(WG's gobbling sausage in Berlin today, so yarn boy continues to pick up the slack.)
...Continued from yesterday
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: no author you were forced to read in high school could possibly qualify as Literary Crack. It’s true that one doesn’t exactly breeze through Dickens. But when you consider that his novels were originally serialized in newspapers, that people were dying for the next installment, that his books are the best evidence we have that the first soap opera actually precedes the existence of soap, you see that Charles Dickens was among the first LC dealers. Sure, sure . . . Bleak House is almost one thousand pages long. But what mysteries those pages contain! Who is Esther’s mother? What is Tulkinghorn’s angle? Why is Lady Dedlock always acting like she’s hiding something? Why is Mr. Guppy such a freak? Do people really spontaneously combust? These questions will cause you to lug this veritable tome around with you—and ignore your children and your pets—until you’ve turned the last page!
In this novel, the words “literary” and “crack” come together in holy matrimony. Cormac McCarthy’s getting a lot of play lately, but he’s been writing languid, gorgeous, horrifying novels for a very long time. Most of them require an uphill kind of attention, but The Road is practically effortless. The world all but disappeared when I cracked the spine of this one, and its account of a father and son’s journey across post-apocalyptic America left me wondering whether the world would still exist when I was finished. It does—for now—but for the two days and one night that I was trapped in the pages of The Road, that was a debatable proposition. McCarthy crackifies his writing with traditional horror tactics (What’s on the other side of that door? What’s making that noise in the dark?) but he’s aiming for a much larger goal than just scaring the crap out of his reader. In fact, McCarthy didn’t really “write” this book; he really opened a secret door to a cold, dark, howling future.
Now, I shared this little list of LC books with my wife, and she pointed out that all of these books are about things going to hell in a hand basket. This is a good point. What is it about the hell-bound hand basket we find so compelling? Why are stories about things falling apart so hard to put down? It’s an interesting question, but I can’t talk about it right now. I have to go finish this book: