Thursday, March 29, 2007

On The Road with Oprah

We told you it was coming, and now it’s here. Amid a great rush of fanfare, Oprah has made her choice. The author is brilliant and celebrated and the book in question was adored by both critics and readers when it was released last fall, but the story of a father and son coming to grips with each other and life in a post-apocalyptic America still seems an odd choice for Oprah. Says Popmatters:
What seems to have been a nuclear winter has settled over the world, leaving little in its wake. There are references to the immediate aftermath, when “the roads were peopled with refugees shrouded ... creedless shells of men tottering down the causeways like migrants in a feverland ... The frailty of everything revealed at last.” By the time The Road is set, however, even those years are a distant memory, the only people the father and son come across are best avoided, desperate creatures with little left to eat but each other.
The California Literary Review seemed almost to go into raptures stretching for the right -- and sufficient -- praise for the book:
Post apocalyptic novels are a dark, bleak and often illuminating genre that are highlighted by titles that include The Day of the Triffids, A Canticle for Leibowitz, Eternity Road, On The Beach and Galapagos. J.G. Ballard carved out a large section of this wasted landscape with The Crystal World, The Drowning World, The Burning World and The Wind From Nowhere. But among all of these fine works and dozens more I’ve read, none compares, holds a candle to or rings such gloomy, bleak chords as does Cormac McCarthy’s The Road; all accomplished with an economy of words that is beautiful in its execution.
And I love this line from the same review. How could you not? “I read this book in one take late at night and immediately headed downstairs to kick up the fire and drink some bourbon. I was cold, chilled emotionally, stunned, awe-struck by McCarthy’s words.”

But on Oprah’s Web site, the motivation for choosing The Road becomes more clear. Not only is it a wonderful book, it’s one that invites conversation and even discussion, like the kind Oprah asks for on her book club Web site. “What do you think destroyed the world? How far would you go to protect your child? What is the difference between ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’? Share your thoughts with others on the message board.”

Though his first novel, The Orchard Keeper, was published in 1965, McCarthy, 73, is perhaps best known for 1992’s All the Pretty Horses. And the book did very well on its own, long before the release of the movie based on the work came out in 2000 starring Matt Damon, Henry Thomas and Penelope Cruz.

McCarthy is notoriously private and has only rarely granted interviews. An interview with the writer is promised, however. It will be interesting to see how the interaction between the Chicago media maven and the reclusive literary giant unfolds.

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