The Road

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

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.

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10 thoughts on “The Road

  1. Cormack McCarthy is my fave author as well. I wrote a post awhile back about it. It never came to northern California. I was so pissed about the whole thing. I’m extremely curious to see how the movie translates, and if there were names mentioned.

    1. You asked earlier about the novel I’m working on now–it started out as high McCarthy pastiche. It’s becoming its own creature through revision, but I can’t hide nor do I want to hide the profound influence McCarthy had on me while writing it.

  2. I definitely see the McCarthy influence. Your writing too, reminds me somewhat of Ken Kesey. I could see everything clear in my head: the oranges following like ducklings, the clowds like indigo steel. I could practically smell the “swollen meat and festering gasses”. The story and dialogue are fearless.

    1. Fearless? Wow. Thanks! That’s a cool compliment, and one of the best I’ve ever received. I really appreciate that.

      Those draft excerpts are a mess, but they’re a kind of energized mess and I had a hell of a lot of fun writing them. I’m cleaning it up, reining it in a bit, now, and trying to replace the McCarthy pastiche with something closer to my own voice, but I’ll be damned if the bones and guts of this thing aren’t halfway decent. I’m pretty geeked out over it.

      Speaking of McCarthy–in the Jim variety–any new word on the progress of your manuscript?

  3. I don’t know how guarded you are with your work, but when you are done with your story, I would love to read the full MS. Your posts were just enough to keep me intrigued. Also (a huge thing I like in a book) when I was done reading, it stuck with me–even with it being in pieces.

    As for my own McCarthy issues–being Jim–well it wasn’t a great ending. A couple weeks after he asked for my full MS, I received my rejection letter. I’ve been told it is a little out there for YA. Not everyone is a zombie enthusiast I suppose.

    1. Sorry to hear about your manuscript. It’s like that all over, from what I hear. Do you follow the Literary Rejections on Display blog? Not exactly comforting, but it is nice to know we’re not alone. In fact, not too long ago, I got a rejection letter from a magazine and then, the next day, LRoD posted exactly the same letter on his blog–it was weirdly validating, in a way. You should check them out if you haven’t already.

  4. I learned my lesson following rejections on the query tracker forum. I was a stress case the entire time I waited for my response. I had plenty of rejections from a previous MS so I was no stranger to the form letter, but getting such a major agent asking to see my full MS and even saying he read it with great interest–well, I let it go to my head and got my hopes up. Now I’m just going to let it be. I don’t want to let this process defeat me.

    How’s the synopsis coming?

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