The Road

I just finished Cormac McCarthy’s The Road last night and it was exceptional. It’s been awhile since I read a book in a matter of days. I’ve also read McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men which happens to be one of my favorite books. The writing in both are top-notch and gave me a lot to think about in my own writing.

In The Road is about a man and his son travelling across a post-apocalyptic landscape to survive. What’s remarkable about this book is that McCarthy gives you very little details about how the world ended. There are a couple of references but you have no idea if it’s nuclear, nature, or meteor which changes the Earth to a gray and ash wasteland. I found this lack of information made the story that much more interesting. Sure, I would’ve like to know the end went down, but McCarthy is one of the best and if he thinks I don’t need to know I’m OK with that.

Another fascinating part of McCarthy’s writing is how he describes the man and his son. He doesn’t even give them names! Instead he refers to them as the man and boy. Moreover, he doesn’t a do a deluge of information about either character. I don’t know how old they are, where they’re from originally, the color of their hair, etc. and it all works! I compare this to my own writing and it’s the exact opposite. I’m trying capture every distinct aspect of every character in my book. After reading The Road, I have a lot to rethink. I can’t see myself having any description of a character(s), but if the writing is solid, the reader will develop a mental picture. I guess that’s the sign of good writing. I haven’t read a lot of Hemingway but I’ve talked to other writers who have, and he rarely included descriptions of his characters for the most part. I’m more aware than ever before that there’s a balance in descriptions.

I read The Road because I wanted to read a great book and that’s what I found. I also read it because I wanted to read as a writer and definitely learned a lot. Now it’s up to me to apply what I’ve learned to my writing to see if I can make it better.


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