grid, re-making the world from scratch. mccarthy takes these idyllic pastoral fantasies and smashes them against immutable, total, bleakness. this book beat the apocalypse out of me. it made me deeply afraid and unsettled. it was a difficult read and it was also insidious in its' ability to linger in my thoughts even as i went about my day-to-day business of affirming my existence.

the big bedroom reorganization of aught 8 was preceded by a systematic culling of our bookcase by yours truly. i had a pile of fiction and non-fiction that i was ready to donate to the library. shortly after i finished reading "the road," we were packing up titles to drop off. as i piled books into milk crates, i hesitated over my copy of roget's thesaurus. very rarely do i flip open a print dictionary or thesaurus anymore - it's much easier and intuitive to turn to, or merriam-webster online. the darkness of "the road" stayed with me though...enough so that i spared my thesaurus its' charitable fate. i couldn't help but think of a world in which our ivory towers have burned down to twisted skeletal spires and when our memories of what we could be have been swept away by the grim spectre of survival. so i slipped it back on the shelf. an insurance policy against regression.

*that's not the same cover as the book that i read, but it's the creepiest and most fitting of all the ones i've seen online

in a bid for seasonality last night i nixed the asparagus and lemon in the spaghetti and threw myself into fall with a shitake, button, and oyster mushroom pasta with thyme, onions, and pecorino.

D made a green bean salad with feta and pecans, vinaigrette and dice onion.

dorie greenspan plum cake made a repeat appearance on the table and was better after a day or two...the flavours had deepened and mellowed and turned a little richer. it also suited the creamy sweetness of ice cream better than whipped cream. so, maybe it'll get filed away for a future revisit after all.

tonight i continued the late summer/early fall assault with mennonite garlic farmer's sausage braised in caramelized onions and leffe beer. sided with a summer succotash of green beans and corn kernals sauteed in crisp pancetta (an amazing combo), and D's leftover bean salad tossed on baby spinach leaves with some balsamic vinaigrette - the result of fridge-cleaning.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's the cover I have of the Road.
But throughout the bleakness is the haunting backdrop of the love between a father and son.
Big Sis