The Road by Cormac McCarthy – Folio Society Edition

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The Road‘ by Cormac McCarthy is a masterpiece, a post-apocalyptic nightmare of a novel that paints a searing portrait of bleakness in the readers mind, and showcases the sheer brilliance that is McCarthy and his unapologetically desolate prose.

McCarthy is one of those writers that split the reading public, his works are usually raw, bleak and troublesome. You either love McCarthy or you hate him and luckily for me, I adore his work, his imagination and his visionary scope.

Child of God’ one of my favourite McCarthy novels is a taboo riddled vision of horror, it depicts the depraved brilliantly. It doesn’t shy away from the true monsters of men and women, it’s a book that packs so much of a punch it knocked my teeth out the first time I read it.

The same can be said for ‘The Road’.

The Road’ is one of the handful of books I’ve re-read, this version of the book is the fourth time that I’ve read it and it still blows me away, the visionary brilliance on show, the unmistakable mastery held within every turn of the page and the uncensored cultured reveals that are deeply imbedded in the story.

Illustration © Gérard DuBois 2021 from The Folio Society edition of The Road

It is post-apocalyptic in nature, it sits heavily within that genre, but as always with Cormac McCarthy’s work there is always an element of horror. Subtle horror.

Illustration © Gérard DuBois 2021 from The Folio Society edition of The Road

This can be said of ‘The Road’ and many of his other works too, McCarthy is the master in my opinion of subtle horror where a single scene, without being gratuitous can chill the bones and horrify the reader. In ‘The Road’ we are treated to a few of these scenes – we have the basement sequence which is an adrenaline and fear inducing chapter which is captured wonderfully by the illustrator Gérard DuBois in this Folio Society Edition. Then we have the baby eating sequence, deftly done, it comes out of nowhere and of course is horrifying and could be a trigger to some readers (taboo in nature).

The Road’ for those that have not read it follows the journey of a father and son as they walk the road through a burned and desolate America. The landscape is an ash riddled where nothing really lives, and the things that do skulk in the grey snow that falls are worth avoiding or hiding from. Our father and son are heading to the coast, they don’t know what awaits them when they get there, but they need to try. All they have, all the possessions they’ve pilfered, collected or found along the way are stuffed into their cart, but it’s not much, if anything their just carrying useless possessions with them to remind them of the times of before. But they do have a pistol and they’ll use it sparingly if they have to, as they defend themselves from the lawless bands of people that stalk the road and rob people of their clothes, food and sometimes even their lives!

Illustration © Gérard DuBois 2021 from The Folio Society edition of The Road

The Road‘ is a profoundly moving story, one that focuses on a father and son’s love and the hope they cling to in a world that is devoid of hope, in a world that is hopeless and dying. McCarthy does a masterful job here in revealing our characters and their individual fears as they continue their journey to the coast, the ups and downs, the trauma, the desperation and the never-ending isolation. It is a story of love and survival and McCarthy also splices in the horrors of the human condition and its innate need to survive at all costs – ‘The Road‘ is an unflinching meditation on the best and worst that we are capable of, whilst also having moments of tenderness that show even in the face of adversity, the bond of a father and son is something to be feared by all those that stalk and attempt to rend these lives apart.

I also love that McCarthy doesn’t spell things out to us regarding the apocalypse, there is no great explanation as of to why the world is burning, why the ash covers the landscape and how people have managed to survive in this new world. We don’t need to know and I feel that the not knowing was a masterstroke by McCarthy – the unknown is always scarier, more fear inducing than the knowing. It helps ramp up the tension and asks the reader to search their own minds to find a reason behind the chaos, behind the madness and behind the horrors that have befallen this wasteland of a world.

Illustration © Gérard DuBois 2021 from The Folio Society edition of The Road

The illustrations from Gérard DuBois are a perfect rendering of the bleakness on the page and each one is a haunting representation of the nightmares that McCarthy has pend, never before have I seen an artist visualize my imagination so well, it was as if he’d painted the visions I’d had in my mind from the source material. My personal favourite illustrations are of the basement scene (which I have mentioned already was dripping in unease) and the other illustrations shows the wasted landscape of our travelers with the shoes hanging over a telephone line, something about this image shows the grandeur that McCarthy had in mind of this world gone to ruin. But as I mentioned all the illustrations are deftly and beautifully rendered and they add something new to this most brutal and brilliant story.

The Folio Society edition of The Road by Cormac McCarthy, afterword by Michael Chabon and Illustrated by Gérard DuBois, is available exclusively from www.foliosociety.com

Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy was born in Rhode Island. He later went to Chicago, where he worked as a mechanic while writing his first novel, The Orchard Keeper, which was published in 1965. After several years touring Europe and then living in Tennessee, in the late 1970s McCarthy moved to Texas, and in 1979 published his fourth novel, Suttree, a book that had occupied his writing life on and off for 20 years. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1981, and published his fifth novel, Blood Meridian, in 1985. All the Pretty Horses, the first volume of the Border Trilogy, was published in 1992. It won both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award and was later turned into a feature film. After concluding the Border Trilogy, McCarthy’s next novel, No Country for Old Men, was published in 2005. This was followed in 2006 by a novel in dramatic form, The Sunset Limited, originally performed by Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago. The Road (2006) is McCarthy’s most recent novel and won the Pulitzer Prize.

Gérard DuBois

Gérard DuBois was born in France. He studied graphic design in Paris and then crossed the Atlantic to live in Montreal. His illustrations have appeared in major North American and European publications, among them the New York Times, Time, Newsweek, GQ, Rolling Stone, New Yorker and Playboy, as well as more than 20 books, including the Folio edition of Italian Folktales. DuBois’s many garlands include the Hamilton King Award and four gold medals from the Society of Illustrators. His 2015 book Enfantillages was awarded a Bologna Ragazzi Award. His acrylic pieces are to be found in many private collections, including those of Stephen King and Guillermo del Toro, and Canada Post included his artwork in its 2018 Great Canadian Illustrators stamp series.

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