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The Roadby CORMAC McCARTHY
Against the Dayby THOMAS PYNCHON
About 300 pages into Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Dayyou know, right around when it’s starting to make senseI got the flu. It began in the morning with the aches, then the fever set in pretty quickly, and I was under the blankets by afternoon. The timing really couldn’t have been better. I, like the judges before me, dreaded this 1,100-page monster. I cheered when it was knocked out in the semifinals; I groaned when it climbed out of its grave for the Zombie Round; then it chomped me in the arm and gave me some kind of bacteria. And with that bacteria came lots of time to do nothing but read.
I continued through the book, though I confess to passing out a number of timesI cannot guarantee I was always able to find exactly where I’d left off when I came to.
Things got blurry. The book’s details jumbled in my mind, and Pynchon’s many characters’ many tangents crossed me up. Deciding Against the Day was not getting its due from me right then, I set it aside for The Road.
The fever faded in and out. I still felt like death, and the tone of The Road could not have matched more perfectly. I am a sucker for apocalypse tales, and to Maria Schneider’s quip that The Road could have been directed by Steven Spielberg, I’d like to add: And starring Charlton Heston. Except if the mutants from Omega Man were trying to eat the other survivorsor worse. There’s hardly anything cheesy about The Roadsorry Charlton, but this isn’t Soylent Greenit’s more along the lines of 28 Days Later or Children of Men. (And to continue that line of thinking, Against the Day is more like Wild Wild West. Seriously.)
I finished The Road. And as my condition improved I returned to Pynchon’s tome, which I’d been using as an ottoman while recuperating. As much as I tried to get back into the bookor into it at allThe Road stuck with me. Even healthy, I couldn’t pay attention to Against the Day. It felt pointless, wasteful, fictional (if that can be used pejoratively here). I could think of so many better things to do than read Against the Day. Instead, I wanted to re-read The Road. (And I since have.) I wanted to find out more about the dangers of pollution and global warming. I wanted to hold my loved ones close.
McCarthy’s vision of a wasteland goes beyond anything I’ve ever read or seen, and is so conceptually possible as to be nothing less than chilling. With an economy of words, McCarthy travels an astounding distance; yet with nearly five times the content, Pynchon accomplishes monumentally less.
|Wouldn’t it be great if the Pulitzer committee would come out and say, We almost gave the award to Pynchon, but one of our judges had the flu and just couldn’t deal with him this week.||Kevin||John||I had my own recent bout with this plague and couldn’t manage to read the dosage guidelines on the Tylenol PMresulting in a three-day comalet alone a thousand-page novel.|