I’m slowly but surely coming to the realization that there will, in fact, be a tiny, loud, needy, and very messy person who will be living at my house that I will, in part, be responsible for. Having children is wonderful in the abstract. I’m a great theoretical parent. But now that the abstract is quickly becoming reality, I realize that I’m hopelessly unprepared. I feel like Britney about to go onstage at the VMAs, full of false confidence but ultimately about to embarrass myself in front of millions of people.
I’ll give you an example. I recently read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road“. Granted, it’s an Oprah Book Club pick, but Cormac McCarthy is literaturah, you see, and since I’m soon to be plunging myself into the realm of Elmo, Dora the Explorer, and the Wiggles, I figured that I needed to read something good before my reading lists devolve into something that distracts me in the fifteen minutes I’ll have between nap time and a diaper change.
Apparently I needed to do a bit more research into my books: “The Road” is a post-apocalyptic novel about a nameless man and his nameless son who travel across a dead America, foraging for food among a gray and blasted landscape, avoiding the marauding bands of cannibalistic survivors that roam the countryside. Yeah. You can just feel the laughter coming out of that novel, can’t you? Just an airport read; a quick little kneeslapper that you forget an hour after you put it down, right?
Dear god, people. I’m a fan of noir and all, but this sucker is bleak. Seriously bleak. The words and sentences themselves are bleak – the novel uses no quotation marks at all, as if McCarthy was too depressed to add them in. All the sentences are short and abrupt, as if the words themselves lack the energy to continue. Major victories in the novel include finding a jar of peaches and successfully hiding the entire night from a group of cannibal slavers. And no cannibal slavers in a fun, pulpy Mad Max sort of way, either.
The concept of humanity and compassion in “The Road” is guttering out like a candle in a wind tunnel. There is so little hope left that a mere act of kindness to another human being is almost overwhelming. Which, of course, is the point of the novel. But as soon-to-be father, it’s not something I’m even remotely interested in reading right now. The problem is that “The Road” is such a damn good novel that I was unable to tear myself away from it. To be honest, this is an amazing example of American literaturah at its best. It’s the soul-sucking, depressing, ‘there is no hope for the human race so let’s just give up and let the cockroaches take a whack at it’ best, but there you go.
The next book I read has got to be a novel about happy rainbows and butterflies or something. If you know any like that, pass ’em along. Meanwhile I’ll be scrubbing my brain out with bleach.