Read Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Truman Capote)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a novella by Truman Capote published in 1958. In it, a contemporary writer recalls his early days in New York City, when he makes the acquaintance of his remarkable neighbor, Holly Golightly, who is one of Capote’s best-known creations.

I stumbled upon Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Audible. I have never seen the film and actually had little knowledge what the book was about. The narrative style of trying to capture, Holly Golightly, this larger than life figure in a world of extremes reminded me of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. As WB Gooderham captures:

To start with, let’s take a look at the similarities between Jay Gatsby and Holly Golightly. Attractive, charismatic and enigmatic? Check. Connection with organised crime? Check. Penchant for hosting parties and affected speech inflections (old sport/darling)? Check/check. Cessation of said parties once romance blossoms? Check. Humble origins, changes of identity, driven by dreams and ideals leading ultimately to death and exile? Check, check, check, check.

Read The Return of the Native
I was recently re-watching Harry Potter and wondered if Alan Rickman had ever read an audiobook. In my search I found a reading of Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native. I had never read anything from Hardy. Although it was slow to get going, it got to a point where you both want to turn away, whilst at the same time read on to find out what happens.

With the setting in the heath, I was left thinking about Wuthering Heights and the way that the landscape becomes something of a haunting character throughout. Although there are no ghosts, there are references to Eustacia as a witch. There are also some traumatic deaths.

One of the things that I found intriguing was the setting in Egdon Heath and occupations, such as the reddleman and furze cutter. I am not sure if I read them as extremes based on the distance of time? Like, was Diggory Venn symbolically meant to represent the devil? This strangeness also comes out with his ability to appear all of the sudden all the time? I was left wondering how these things would have been read at the time?

Originally released in serial form, I was left wondering what it might be like to forcibly read a novel of this sort over that period, especially on the train.

Watched 2016 American mystery drama television series by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
The OA explores a multi-verse stemming from near-death experiences. Although I felt it was a bit slow to unpack all the characters and storyline, once it gets going it was quite captivating. From a storytelling point of view I feel like all these science fiction series blend into each other. There were aspects of talking between dimensions similar to Stranger Things, while the puzzle house reminded me of 1899.
Listened 2023 studio album by Kimbra by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

A Reckoning is the fourth studio album by New Zealand singer-songwriter Kimbra, and the first under the label Inertia and [PIAS], having previously been signed with the label Warner Music.[1] It was released on 27 January 2023.[2] The album was promoted with the singles “Save Me”,[3] “Replay!”[4] and “Foolish Thinking”.[5]

A few years ago, my family and I went on a holiday to New Zealand. One of the things the stuck out to me was the balance between beauty and chaos. On the one hand, there are majestic landscapes, but these always feel in contrast to thermal mud pools and dormant volcanoes. I came away thinking that maybe one was not possible without the other. I had a similar experience with Kimbra’s new album.

It some ways A Reckoning continues on the path started with the raw striped back reimagining of Primal Heart. This is captured through tracks like Save Me, I Don’t Want to Fight and Foolish Thinking. However, this is contrasted by more upbeat and sometimes abrasive sounds, such as Replay and New Habit. This is something that Kimbra herself has touched upon:

Kimbra: There’s a juxtaposition in the aggression of certain sounds against something very soft and tender, which is really me in a nutshell. I have all these conflicting things that live within me. My art is an attempt to translate my inner world to be understood, like all of us. The sonic identity is ever-changing, because I’m ever-changing.

Source: Kimbra is Busier Than Ever After a Five-Year Recording Break: ‘I’m Growing as a Person’ by Bradley Stern

Even with the various ebbs and flows, the album still feels contained. For Kimbra, the constant is the storytelling:

Kimbra: I think the cohesion in my work is often the storyteller at the center, the voice that leads you through these different worlds.

