It’s been a long time coming. When I first heard Cormac McCarthy‘s brilliant novel The Road was being developed as a film, I noted the release date on my mental calendar and held my breath. That was back in early 2008. When the movie finally did get released more than a year and a half later, we had already moved overseas and I had to wait longer still. This week, finally, The Road has arrived in Abu Dhabi, and today I went to see it.
I’ll not comment further, because the praise has all been said by now, and many have said it better than I ever could (I’m talking to you, Michael Levan!). I’ll say only this, for myself: I had a great deal of both anticipation and trepidation going into this, because McCarthy is perhaps my favorite author and The Road is among my favorite novels by any author, and I wanted badly to see the film done right but worried such a task was impossible. It wasn’t. They did the novel justice, and I am much pleased.
But that’s not why I’m writing this.
I’m writing this because of Tom Franklin.
When I was studying Franklin’s debut story collection, Poachers, for my masters thesis, I paid close attention to his regional descriptions of southern Alabama, where all the stories are set. One story in particular, “Triathlon,” stood out, mostly because it is structurally one of the most perfect stories I’ve ever read, but also partly because it describes a road trip in such perfect detail it reads almost like a map. One day, on a whim, I decided to get a map of Alabama and try to follow the directions in “Triathlon”; I wanted to see if I, like the characters in the story, would wind up in a dark patch of woods at a deep, hidden lake.
I did. Not at the hidden lake in the story, maybe, but using only the directions in the story, I found on the map a wide forested area with small bodies of water hidden among the green, including one tiny lake that a small side road led partway to but never quite reached — much like the lake in the story.
In the film version of The Road, the Man and the Boy follow an old road map on their way to the ocean, and I could never quite make out the place names on that map. So when I got home from the theater, I did a little searching online to see if I could discover anything about the setting. And sure enough, someone has done for The Road what I once did with Franklin’s “Triathlon.”
Actually, two people did it: The first was Dr. Wesley G Morgan, of the University of Tennessee, who researched and identified geographic locations in the novel for a paper “The Route and Roots of The Road.” The second was Ryan J. Coleman over at Flexible Maps, who used Dr. Morgan’s paper to compose an actual road map of The Road, complete with cited descriptions from the novel.
And I thought that was just too cool not to share.