Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Road on paper

Posts have been pretty rare recently. Sorry about that. I've had nothing to write apart from 'yes, I'm still editing'. I haven't even seen any new films. I am a disappointment and a failure. But to remedy this I've thought of an interesting and possibly exciting new topic to write about - books. You know, those paper things. I am, after all, a student of literature. I should at least sound like I know what I'm talking about.

So, Cormac McCarthy's The Road. That's good. The only novel I've ever read in one sitting. Partly because it isn't very long, but also because he really knows how to tell a story. Stripping a narrative down to its bare minimum  is how to keep me entertained. Having only two characters wandering around a post-apocalyptic environment, always on the edge of dying, keeps it focused. You're not taken away from it for a second. They only say and do what they absolutely need to, and McCarthy only writes this. The closeness means you never fully understand the world around them, but that adds to the bleak, sparse mystery of it all.

It's a conversation like this that is all the subject needs:
Why do you think we're going to die?
We dont have anything to eat.
We'll find something.
How long do you think people can go without food?
I dont know.
But how long do you think?
Maybe a few days.
And then what? You fall over dead?
Well you dont. It takes a long time. We have water. That's the most important thing. You don't last very long without water.

It's this sort of writing that influences me. Just the bare bones is the most effective. There's no need to overload it. I'm becoming more and more obsessed with minimalism. It's half laziness, but also the thought that it might just be better. If a book bores me, it's because there are too many words saying too little. Throw most of them away.

And yes, there's a film coming. The director has already complained about the trailer, which makes the whole thing look a bit too exciting. He assures us (and by 'us' I mean anyone that's read the book) that it'll be as bleak and harrowing as it should be. Lovely.


  1. Wordiness serves a different purpose, I think- that is, all books are escapist, even grim ones (letting one play in a life or death situation rather than actually be inside it), but books with great hallucinatory masses of verbiage are escapist in a different way than minimalist ones.

  2. I might one day come day come full circle and return to the masses of verbiage approach. It's nice being a creative writer, because you can never really be wrong.