Source: Kimbra is Busier Than Ever After a Five-Year Recording Break: ‘I’m Growing as a Person’ by Bradley Stern

An embracing of the contemplation:

Kimbra: It’s my belief that, when you try to annihilate parts of you, they just get stronger, you know? So, instead, I wanted to sit and listen to them and embrace the chaos and embrace the contemplation.

Source: Kimbra: “If You Try To Annihilate Parts Of Yourself, They Just Get Stronger” by Cyclone Wehner

Capturing the current shift we are all experiencing:

“We’re in a reckoning around spirit, race, our earth and how people walk in the world with a sense of conscience,” Kimbra has said of creating her fourth album. “I wanted to have something to say in my work that spoke to that shift we’re all experiencing.”

Source: Kimbra’s A Reckoning is mesmeric, contemplative and incredibly intimate by Bryget Chrisfield

Pain can transform us, and that this transformation is ultimately our best chance at a happy and just world.

Source: Kimbra – A Reckoning – Double J by @doublejradio

Additionally, the constant with A Reckoning is Ryan Lotts co-production that provides a consistent sonic pallet throughout. When I think about what makes that ‘pallet’, it is the tightness throughout. Whether it be strong sounds coming in just as quickly as they cut out or the way in which the vocals one minute feel distant and then feel close.

One of the interesting things I read about the collaboration between Kimbra and Lott was the way in which his role resembled a remixer.

Hunkering down in Upstate New York, she sent vocal demos to Lott, whose role resembled that of a remixer.

Source: Kimbra: “If You Try To Annihilate Parts Of Yourself, They Just Get Stronger” by Cyclone Wehner

Alternatively, Charles Brownstein has suggested that it is Kimbra’s performance the pulls all the disparate parts together:

You could listen to this album on shuffle, or the way it was designed, it really doesn’t matter — the one throughline is Kimbra’s performance. She always sells the song, whether it’s the yelling to get out of one’s head on “replay!” or the barely-there vocals of the closer. And on songs where the arrangements are eclectic, like on “la type”, “the way we were”, or “GLT”, she manages to make pop music fresh.

Source: Kimbra – A Reckoning – Northern Transmissions by Charles Brownstein

Place between Daniel Johns and James Blake.

Andrew Stafford the place and politics that laid the foundation to the music scene Brisbane music scene between 1975 and 2005.

Review published here.

“” in The last time I saw Grant – Griffith Review ()


‘Here,’ writes Rod McLeod, ‘in a city practically under police curfew, you fucked and fought, got stoned, got married, or got out of town.’1 — location: 220 ^ref-1223

This book is my attempt to document the substantial yet largely unsung contribution that Brisbane has made both to Australian popular culture and to international popular music. In doing so, I aimed to chart the shifts in musical, political and cultural consciousness that have helped shape the city’s history and identity. In its broadest sense, Pig City is the story of how Brisbane grew up. — location: 231 ^ref-8907

A gerrymander represents the drawing of electoral boundaries in a way that serves the interests of the governing party. This certainly took place in Queensland, but it was the malapportionment, which meant that one vote in the west of the state was worth up to three in Brisbane, that was the critical issue. — location: 313 ^ref-21745

For much of the 20th century, education in Queensland was chronically neglected. Between 1919 and 1939, the textbooks in the small number of secondary schools remained unchanged; between 1924 and 1952, not a single new high school was built in Brisbane. The men ruling the state were the products of this system and the inheritors of its failings. As Peter Charlton observes, ‘It explains much of the state’s conservatism, suspicion and resistance to change.’4 It also accounts for the nickname given to Queensland by many commentators: the Deep North. — location: 326 ^ref-31412

Peter Milton Walsh: Anybody with a pulse would have felt they were trapped in a scene from In The Heat Of The Night. It was like a northern version of a southern American state; it was the cops against people who were alive. — location: 1895 ^ref-41850

This was punk’s greatest gift to Brisbane: far more crucial than any specific political refusal was the impetus that it provided to a bored youth to create its own history. — location: 1916 ^ref-19577

