When I reviewed books for the new author program, it amused me that there were some books everyone could completely agree on, some, agreement met on it’s merits (or lack of) but for as many different reasons as readers, and some books that had me sitting in wonder if I read the same book as my fellow reviewers. When we read a book, we bring our own unique sensibilities and sensitivities to the process, like it or not. I try to read a new book without the baggage of the author’s history or my own state of mind but there are occasions it can’t be helped.
I’ve been waiting for Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (ISBN 0-307-26543-9) since it was announced and borrowed it (another perk of the job) for the days I have off. I have started it several times and got in only about 25 pages before stopping. The Road takes place in an post-apocalyptic world (hinting of America after a huge nuclear event) where an unnamed man and his young son are walking south through the burned and ash covered landscape. McCarthy’s prose is spare this time, writing in a religious tone making this less of Mad Max in America and more of a horror story from the Book of Revelations. It is a deeply bleak and depressing book, as it should be, and when I got to page 10 where the man and the boy are walking in a destroyed city past desiccated corpses and the man warns/consoles his shivering boy “Just remember that the things you put in your head are there forever…” I realized I was not enjoying reading this story and dreading to continue and so I put the book down.
It's not that I want only sunshine and buttercups in my fiction, it's just that the experience of reading should also be a pleasurable one at least somewhere in the work.
I do highly recommend McCarthy's Border Trilogy (All the Pretty Horses, etc. ISBN: 0375407936) and Blood Meridian (ISBN: 0679728759) however.