It's a large collection of short stories by a wide variety of writers including Stephen King and Orson Scott Card.
Wastelands has more character and plot development in its first six pages than you'll find in all of _The Road_. Unlike McCarthy's casual contempt for his readers, the traditions of literature, and the English language itself, the stories in Wastelands are rich with skill, imagination, and emotion.
Honestly Peter, how many times must we go over this? Can you seriously not just state your opinion for exactly what it is: an opinion? It just takes a few simple words interjected into the sentence. An "in my opinion" to start or end with. But for some odd reason you persist in this notion that if you use this kind of imperative voice that people will get in line behind you. The Road is a book that people disagree with you about, and any person thinking rationally will not be angry with you about your opinion even if they strongly disagree as I do. But what do I know, right? I liked the book so I must be an ignoramus, someone for you to turn your nose up to.
Who knows, maybe your just doing this to get a rise out of people because you're bored. But I've got to tell you, if this is what you do when you're bored you might look into model planes or something.
Can you seriously not understand that The Road really IS awful?
It isn't just my opinion that it lacks a plot, character development, dialog, an ending, and punctuation.
Y'know, Stephen King's piece in Wastelands ends with a sizable chunk of text without punctuation, too, but instead of leaving me feeling sad for being cheated, I feel sad for the characters. That's because Stephen King is a better writer than Cormac McCarthy, and I say that as someone who doesn't even like the genres King usually writes in.
That's fine. I am perfectly willing to allow for the fact that you liked King's story in Wastelands. However, you cannot tell me that the Road doesn't have a plot, character development, dialog, an ending, or punctuation. It clearly has all of those things.
Let me deal with these individually. First, everything that moves has a plot and even some things that don't move. I ate a ham sandwich for lunch today. The plot of my ham sandwich is that it got picked up by my hand and ripped to shreds between my teeth, then swallowed and digested. That, Peter, is a plot. Not an interesting one but a plot nonetheless. I, personally, would not want to read a book about the plot of my ham sandwich, but hey, there might be someone out there that does. Likewise, the plot of the Road is not always an edge of the seat kind of read. It doesn't conform to sci-fi genre criteria. It doesn't conform itself to much of any genre standards whatsoever, but that does not mean that some people can't find value in it despite that. So, it is clearly established that the Road does, in fact, have a plot, albeit a plot that you do not find particularly engaging.
As for character development, I think it is something a bit more subtle in the Road than most books. No, of course the father, son, or any other character in the novel do not spell it out for us that they've had a change of heart about something. This is not a novel about people who grow, it's a novel about the deterioration of everything. But we do know quite a bit about the characters we read about in the book by the end (or lack of end, as you so eloquently put it). It's just that, yet again, the characters weren't your cup of tea.
Dialog is an easy one. All you have to ask yourself is "did the characters speak to one another?" If you answer no, you didn't read the novel. There aren't quotation marks around the things that they said, but anyone with a good portion of their brain still in tact and functioning can tell that the characters speak. Again, it's just that the dialog didn't speak to YOU, and that is ok. I've read many books that really grabbed a lot of people that I just didn't and will never enjoy. The difference between you and I, Peter, is that I don't feel like my opinions are so important that they become a standard by which to judge people. Some people like James Patterson. I think that his writing is ridiculous, but I can disagree with those people amiably and not spout tripe like "Patterson's books don't have a plot, or character development, or dialog, blah blah blah," and I certainly wouldn't do that and not back it up with examples that support my claim.
Punctuation is also an easy one. "Is there a single period, comma, question or exclamation mark, etc. in this book?" There is, it is just that it doesn't follow all the grammatical rules some people expect it to. Take it or leave it. I could go into this long explanation about linguistics, and how the function of language is simply to communicate and that essentially grammar doesn't actually exist, and maybe back that up with some big reference to the vowel shift between old and middle english, but I won't waste my time.
And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, its pretty much the same for the ending. Just ask yourself one more time "When I got to the end of the book, was there still more to read?" No. The last page was the last page and I doubt there will be a sequel to the Road. You didn't like the ending. Ok. We get it. You didn't like the Road.
Now what you've got to get over is the fact that some people did like it and that they aren't wrong for that.
Precisely. Now you're catching on. Your story had all those things, and you're right to say that I wasn't interested in your story. But someone might have been interested in it. With a little imagination you're story could've become really interesting. Like say Joe was severly bipolar and since his mood for the day was ruined he killed himself. The rest of the story could be something about how Joe's family deals with his death, or maybe about the state of mental illness in the world today. These are all things that I thought of just off hand when I read your story because they are things I brought with me. What I brought to the Road was very obviously not what you brought to the road, and thus our different reactions.
