Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Road

I've just finished 'The Road', by Cormac McCarthy. An outstanding book that's already garnered many awards, not least among them, The Pulitzer Prize 2007 and The Sunday Times Best Book of the Decade.

It's a poetic vision of a boy and his father travelling through a post-apocalytptic, ash-covered United States, in search of remnants of civilisation: "The world soon to be populated by men who would eat your children in front of your eyes and the cities themselves held by cores of blackened looters who tunneled among the ruins and crawled from the rubble white of tooth and eye carrying charred and anonymous tins of food in nylon nets like shoppers in the commissaries of hell". The pair travel through the strange, dystopian landscape of petrified trees and strewn limbs, fearful of murderous strangers. Our modern world exists only in the father's memory and dreams. The central question in the book appears to be whether there is any point in living in this stark, brutal new world. The power of familial love is a constant throughout the book and this is what makes it so compelling

So why have I chosen to put this in my autism blog? Near, the beginning is a description of 'the blackness' which 'he woke to on those nights was sightless and impenetrable': "He rose and stood tottering in that cold autistic dark with his arms outheld for balance while the vestibular calculations in his skull cranked out their reckonings". Clearly the word autistic grabbed my attention. I can't remember seeing it used in this way before in fiction. And it seems inadvertantly such a perfect representation of the sensory disorientation which affects autistic people.

So, why is the darkness autistic? It's an unexpected word-pairing. The darkness is autistic in the way it disturbs and distorts The Man's senses. The darkness is also autistic as it places a veil or barrier over The Man's ability to perceive the world. It is also a stunningly evocative portrayal of how isolating and disorientating this is for The Man.

So, just a snapshot of 'The Road' then. I'd highly recommend it......let me know what you think?


  1. wow - it seems like it has had a powerful effect and quite a resounding impact and insight with the use of 'autism' like this. Still not sure if I want to read it . . . . . ?



  2. Read it, it's brilliant, I don't know who said it was harrowing....think they maybe understood it differently to me?!!


  3. Hi Rachel, D'you know I was struck by that too. I think it's interesting that "autism" is sneaking into langauge like that. It's probably a good thing if it increases understanding.
    I thought the book was beautifully written but terrible too. The stark images stuck in my mind for ages. Not an easy read but worth it. And it's one of the reason's Boy Three is Cormac!

  4. Thanks for reading, Ellen! :)

    Autism definitely seems to be becoming fashionable now! It needs to be out there. Hopefully we can raise awareness. Wow, how wonderful you named your son after him!!



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