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McCarthy's writing style in "The Road" 
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Post McCarthy's writing style in "The Road"
The topic was brought up in the pages 1-33 thread, but I figured people might want to get more in depth.

He uses no quotations, no names, and doesn't state what time (other than recently because the uses a modern pistol) or where it takes place. What would you call his writing style? Do you like it?


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Last edited by wilde on Fri Oct 29, 2010 4:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Fri Oct 29, 2010 4:27 pm
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Post Re: McCarthy's writing style in "The Road"
Personally, I prefer a more traditional writing style, but I think it works very well for his novel. A question I read on another site was: Do you think, if this was McCarthy's first novel, it would have achieved the same success?


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Fri Oct 29, 2010 4:29 pm
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Post Re: McCarthy's writing style in "The Road"
I think it's something different, and people are starting to get a little bored with the same old thing. The plot might be different the story might be different, but the text, it's the same. So when he came out with this style first, I think people would have been confused at first, but then gradually like it.



Sat Oct 30, 2010 9:41 am
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Post Re: McCarthy's writing style in "The Road"
I think that McCarthy's style has a particular purpose in this book ... it draws attention to the inner journey of the two main characters. The obvious grammatical errors, omissions, typos, words missing or run together and other errors might help us to look past the outer or superficial story of their travels and perils and see into them more deeply. One key aspect of this inner journey, I believe, is the way in which the man learns that he needs the boy to give him a reason to go on. This inner, emotional need is the reciprocal of the boy's dependence on his father. I think McCarthy's style invites us to look beyind the boy's dependence and see the mutual dependency. A possible link between plot and style might be that their journey (the physical one) is full of incoherence ... it is not that clear why they are on the road, where they are going and why, are they running away from something or toward something? .. and obviously their lives are full of unknowns and fear. The authors style is somewhat reflective of this state of unknown, doubt and search for purpose.



Tue Nov 02, 2010 2:29 pm
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Post Re: McCarthy's writing style in "The Road"
I've only just started reading this book yesterday and I'm probably at around page 15 xD (I can't really say, I'm reading the Kindle version.... location 279), but the writing style hit me right from the get go. It's curious isn't it? I'd have to say it's almost autistic...
The use of punctuation is sparse at best.. Sentences at times seem to flow into each other and then suddenly stop at each period. He manages to do this without really being confusing so I'm hesitant to say they're all just mistakes.. I suspect it has more to do with his own personal way of writing. Really considering how clearly he's transmitting his ideas, it's a rather elegant use of punctuation.

The way he narrates their actions is also strange because he doesn't seem to maintain a continuous flow... Their actions are punctuated by descriptions of the characters' dialogue, or short descriptions of the character's surroundings, or of how their action "looks" (the way you would when you're describing something you remember seeing)... These short descriptions have the effect of being locally visual without being too descriptive. This means you imagine something very small, like how they're upsetting some weeds while trudging along, or what they're looking at when seeing a roadside gas station, while the rest of the scene is out of focus, painted by your own imagination as the story continues.

Quote:
They crossed the river by an old concrete bridge and a few miles on they came upon a roadside gas station. they stood in the road and studied it. I think we should check it out, the man said. Take a look. The weeds they forded fell to dust about them. They crossed the broken asphalt apron and found the tank for the pumps...


And then sometimes there's a disconnect between actions... so that you're left to guess how they've somehow gotten from one action to the other.

Quote:
...He stood and looked over the building. The pumps standing with their hoses oddly still in place. The windows intact. The door to the service bay was open and he went in. A standing metal toolbox against one wall. He went through the drawers but there was nothing there that he could use. Good half-inch drive sockets. A ratchet. He stood looking around the garage...


Notice that he seems to go from standing at a distance looking at the building, to going in, to looking through the toolbox to finally standing in the middle of the garage without really moving. To me this affords their actions a sort of dreamlike quality, which is strengthened by the use of the strong, not-as-descriptive, visuals.