Living under the one roof on a diet of bread and black sauce was hardly conducive to group harmony; drinking and playing by night, no matter how good the gigs, only poisoned the cocktail further. — location: 1965 ^ref-45097

Mark Callaghan was too clever a songwriter to be stifled permanently by the breakup of the Riptides. With his new group, GANGgajang, he achieved deserved commercial success, writing a string of hits throughout the ’80s, experiencing a roughly equivalent measure of spoils and compromises along the way: the classic Sounds Of Then was even used as the soundtrack for both Coke and Channel Nine commercials. — location: 1977 ^ref-57417

Since acquiring Lindy Morrison, the band had completely deconstructed its original sound. Their music had become angular, based on shifting rhythms and tones rather than naive melodies. Robert Forster had no interest in rewriting Lee Remick, but for some time found himself unsure of which musical path to pursue: through 1980 and into 1981, by his own admission, ‘I didn’t write a really good song for two years.’ The band was practising obsessively and becoming stale. — location: 2210 ^ref-24557

Next to the albums that followed, Send Me A Lullaby, as the Go-Betweens’ debut was eventually titled, is often dismissed as amateurish and tentative. It is in fact ripe for rediscovery, making far more sense when viewed in the context of the band’s immediate post-punk peers. Still, the band was only beginning to find its feet. — location: 2242 ^ref-32483

Robert Vickers: I’d heard Send Me A Lullaby and thought it was quite different, obviously, to the early material. It was interesting, but it sounded like they were trying to work something out. So I was very happy when I heard Before Hollywood, because it was obvious that they had worked it out. It contained a lot of the melody that was in the early songs, but it was more intelligently put together. The structures of the songs were complex but also memorable, which is an almost impossible thing to do in music. — location: 2280 ^ref-4393

Not everyone appreciated the humour. Most of the station’s staff, particularly journalists, were finding themselves under increasing levels of surveillance. Some suffered the frightening experience of having their homes raided at dawn by the Special Branch. Others were subjected to more subtle means of intimidation. Amanda Collinge: I was at this Russ Hinze press conference one day, which was an eye-opener in itself, and I was approached by someone who started asking me questions that indicated he knew a hell of a lot about me. He asked me first how I was finding my lodgings at 8 Broadway Street in Red Hill. Then he asked me if my Datsun 180B was giving me a problem. And the third question was how was I managing to survive on whatever it was we were paid at Triple Zed at the time. — location: 2318 ^ref-61968

Where Midnight Oil’s Beds Are Burning spoke of ‘we’, and Archie Roach limited his own accounts of personal tragedy mainly to ‘I’, it is perhaps unsurprising that Carmody’s accusatory ‘you’ would prove too difficult for white audiences to swallow. — location: 2591 ^ref-3533

Some bands peak early. Almost all the great ones, however, take several years to hit their stride. — location: 4567 ^ref-37293

Read The Go-Betweens
David Nichols’ book on The Go-Betweens was first published in 1997. Capturing their rise in the late 70’s until their initial demise in the late 80’s. I read the third revision published in 2011, which included a postscript discussing the reforming of the band in the late nineties until McLennan’s death in 2006. My review can be found here.


McLENNAN: Oh; we were driving along in a car one time; going to the Exchange Hotel. We drove over the bridge there and we were just thinking of a few names and 1 think Rob came up with the Go-Betweens. Because, we since found out, we went between two types of music, maybe, or …
FORSTER: Basically there’s night and there’s day, and you try and go between that, and you find the twilight zone—and there lies the Go-Betweens. – Page 20

Brisbane’s dance clubs in the 1960s—which were generally called discotheques, though in fact they featured live groups—must have been remarkable, especially the Sound Machine, which promoter and Brisbane patriot John Reid aka “the Brisbane Devotee,” remembered ten years later as having “fluorescent posters, red and black decor, telephones on the tables so you could ring other tables.” – Page 29

To follow the kind of lifestyle that people in other Australian cities took for granted—going out for the night, hearing a few rock bands who played music relevant to your world, drinking—was infused, in Brisbane, with a special kind of danger. The police could arrest you at any time, and effectively they could do what they wanted with you. – Page 30

Forster recalled that McLennan “was carrying a film mag and a Ry Cooder record” when they first met. “The film mag I approved of, the Ry Cooder record I was cool on.”

