MA Semester Two, Week Nine

So this was our post-apocalyptic week.  Aside from reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road and watching the film adaptation, there was of course the giant evil cloud of volcanic ash that's devouring most of Europe.  Dramatic, huh?  Well, I'm supposed to be flying to Rome to a really good friend's wedding on Thursday, so if the ash doesn't continue to clear, we'll be driving there (I say 'we', I'll just be in charge of  changing the CDs; I wouldn't know how to even switch on a car) so all in all, I'm not sure the big McCarthy-fest was the best start to the post-Easter world.  Any fire I'd be carrying would be rage and possibly indigestion, so Viggo would be dead disappointed.  I don't even have a shopping trolley.


Film was watched, book was read, and the Contemporary Fiction seminar on Monday was about the rise in apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction and movies in the past couple of decades.  The millennium seems to be a factor here, as does terrorism and religious fundamentalism.  There's apparently a whole host of Rapture-themed books popular in the US, called the Left Behind series - Christian fiction where the Saved are, well, saved, and the damned have to stay on Earth and suffer torments, and some plucky chaps get to battle the Antichrist.  You can read excerpts on Amazon, it's hilarious.  (I've just been reading bits aloud in a very dramatic voice to poor Andy who's trying to do real work.)  I'd love to get my hands on those books; they sound like the religious-fiction equivalent of Jeremy Kyle.  Brilliantly annoying and fascinating.  There's been a huge surge, too, in survivalist literature - fiction and non-fiction texts about (you guessed it) how to survive in extreme situations.

So that was all very interesting, plus we got to talk about Mad Max, which always adds a certain something to an academic discussion.  Then it was on to The Road itself, and how it fits, or doesn't fit, within the post-apocalyptic genre.  We talked about McCarthy's ambiguous use of religion, the relationship between the man and the boy, what people thought about the ending, McCarthy's writing style (like Hemingway? or like Faulkner?), and the film adaptation.  Personally, I liked the film but still found it way schmaltzier than the book, with the rosy-coloured flashbacks and the Disney McFamily at the end, which is played way down in the book.  We also talked about Oprah and McCarthy's appearance on her show, and why he might have agreed to that - a line of enquiry I thought pretty pointless and gossipy - can't the man go on the telly if he fancies it?  Seriously.  Dude's about a hundred years old; perhaps he wanted to give it a go before it was too late.

That was about that; we had the fiction workshop as usual after lunch, and this time it was my go - my final MA workshop.  There should be a drumroll emoticon.  It went well - good feedback, useful suggestions, and now I just have to figure out what happens next in the novel.

Okay - back to hovering over the airline's website and wondering which and how many albums we can get through on a twenty-three hour drive.  Go.


Andrea Wilhelm said...

We just did The Road for my Contemporary Fiction course (undergraduate, though). I personally fell in love with the novel, and hope to read more of McCarthy's works. It was really intriguing and inspirational.

Valerie O'Riordan said...

Hi Andrea,

it is beautiful, isn't it? The first McCarthy book I read was All The Pretty Horses and I just fell in love with his prose. Gorgeous. I've still got to catch up with his more recent stuff; nice to have it to look forward to, though!