The way the writer presents the world to us is also curious. Very visual, yet maintaining that dreamy feel. It's a lot like looking at the world through a window... It seems muted. There's a lack of emotions, no smell, very little sound and very little touch. We're told that the characters touch, but not what they feel when they do.
Of course the lack of description for the characters and the half spoken, half narrated dialogues have the same effect. While the characters some times look at each other (barely), we never "see" their faces; they never seem to smile or grimace or frown.
As the book progresses the world starts coming into focus, his style becomes somewhat more descriptive while still maintaining that introspective, abstracted quality of a story that is part experience part dream and part remembrance.

At this point I'd have to say the style's really interesting. Why? Well, he's transmitting a story, a feeling for that story and I'm still wondering where they're going and what's going to happen. To me that's a sign that the writer knows what he's doing. We'll see if I still think this further into the book.
I also like his use of memories and dreams in a sort of tangle with reality.
His style reminds me of James Joyce's in a way. They both weave the real with the imagined. I'm not saying that they're writing is similar... only that this writing style reminds me a lot of the other.



Wed Nov 24, 2010 10:19 am
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Post Re: McCarthy's writing style in "The Road"
VMLM: I like your observation about the discontinuous flow of the narrative. It makes me think of old time movies with their staccato movements. The film version of The Road is nearly black and white, certainly plain grey, but I'm not sure this discontinuity comes through very well. McCarthy's style I think produces an overall disorienting effect and I think this is appropriate because the man and boy have lost everything that anchor them to their past, their identity and even to human society in any meaningful sense. To me, this accounts for the "dreamy feel" that you mention. Also, by ignoring the rules of English grammar, McCarthy implies the loss of rules generally, of boundaries and structure, which clearly in this novel largely disappeared in the apocalypse.



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Post Re: McCarthy's writing style in "The Road"
Giselle I like your comparison to old movies. As I pondered on the visual nature of the narrative I had the feeling it was thoroughly un-cinematic despite the visuals. His actions as muted staccato movements make a lot of sense to me.
And I think you're right in saying that the style may be intentionally disorienting.
In fact, I'm starting to think McCarthy is writing this as if the man were writing it... As if it were his journal or his thoughts put into words.

The plight of the world is in tune with the story's desolate feel; and the man's personal grief and preoccupation with his family seems central to it.

"The world around us is changing and it sucks... but please don't go, please stay with me. I can protect you, we can still be happy."

It feels a lot like a story of personal desolation magnified to apocalyptic proportions.



Last edited by VMLM on Thu Nov 25, 2010 11:58 am, edited 3 times in total.



Thu Nov 25, 2010 10:53 am
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Post Re: McCarthy's writing style in "The Road"
VMLM

One thought about the man being the writer, a shifting of the narrative focus, I think one could argue that the man and the boy have become the 'narrators' out of necessity because of the destruction of all else around them including their own family. In other words, this is a narrative of the writing of a story ... i.e. they are writing the new story of their lives and of humanity because the old story ended with the apocalypse. Sounds a bit post modern.

With respect to your comment "personal desolation magnified to apocalyptic proportions", perhaps one could say that the man and the boy (really the family including the wife/mother) have suffered a "personal apocalypse". This is appropriate since, no matter how huge and widespread an apocalypse would be, it would be experienced by each person individually.

One further thought on this ... we do not find out what caused the apocalypse and there is no indication of organized authority, nation state etc. So, by default, the reader focuses on the personal, individual experience or, if you buy my statement above, the personal apocalypse.



Last edited by giselle on Thu Nov 25, 2010 6:04 pm, edited 3 times in total.



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Post Re: McCarthy's writing style in "The Road"
I read 'The Road' earlier on this year and at the beginning, I felt frustrated at the lack of punctuation etc. However upon progressing through the book, I started to realise that what the writer has done is quite clever. The reason being is that the landscape that he is trying to convey is spare and barren, therefore by stripping down the use of punctuation in my opinion, adds to the mood he is trying to create.

Also with the lack of literary 'frills', it helps the reader to focus upon the relationship between the boy and father which is after all, what the book is about.


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