This kind of cultural flag-waving was a legitimate way to make friends in Brisbane in the late 1970s, according to Robert Vickers, who moved in the same circles as Forster and McLennan.

ROBERT VICKERS: If you walked down the street with a Nico album, and somebody who was interested in Nico saw you, they would probably stop. Oh. definitely, without a doubt. You really did judge people quite quickly by their tastes and that was very important. And you needed other people to be involved. Just someone to share it with. And if you did see someone walking down the street with a Nico album or Big Star 3, that was enough. If you saw someone on a train even dressed in a certain way, you might talk to them. – Page 38

McLennan has often characterized his relationship with Forster as a nonsexual homosexuality:

McLENNAN: We were in Queensland, which is a very macho state, and Brisbane symbolizes everything which is disgusting about Queensland. We were pushed together at university in our foppish attitudes towards theater as well. – Page 40

FORSTER: I’d been extremely successful at school; at school, I found a lot more freedom than later at university. I could do anything I wanted at school. It was a lot more creative, a lot more satisfying, a lot weirder, if you like. Which I thrived on. And as soon as I got into university and started handing in assignments, I was called aside and told, “If you want to do creative writing, we have little courses… but we don’t want creative writing.” And of course this is the way I’d written through school. And got good grades. I used to hand in schoolwork with photos. I’d take photos a lot. At university you were supposed to hand in a paper. I handed it in in a box—a cardboard box. It was rejected. And so there was a bad spiral. From being the schoolboy genius, I go to university and become the town dunce. – Page 41

MCLENNAN: At the end of 1977 he rang up and said, “You’re finishing [university], have you changed your mind, do you want to start a band?” And I said yes.
You know, it was: “Why not?” It wasn’t like: “Oh, yeah, let’s get a band together!”
It was just: Why not?” – Page 42

VICKERS: It was certainly perfect for the time. It had columns, wooden columns, all through it; you were always up against a post. It looked like there were walls everywhere that had been taken down except for the uprights. A little tiny stage, and you couldn’t see anyone playing onstage because everyone could stand up front. You couldn’t hear anything—but you were there. – Page 46

Recalling the Curry Shop in Brisbane

To be a go-between was far from a negative role in McLennan and Forster’s eyes. They were in between so many places, swamped by a cultural flood. While they faced the reality of Brisbane, the heat, parental pressure, and the influence of punk rock, they also yearned for New York in the 1960s and 1970s, Paris in the 1920s and 1950s, and were fascinated by Timothy Leary Bob Dylan, Tom Verlaine, Françoise Hardy, Samantha Eggar, Richard Hell, Blondie, and the Erasers. All of this was siphoned through a strange, anomalous Brisbane rock group called the Go-Betweens. – Page 52

PETER WALSH: They’d never say it, but you could tell which part of the record collection he’d listened to in the two minutes it took for him to write that song. – Page 60

FORSTER: Grant and I used to look at products. As a game, I’d go round the kitchen and pick up something like Vegemite. And we’d rattle off five or ten advertising slogans. Products around the kitchen. We were flying! We thought we were geniuses. The band was always the flagship: “If the band becomes famous, everyone’s going to be interested in these ideas. We’ve got to get famous.” The group was the get-famous thing—once that happened, we could go. ‘‘Surprise, surprise, everybody, yeah, we’re pop stars but we’ve got all these other ideas and we’re goddamn flickin’ geniuses. You thought you were only getting two moptop pop stars, what you’re getting is Truffaut and Godard! We’re the Orson Welles of rock.” It didn’t happen. – Page 70

