McCarthy’s tendency for pastiche does more than invest his work with a literary gamesmanship. By pulling together an ever-shifting assemblage of references, he constructs the bones of his world while offering a critique of its sources. So while one may identify The Road’s preoccupation with the preference of suicide over rape and consumption by savages as one of the more virulently racist tropes of the classic “Indian-hating” western, its usage here imparts a new horror, even as it calls into question the over-arching metaphor of savagism. After all, in The Road, the savages are us. Likewise, when the title of Kris Kristofferson’s song “Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends” pops up as the man ponders the fate of his son, it conveys a new poignancy, striking the reader as a wayward remnant of the pre-apocalypse. This is the effect of many of McCarthy’s borrowings in The Road. Unlike the playful vigor imparted by his pastiche-work in former novels, here it conveys a draining of vitality, as if these rags of meaning are all that remain to cover the naked desolation of the world he’s created. It is a beautifully achieved illusion, and a testament to the seamlessness of McCarthy’s craft.
Monday, October 23, 2006
An excellent review of Cormac McCarthy's latest, The Road, by Benjamin Whitmer at The Modern Word. I particularly enjoyed this passage: