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Death Becomes Us, and the Pulitzer

The Pulitzer Prizes were announced today, and it looks like Cormac McCarthy (The Road) is the big winner for the fiction category. The October New York Times review of McCarthy's novel calls it a "visually stunning picture of how it looks at the … Read More

By / April 16, 2007

The Pulitzer Prizes were announced today, and it looks like Cormac McCarthy (The Road) is the big winner for the fiction category. The October New York Times review of McCarthy's novel calls it a "visually stunning picture of how it looks at the end to two pilgrims on the road to nowhere." I haven't read The Road, but I can't seem to wrap my brain around the concept of "the end" of a "road to nowhere." Isn't that a paradox? An oxymoron? Then again, perhaps what feels paradoxical is closer to the reality of life, particularly life in a post-Holocaust, post-911 world. Perhaps our inclination to expect a road to lead somewhere, anywhere, is in fact the greatest oxymoron. From the review:

McCarthy has said that death is the major issue in the world and that writers who don’t address it are not serious. Death reaches very near totality in this novel. Billions of people have died, all animal and plant life, the birds of the air and the fishes of the sea are dead: “At the tide line a woven mat of weeds and the ribs of fishes in their millions stretching along the shore as far as eye could see like an isocline of death.” Forest fires are still being ignited (by lightning? other fires?) after what seems to be a decade since that early morning — 1:17 a.m., no day, month or year specified — when the sky opened with “a long shear of light and then a series of low concussions.” The survivors (not many) of the barbaric wars that followed the event wear masks against the perpetual cloud of soot in the air. Bloodcults are consuming one another. Cannibalism became a major enterprise after the food gave out. Deranged chanting became the music of the new age.

I had read this review months ago, but it was chilling to re-read it today, a day on which at least 33 were killed, in a matter of moments, in what feels like yet another ineffable horror of our time.

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