MICHAEL O’CONNELL: John Willsteed virtually showed Lindy Morrison how to play the drums. In the performing process the spotlight was mainly on Irena and myself. – Page 79

Michael O’Connell on Zero

MORRISON: We went to Stradbroke Island for a Zero gig and we had our first fuck, and he was so overcome by losing his virginity and the joy of sex, that he went for a walk down to the beach and he didn’t return in time to get the bus back. I went back to Brisbane on the bus and he had to stay overnight, didn’t have any money, had to sleep on the beach. We all went back on the bloody bus which he missed because he wandered off to contemplate nature and the mysteries of the universe—because he’d had his first fuck. I didn’t hear from him for three days. Here I am. I’d finally got his pants off, and—the bloody guy—as soon as he does it he disappears down the beach and when he finally gets back to Brisbane doesn’t even ring me for three days! – Page 83

FORSTER: We arrived in London with acoustic guitars. We were the first people walking around London with them … this is late ’79. You could virtually be booked and put in jail for having an acoustic guitar. I don’t know who the last people were in London who had acoustic guitars or played acoustic songs to A&R people. They just thought we were completely nuts. They’d say “Oh, yeah. Send us a demo tape.” We’d go, “We don’t have a demo tape, we’ve got our acoustic guitars, we’ll come and play you some songs.”
I thought it was fantastic. Completely immediate. You can see that they play, they’re sitting on two chairs and they’re playing you the songs. If I was an A&R person I’d think: “I wish every band would come and do this.” But we were just laughed at. No one was interested. We went to Virgin. We went to Rough Trade and played “People Say” for Geoff Travis and he said “It’s too commercial.” I was just: “Whai does ihai mean? ” Too commercial? You just kept running up against these orthodoxies. ‘”No, you have to sound like the Gang of Four. You have to sound like the Fall. You have to sound sort of scrapey and scrappy, [with] the lyric way down in the mix.”
They thought it wouldn’t fit into what was going on. We arrived at a good moment and a bad moment. We only had half a dozen good songs in 197S. So if we’d gone over then, we would’ve— whatever time we’d gone over, it would’ve been the wrong time, we wouldn’t have been able to fit in. You know the week that “Lee Remick” came out? If we’d been there that week, it would have done really well. We would have been famous. Then. In England. – Page 85

Forster said, “In Brisbane, musically, we’re [enrolled] in a school, but we’re just doing it by correspondence, and then suddenly you go over to London and you’re actually at the college.” – Page 86

Dave Tyrer, Forster explained, ‘’has a Roland guitar synthesizer.” And, he continued, “Grant will be joining us, playing bass, when he gets back from New York.” – Page 97

There are so many aspects to the Go-Betweens story where one is left thinking ‘what if’, I can only imagine that a guitar synthesiser would have changed their sound.

MORRISON: I cooked this fabulous Christmas dinner, and half an hour before Christmas dinner everybody hit up. So when Christmas dinner came, nobody could eat. And everyone was just sitting around, the gravy was congealing in thick lumps over the chicken, the green vegetables were going stiff and the potato was hard. And the plates just sat there all day, it was a tragedy. It was that constant “straight” thing, that constant thing that I was very straight, and I could never move in that other world. Well, I didn’t want to. I didn’t need to. – Page 120

But although they were relieved, the group were determined to trust their instincts on their next release, and to return to the kind of music that had originally influenced them, rather than follow the rhythmic or fractured “art” influences that punctuated Send Me a Lullaby. – Page 121

The days ‘before Hollywood” were adventurous times. Before the era of sound; films could be made without the hindrance of language differences, in Europe, the USA or Australia (for which claims have been made, with some justification, as the birthplace of the feature film). The ruined European economy after the First World War gave Hollywood the boost it needed to cement its grip on film production; some loose parallels can be drawn with the music business and its perceived domination by Americans. The Go-Betweens, however, with their love and respect for the Monkees, Dylan, the Velvets, Jonathan Richman, etc., would be the last to criticize American cultural domination. – Page 121

