I don’t get Cormac McCarthy. I’ve just finished reading The Road and have watched (but not read) No Country For Old Men. And I just don’t get what all the fuss is about. They seem empty to me.
The critical acclaim quotes on the back of The Road talk about ‘redemption’, ‘humanity’ and ‘beauty’. Granted, the language is beautiful. He writes very very well. Apart, perhaps, from the over-use of the word sepulchre.
But in order to create fear, McCarthy has invented a world in which people eat people. In order to create loneliness, he has written about people who are some of the last people on earth. In order to redeem, he uses luck and fate. No matter what the characters experience, there is no growth, no change.
It’s not that I’m opposed to post-apocalyptic stories or that I find science fiction twee — Children of Men is my favourite film of all time and I avidly consume Bradbury, Asimov, and Le Guin. It’s just that the people in this post-apocalyptic, sci-fi vision were too narrowly cast. There were good guys and bad guys. The good guys were redeemed.
For my money, Tim Winton’s Breath or Paul Haggis’ Crash capture humanity’s capacity for horror and redemption much more powerfully.