Monday, November 27, 2006

Old Masters

Maurice Graham - Robert Altman - Robert Lockwood, Jr.

Obituaries of Maurice Graham, "King of the Hobos," and two influential Roberts (filmmaker Altman and bluesman Lockwood), who died on November 21.


En route from Alexandria to Columbia yesterday morning, I finished listening to the CD version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. The reader, Tom Stechschulte, is perhaps the same one who read William Gay's stories, I Hate to See that Evening Sun Go Down, which I listened to with great pleasure a couple years ago. McCarthy's latest is a picaresque post-apocalyptic father and son novel. Trekking south down a road through a blackened and ravaged landscape, the two scrounge desperately for food and are ever-alert for other survivors likely to kill them for their few sorry possessions which they drag along in a rickety cart. The date, the location, the cause of the holocaust, the number of years they've been on the move--all are unspecified. It's a strangely de-contextualized travelogue. The father and son exist in a vacuum, and there are only vague hints of an earlier life with the wife and mother, now long gone. They have encounters with others, sometimes scary, sometimes pitiful. But there's a singular lack of hope for anyone. For all but the hardiest and most bellicose, starvation seems inevitable in the sterile and already-scavenged landscape they traverse. Some of the sketchy conversations between father and son are touching and endearing, and McCarthy's prose is richer and lusher than one might expect, given the bleak setting, but the novel just doesn't have the depth and dimension of his earlier work. I found his previous novel, No Country for Old Men, grimly entertaining, but his best work remains The Border Trilogy, especially All the Pretty Horses.



Best Books I've Read in the Past Year (since 11/27/05)

Robert Olen Butler, Had a Good Time

Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

Ken Bain, What the Best college Teachers Do

Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Ron Rash, The World Made Straight

Stephen Kuusisto, The Planet of the Blind

Mike Rose, The Mind at Work

Jane Tompkins, A Life in School: What the Teacher Learned

J.R. Moehringer, The Tender Bar

Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots and Leaves

Edward Docx, The Calligrapher

Tracy Kidder, My Detachment

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