There is obviously no love lost between McLennan and Morrison, but he pays her the tribute of conceding that “Cattle and Cane” “had a great rhythm, which I don’t think any drummer the world could have played except Lindy Morrison. Never ceases to amaze me, that rhythm thing.” – Page 124

The album is certainly very different from Send Me a Lullaby. Musically, it is closer to the work of Forster and McLennnan’s earlier heroes, such as Television. Lyrically, songs like the poignant “Dusty in Here” and “Cattle and Cane” (both McLennan compositions) initiated an approach, usually perceived as one of innocent sentimentality and nostalgia, that the group would still be embracing (and ultimately perverting) at the end of the decade. – Page 125

MCLENNAN: With “Cattle and Cane” I wanted to write an autobiographical song, and I was aware of that, and I say in the lyrics “Memory wastes.” That’s perhaps a little clever, but memory can be a wasteland where you wander around and live the rest of your life. – Page 126

Grant McLennan in an interview with Clinton Walker in 1982.

In keeping with McLennan and Forster’s “McCartney and Lennon” dynamic, Forster’s songs are far more bombastic, particularly the title track, “By Chance” – Page 129

NICHOLS: The big thing with Postcard seemed to be all these comparisons with the Velvet Underground. How do you think you fitted in with that?
McLENNAN: I don’t know. I know NME said that Josef K were the Velvets [in] 1967 and that Orange Juice were Velvets ’69. If we were anything, the Go-Betweens were the Velvets at their first rehearsal. Not quite grasping the songs, but the initial draw was there. – Page 142

NICHOLS: It’s [Send Me a Lullaby] not as coherent as the second one. Some songs don’t exactly fit together. I thought it was strange the way you chopped it up for Australian consumption. – Page 142

MCLENNAN: Keith saw me as being a more commercial writer than he was. I think that’s unfair, because Robert’s melodies you just have to absorb more than mine, that’s all. – Page 143

I think Robert Forster has the capacity to sing a song in a variety of ways. I sing it in a way that is always close to the heart. It’s a very intangible thing, I can’t explain it in any other way. – Page 146

McLennan’s “This Girl, Black Girl”—probably the first of his Go-Betweens songs to take on the Australian bush-ballad form that has since become a favored style for him – Page 148

[T]he Go-Betweens would. But the Go-Betweens were trying to flourish within a foreign culture—one they couldn’t tap into in the way Morrissey, to their evident frustration, apparently effortlessly could. – Page 151

I have agreed to donate all my interview tapes and other research materials to the National Film and Sound Archive (maybe writing this sentence will make me finally knuckle down to the task of fishing the tapes out from under the house). – Page 271

Read Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head

One day in the summer of 2006 I learned that Syd had died. I phoned Mojo and asked if I could write the obituary piece. ‘Yes please,’ said the editor. ‘But we go to press in five days. Can you do 5,000 words by Friday?’ If it had been anybody else it would have been a chore, but I’d lived and breathed and dreamed Syd’s music since that twelve-year-old me first heard ‘Arnold Layne’. And so in the hottest week of that long hot summer I sat and wrote 5,000 words about Syd. Here’s another 140,000 to go with them.

Growing up, I had a friend who was obsessed with Pink Floyd. He learnt all the licks. He would play along to every track. Once, in a time before online shopping, we drove for an hour to buy a Syd Barrett boxset. There was always an aura around Barrett and his genius. I was therefore intrigued to read Rob Chapman’s book. I saw it come up in Faber’s Greatest Hits, it was also offered for free on Audible.

Chapman continues to push back on the myths around Barrett and his genius and subsequent mental collapse. Although there is no denying that drugs played a significant part in Barrett’s life, however there were also other aspects that influenced things. Chapman makes comparisons with the lives and works of other creatives, Edward Lear and Kenneth Grahame, Lewis Carroll, who each in their own way suffered a lose that hung over them and influenced their art. Chapman also explores the difference in personalities and desires with the other members of Pink Floyd. With this in mind, success may not have been his thing. While in the end, for many during that time, madness offered up a way of being.

