Book club #2: The Road

The guys who made it to the inaugural book discussion said this time that they were kind of bummed out without Cormac McCarthy, but we soldiered on at Christie's pub* nonetheless.

Generally we liked the book, with a couple of exceptions:
  1. The journalist argued that the lack of punctuation felt like gimmickry. This meant that I didn't have to do it, so I enjoyed defending his position while poking fun at him just like everyone else did.
  2. The marine engineer said he got so depressed reading it that he and his wife finally finished their last wills and testaments.
  3. The teacher was able to read it so quickly he didn't bother stopping to go to the bathroom, which (a) is just flat-out impressive on his part and earned a toast, but (b) was exactly what I was complaining about in saying it's too easy to read.
Some interesting conversations, though. In particular, we spent some time talking about allegory. In this novel, ten years after some sort of apocalypse, nothing lives except stray humans who exist in an almost purely predator-prey relationship with each other. (You hide, or you're eaten. Other humans are the only protein source left on the planet, except for the declining supply of canned food in pillaged supermarkets and secret caches.) No birds, no animals, no plants, no insects, nothing in the oceans or rivers or burned-over forests. Realism dominated our readings, and most of the reviews I've seen, but a couple of guys wanted to talk about allegory instead.

Maybe this is just how separate from nature we've become, how distant from each other's emotions and lives. This may be the logical extension of current civilization, in a realist sense, but it's also a symbolic portrait of isolation: paranoia against other humans, ignorance of the nonhuman world. Ash everywhere, including clogging the man's lungs and killing him: realistically from the apocalypse, allegorically a sign of our consumption of everything around us.

But the counter-argument was that this is just a way of avoiding the bleakness of McCarthy's novel. The Road presents the end of the line for this planet. As best the characters can see, nothing lives but humans, and precious few of them. In the end, some years after the book's last page, the last human may die a couple of days after gnawing the cartilage from the second-last human's bones. If we are able to read this vision realistically, rather than like something from speculative or science fiction, then it's no wonder we cast about for allegory as an escape.

On the positive side, I finally drank something by Crannog Breweries, "Canada's only certified organic farmhouse microbrewery." It's based in Sorrento, BC, not far from the ol' hometown ("old," you pretentious twit-ed.). I had no idea that Christie's is the only place in Victoria you can get it, but I've now finally experienced the Back Hand of God (a stout, naturally). Crannog Breweries is fully integrated into the farm, with water coming from an on-site well, many ingredients being produced on the farm, and all by-products going to feed the pigs and chickens. It's an amazing place that I've been hearing about for a few years, and I'm hoping to visit next month.

Next time we do nonfiction: Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

*If you followed that link, do tell whether you were as puzzled as I was by the abundance of photos and the lack of useful information.


fiona-h said…
I'll be interested to hear what you think of "Blink"

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