Return to "The Road"

How often do you re-read books? Re-reading is a guilty pleasure for me: despite my growing list of books to read for a first time, I re-read partly for the nostalgia factor, and partly because I think about a book differently the second time around. This week I had the chance to revisit Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which I read for the first time when it was published in 2006.

The Road is an anti-sentimental love story against a terrifying backdrop, an existential thought experiment, and (possibly) a modern tragedy. A nameless father and his son struggle to survive in a nightmarish future world. For reasons unexplained (apocalypse? holocaust?), the United States has been reduced to an incinerated wasteland of ruins and corpses. The father and son belong to the "good guys," keeping alive a human integrity that the cannibalistic "bad guys" have forsaken. The most horrific scene in the book involves an encounter with the victims of this human-versus-human desolation. Memories resurface throughout the chapterless narrative: of highways, running water, Coca-Cola, libraries; but also of idioms, mythologies, and moral codes that seem irrelevant, and even dangerous, in a post-apocalyptic world. Religion, too, is lost and found, though even after a second read, I'm not sure I grasp the significance of the biblical allusions.

“He thought each memory recalled must do some violence to its origins. As in a party game. Say the words and pass it on. So be sparing. What you alter in the remembering has yet a reality, known or not.” 

The Road is a quick read, but one worth lingering upon, even just for the poetic prose. It's also a good book for finding words you might not use but will relish in knowing, like "siwash" and "discalced." Have you read it? What's on your re-reading list?