Honestly, I'm not sure why I'm even bothering at this point. I've seen you argue with Vincent among others and the only defense that you have at this point is that the Road "ISNT GOOD AND HAS NO PLOT, CHARACTER, ETC." As of now, you've fallen back on an assertion that it has LITTLE of all those things. That's still an opinion of yours, and to be a successful reader you might bring to us a few specific examples of why you believe that the Road is not a good book so that we can discuss it good naturedly as opposed to throwing around unsubstantiated accusations. That is emblematic of childhood behavior.
Basically what I'm saying is that in order to be engaged and taken seriously in an adult discussion, it would behoove one to behave like an adult.
i loved the book and sort of like the absence of the quotation marks as it reads faster--i didnt like the beginning --to me it is like starting a book in the third chapter--it would have been better to have some preliminary story instead of having to guess at what happened. but that is just my opinion and McCarthy is one of my recent favorites authors (i am reading the Border Trilogy right now)--read No Country for Old Men and really liked it. A sequel to The Road would really be great but probably wont happen??
Uh, back to the point, fellas. Yes, the book is a disappointment to those of us who expected more (in my review of it I gave it just three stars), but we can't deny the power and beauty of McCarthy's prose.
This is going to be a disappointing post for everyone I fear. Oh well.
The Road has a plot. It is a story. No, Peter, I don't have any mystical belief that repeating it makes it a fact. What I do have is an understanding of story mechanics and a knowledge of literature that helps me understand that not every plot is man v. man. I can comprehend subtler plots. I understand your confusion and frustration, but I don't, blessedly, share it.
Let me try, one more time, to explain to you. There are a variety of ways to explain and illustrate story construction. One is the "MUST/CANNOT" formula. This is a sure-fire definition. Luke Skywalker MUST defeat the empire, but he CANNOT because his father is Darth Vader and is more powerful. Oskar Schindler MUST save as many people as possible from Nazi extermination, but he CANNOT because if he is discovered to be a sympathizer, he will be killed himself and unable to save anyone. In BASIC INSTINCT, Nick MUST catch the murderer, but he CANNOT because he is in love with her and incapable of being honest with himself. In GREEN EGGS AND HAM, Sam I Am MUST (he feels compelled) share his epicurean delights with his friend, but he CANNOT because his close-minded friend lacks an adventurous palate and is something of a misanthrope. Sometimes, even more complexity is thrown in... Rick Blane MUST join the cause for freedom in WWII, but he CANNOT because he is in love with Ilsa Lund (wife of a freedom fighter) and he will not even admit this need to himself.
Note, please, that the writer has to sell this "CANNOT" thoroughly and honestly before springing the ending, whether or not the hero succeeds.
In The Road, it is not that complex. It is actually, extraordinarily simple. The man must keep his son alive and teach him to be a better man so that the last remnants of mankind might continue on a scorched Earth. Dude... that's primal. That's the most easily grasped plot I've seen in ages. What's more important than the desire to keep meaning itself from perrishing from the Cosmos? If you don't get that this is a plot, you've got some serious personal issues to deal with.
Second, can people who don't know what a plot is please stop defending McCarthy's plot? Eating a ham sandwich or dialing a wrong number is an INCIDENT. Not a plot. Just stop. If you don't know what a story is, please... just say so.
A story has a beginning, a middle, and an end... not necessarily in that order... not necessarily spelled out... and not necessarily served up as Peter Glaskowsky or Vinson L. Watkins likes... oh well.
But The Road has a plot. It is a story. Peter keeps saying that it's just a series of incidents. That's because Peter seems to be acquainted with the broad strokes of genre fiction where everything is spelled out and subtext is a pretense so every one who enjoyed the book can congratulate themselves on their ability to fathom the obvious. If Pete watches Sophie's Choice or Ordinary People or Tender Mercies, he'll probably walk away thinking they had no plot. Oh well.
But making and consuming a ham sandwich is not a story and not a plot and to argue such is to confess an ignorance of story mechanics. I'm sorry. A series of incidents does not comprise a story and to agree with such a notion would be to nod in agreement to Peter's protests.