The stories that emulate around Barrett buying thirty guitars, living it up in a hotel or chasing down an airplane on the tarmac reminds me in some ways of stories that often surround Daniel Johns. So often there is a desire for such enigmas to fit a particular mold. However, I guess this may overlook their own desire of who they might want to be.

Listened POLITICS: A Case Study of the Nexus between Populism, Apathy & Exploitation, by Worker & Parasite from Worker & Parasite

This EP has been commissioned and approved for circulation by the MINISTRY OF SOCIAL COHESION, as per directive #NC4551.

All tracks were created, captured, and manipulated by members of WORKER & PARASITE sporadically over the period 2020-2022.

Percussive instrumentation captured at CACTUS ROOM. Totality of additional audio captured at undisclosed locations.

[REDACTED] commissioned by the relevant department to master all works. Accompanying visuals completed by @natrees.b and [REDACTED].

Further PARTY acknowledgments: [REDACTED], [REDACTED], [REDACTED], [REDACTED].

Severe regards to all PARTY Members.

A friend invited me to attend the benefit for Food Not Bombs. In particular, he was interested in seeing Worker & Parasite. “They are like Devo.” I had not heard of the band, but was intrigued, especially after listening to their EP, POLITICS: A Case Study of the Nexus between Populism, Apathy & Exploitation. The performance was everything that you would want. The music was tight, the content was provocative, the presentation was intriguing (what was in the envolope?), and overall I was left thinking afterwards.

Worker & Parasite at Bar 303

My one question was where to next? Sonically, the music goes in a few different directions, but I wonder if the music is a response to the current context?

(Sonically) Place between Architecture in Helsinki and LCD Soundsystem

Read 2006 novel by Cormac McCarthy by Contributors to Wikimedia projects

Inspired by The Partially Examined Life’s investigation of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, I re-read the book. I remember by left in both shock and awe at the book when I first read it, but the podcast really helped elucidate what makes the text special for me, particularly the idea of landscape as a character and the contradictory nature of characters such as The Judge. This lead me to reading The Road.

I had never seen the film nor read The Road in the past. To be honest, even though I had heard of it, I did not really know what it was about before starting the journey. It is interesting, I am not sure if I would have read the book based on the summary:

A father and his young son journey on foot across the post-apocalyptic ash-covered United States some years after an extinction event. The boy’s mother, pregnant with him at the time of the disaster, committed suicide some time before.

Realizing they cannot survive the winter in more northern latitudes, the father takes the boy south along interstate highways towards the sea, carrying their meager possessions in their knapsacks and a supermarket cart. The father is suffering from a cough. He assures his son that they are “good guys” who are “carrying the fire”. The pair have a revolver, but only two rounds. The father has tried to teach the boy to use the gun on himself if necessary, to avoid falling into the hands of cannibals.

Source: The Road – Wikipedia

However, the destination does not always seem that important with McCarthy.

Initially, I was left wondering what had happened to the world that McCarthy’s novel traverses. However, it is soon made clear that it is not really the point. I guess when the whole world catches fire that you might not even know the cause is.

What seems to matter is what it means to exist in a world merely focused on survival. What does it mean to be ‘one of the good ones’ in a world where many have to cannibalism to survive?

“There is no God and we are his prophets.”

In part, the book feels like it is about the future and the threat of global warming, but it also feels like it is about the present. Although I have only read two McCarthy books, I feel different after them.


McCarthy’s is an elemental voice. In his voice I hear stone shifting, glaciers cracking open, trees moaning in the wind. The ancient cadences of his prose take on an almost otherworldly quality, a quality that transports you. I’m constantly in awe of the language and recognizing how he’s putting together his sentences so exquisitely.

