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The Ninja Reader

High-brow or downright pretentious, good PNR or sparkly vampires, I don't care about the premise so long as it entertains me.

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Bullying: The Social Destruction of Self
Laura Martocci
Пътят - Cormac McCarthy "The Road" has been hailed both as full of meaning, and as a tool for literary masturbation. The truth, as they say, lies somewhere in the middle.The prose is actually good. Moving even. At first. Torn up. Often verbless. Full of adjectives which I doubt were the fault of the translator. My native language sounds gritty and unpolished to foreigners, like bastardized Russian (it's the other way around, by the way), but it's rich enough to convey what the author tried saying in English just as well. I actually don't mind the lack of punctuation marks, which is what most people give a squeal about, because it feels right with the overall feeling of the book. Everything has changed, old taboos have disappeared, people are no longer bound by civilization. The world has suddenly shed all pretenses, all deception and rules are gone, and even language is no longer the same. It was as if it was swallowed by the fire that burned the earth and has emerged twisted up and changed, like everyone else.That being said, I did not like "The Road". The characters, as far as they are, don't act like they're trying to survive post-Apocalyptic America. They act more like they're part of a reality-show that mimicks post-Apocalyptic America, and that their troubles would be over once they reach their destination. Which would have been pretty cool, except it never happens. We are given page after page of descriptions of everyday life and the depressing thoughts of the father, yet he is focused solely on getting to that point in time and space as if it would solve all his problems.I realize that not every book has to rely on action scenes or amazing, charismatic characters to tell a good story. People in real life are rarely as awesome as some characters in literature, and that's fine - they can also be heroes, in their own way. But let's pause for a moment and consider the message this book is giving us, because that is much more important than the messengers (in a way).What is "The Road" trying to tell us? Is it a warning that man should be more careful when toying with Earth, because we just might be stripped of all the things that make us superior and send us scrambling for a life? Not really, because the reasons for the fallout were never explained. Why should they be? Answering the 'why' question would suggest that the book *gasp, choke* has a plot. We're just told that the world burned, which is to suggest that it would have happened no matter what man did to prevent it.Is it trying to show us the power of survival, and how strong parental instinct is then? No, because the characters don't experience any growth. The father keeps on going forward, the boy is scared. Neither of them is used to the hard life, even though it is suggested that the boy was born a little after the apocalypse. If this was a book of survival, wouldn't the father have tried to make his son more self-reliant, given him more duties to prepare him to live on his own, instead of always acting as a shield between him and the world? Moreover, why is the child frightened of this new reality, why is he weak in this world, when he knows no other? Is this a voyage of self-discovery? When I thought about it, the premise reminded me of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert Pirsig. But even though that book was and still is a bigger bite than I can chew, I can safely say it is nothing like "The Road". In McCarthy's book we are treated to the throughts and experiences of a father and son in post-Apocalyptic America. Given that a lot of time has passed since the said apocalypse, we are to expect that the heroes would have given up on the old world values and into the new world, accepted their fate and started on trying to make a new life for themselves. But they run. They look for something undeterminate. Why? The only reason I can come up with is that it's supposed to take them to a place they understand better (or at least a place the father understands better, the boy's views are a little vague). A place like home (which is gone).The author seems to have no real idea of what he wants. The only explenation we're given as to why father and son keep moving is some vague jibberish about 'the fire', but it is never explained what this metaphor is supposed to represent or why it's even there. We are treated to scene after scene of shocking human behavoir, yet the only signs of beauty are between father and son, and after the father is gone, there is nothing left of it for the reader to see. Things are never explained, never given a reason for, even amongst characters, and then, when we are treated this lame Hollywood dialogue that is to underline the importance of preserving the fire, we're supposed to assume that the fire has somewhere to strive in a world that is devoid of everything good and beautiful in it.This is why I honestly didn't like "The Road" - it represents that cultural mindset that equates knowledge with vagueness. We are given a new mindset, but not the bridge that will take us there. The author may know perfectly where they stand, but when the reader must stand on the other side of the ledge, squint and try to make sense of it all, and then he is the dumb one for not figuring it out.And I for one am short-sighted. One and a half out of five.