Dichotomy... having a preliminary to the story would have ruined the effect. The Road is a metaphor for life. We arrive into life as we arrived into this story... at a beginning of sorts, but never THE BEGINNING if there is such a thing. We catch on as we move through life, pretending we know the score... fake it until you make it... that sort of thing... through adolescence and into adulthood... all to carry the fire... to pass it on to our children who, hopefully, are better than we are... and the fire a bit brighter with them. A conventional beginning would have ruined the book. Just as making you learn about the entirety of recorded history before allowing you to date or even speak would have ruined the story of your life.
I appreciate your excellent comments, Vinson. Okay, so... The Road has a plot, and the story is perhaps a metaphor for life. But like a good many others I really did expect a great deal more from Cormac McCarthy (and a Pulitzer-winning novel).
I will read any books you have written! I want to read The Road; I just finished No Country for Old Men and I loved it. I love that The Road has affected so many people so differently. I shall order it straightaway. Thanks.
Ben you have to calm down. I've been reading a few of these discussions and they all involve you getting pissed off when someone says they don't like the book. Then you write 3 or 4 paragraphs on why they are wrong. Why spend so much time arguing with someone else's opinions of a book. It's just a book man! Some will like it, some won't. And why get pissed at the kid when he doesn't say 'In my opinion'. Of course it's his opinion! He's not infallible, you give him too much credit. In my opinion saying 'in my opinion' is just a waste of words. Maybe you find their justifications for not liking it are not satisfactory but come on, are they really going to think to themselves "Wow that guy Ben W Wright totally made me realize that the entire time I was reading the book and not liking it...I should have been liking it! What a smart guy!". It's useless and all you are doing is patting yourself on the back. What would Cormac say?
caroline, to begin with, i'll be the first to admit that, especially at the beginning, i was a bit rash and undiscerning in my choices of response. if you had kept reading through the threads you would see that i did go back and revise myself. secondly, i wasnt getting "pissed," simply overstating my opinion. third, if you really believe that there is no way anyone can change anyone elses opinion then it would seem youve convinced yourself in the same fashion that you say i have by trying to change MY opinion about something that isnt even on topic. fourth, the phrase "in my opinion" informs everything else one might say about an idea. without such a phrase you will surely communicate less of what you intended to unless you believe that it is not opinion but fact. obviously, the implied opinionation of a person does not always communicate and did not with me. therefore i quarrel either with someones failure of communication or with their narcissism. that is not to say that a persons infallability is something i cant forgive but i always feel someone should be warned of their improper communication skills. what would cormac say? i think with his massive vocabulary and painfully precise language he would have formulated 23 different ways of saying what everyone else here has said, including myself, a hell of a lot better and more beautifully. fifth and finally, what else are these forums for if not disagreement and discussion. granted, any spewed vitriol is counterproductive but i generally backed my opinion up with at least some specific evidence.
There's an excellent anthology of short post-apocalyptic fiction entitled _Beyond Armaggedon_, edited by Martin Greenberg and Walter Miller. The stories are arranged chronologically and were obviously chosen carefully. The anthology also contains an interesting introduction, which functions as an historic/artistic overview of the forces and realities that have shaped, and continue to shape, this very thought-provoking sub-genre.
SPOILER ALERT: I don't consider "The Road" as part of the "post-apolcalyptic" genre. I believe it is merely a tool or metaphor for today's world. There are people like the father in today's world: they see everything as a danger to their way of life and survival. they shelter themselves and their families and, hence, cannot see or experience the good in the world.
K. Baddley, McCarthy does handle an old metaphor with powerful and beautiful prose, as you pointed out earlier. I think one of the problems with the book seems to be that it was "marketed" as a post apocalyptic book. All of the reviews I've read really hammer that point home and many people on these boards seem to have expected something along the lines of Road Warrior (I realize you are familiar with McCarthy's past works so were expecting more, and rightly so). The meaning really hit me near the end of the book when I realized I know a person like the father. But I could also see some of myself in him.
The format of the book was one element that killed the immersion for me as well. It read more like a rough draft for a script than a book. The cliff notes version of an epic novel that the author was too lazy to actually write. Where was the editor? Where they too afraid to insist that an outline for a book is not a book? Or did they get caught up in the "genius" of his minimalistic writing technique?
The potential for what this book could have been greatly sharpened my disappointment in what was presented as the final product.
Fiontar, very true. I've read only one other book by McCarthy (ALL THE PRETTY HORSES), but I would agree that his prose -- sometimes described as "elegaic" -- isn't well suited for a grim, post-apocalypse story like THE ROAD.