Source: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road May Have the Scariest Passage in All of Literature by Joe Fassler

Though McCarthy’s not afraid to stare into the abyss, he seems to also carefully consider his use of violence. When I’m reading someone like Chuck Palahniuk, I often feel he’s titillated by a kind of gorenography. He’s writing violence in a way that feels excessive and part of some carnival sideshow meant to make people slap their knees and guffaw horribly. When I look at The Road, or a book like Blood Meridian, McCarthy describes every terrible thing that a mind could conjure. But he’ll also pull back. He’ll allow some violence to take place off stage, because he knows unseen acts can be as brutal and affecting as violence that’s shown—perhaps more so.

Source: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road May Have the Scariest Passage in All of Literature by Joe Fassler

Joe Fassler explains that what makes McCarthy’s so powerful is his avoidance ‘gorenography’ by leaving so much of the violence off the stage.

The Road is neither parable nor science fiction, however, and fundamentally it marks not a departure but a return to McCarthy’s most brilliant genre work, combined in a manner we have not seen since Blood Meridian: adventure and Gothic horror.

Source: After the Apocalypse | Michael Chabon by Michael Chabon

The existence of a moral structure—the will to do good—is the soaring discovery hidden in McCarthy’s scourged planet.

Source: Cormac McCarthy’s new masterpiece. by Jennifer Egan

The way McCarthy sails close to the prose of late Beckett is also remarkable; the novel proceeds in Beckett-like, varied paragraphs. They are unlikely relatives, these two artists in old age, cornered by bleak experience and the rich limits of an English pulverised down through despair to a pleasingly wry perfection.

Source: Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy by Alan Warner

SamuelBeckett #TheRoad #CormacMcCarthy

Which is to say that, deny it as we like, all of our effort and creativity in this world implies an orientation toward some transcendent place or mind outside this world; that human consciousness suggests a superhuman correlate; that, adapting Nietzsche, to believe in grammar is to believe in God. Following from this premise of a link between human and divine creativity, McCarthy inquires what will become of humanity if all of its efforts come to grief, if the divine security is thereby invalidated? On this question, The Road runs both ways: how can the last survivors of the doomed human race retain faith either in itself or in God?

Source: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road by John Pistelli

It is to inquire about what purpose our activities have at all, however mixed and marred by violence or oppression they are.

Source: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road by John Pistelli

The only thing in this world that is divine is us, or, more specifically, whatever in us rises above the merely reasonable. Reason can do nothing but perceive and manipulate the already-given, by definition evil in this evil world, but the divine spark preserves the irrational goodness and beauty of the true Lord.

Source: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road by John Pistelli

McCarthy is seemingly less interested in exploring the causes of this mass extinction event and its immediate aftermath choosing instead to focus on the dynamic relationship between a father and his son. This relationship, and the uniquely human traits that are exemplified within its bounds, stand in stark contrast to the primeval immorality of the other survivors they encounter on the road.

Source: The%20Road%20-%20Cormac%20McCarthy%20(2006) by Matt Burgess

McCarthy does not say how or when God entered this man’s being and his son’s, nor does he say how or why they were chosen to survive together for 10 years, to be among the last living creatures on the road. But the tale is as biblical as it is ultimate, and the man implies that the end has happened through godly fanaticism. The world is in a nuclear winter, though that phrase is never used. The lone allusion to our long-prophesied holy war with its attendant nukes is when the man thinks: “On this road there are no godspoke men. They are gone and I am left and they have taken with them the world.”

Source: Review: ‘The Road,’ by Cormac McCarthy by William Kennedy

Although, as expected, the Father makes all pragmatic decisions concerning survival, the Boy is the clear authority on morality, persuading the father to preserve a charitable spirit in McCarthy’s amoral wasteland. He is the bringer of light in the darkness, the embodiment of “carrying the fire” (p. 234).

Source: Survival and Morality in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road: Exploring Aquinian Grace and the Boy as Messiah by Carla M. Sanchez