January 23, 2008

The Road Home

I can't settle today, my writing muses seem to have up and left the building. I wasn't sure what it was, but believe it or not, I think it's the death of Heath Ledger.

Let me explain. When the boys first brought home a movie with Ledger in it, I watched with them, as I usually do. It was a comedy about a knight, and it was quite cute. Now, I thought Ledger was a pretty piece of candy, but there was more to him than that. And, of course, I'm old enough to be his sister, so it would have been highly unattractive to exhibit any cougarish noises. I didn't think much more of it, and I'm not sure that I saw him in anything else.

Then came Brokeback Mountain, and the kid knocked me on my ass. Anyone who has checked in here once in awhile may know that my preferred genre for American literature is Westerns. Larry McMurtry wrote the screenplay for Brokeback from a short story by Annie Proulx, and somehow, Ledger captured the same thing that McMurtry has so perfected: the isolation of a man. McMurtry captures it in geography and character, and Ledger nailed it with scarcely a word. "If you can't fix it, you gotta stand it." Indeed.

I don't know why he's dead, but I'm sorry that he is.

But my actual emotional fade started a few days back, as I read Cormack McCarthy's The Road. It's been around for a bit, but a friend just gave it to me last week. I love McCarthy, even though he has the ability to depress the crap out of me. He makes me think too much. And The Road is no exception.

What's notable, to me at least, however is this: the friend that gave me the book said it reminded her of my youngest son and me. It's the bleak, dark story of a father and son in a post-apocalyptic America, making their way on foot through a doomed land where you are literally putting one foot in front of the other, just as this pair are doing. Their bond is incredible, and it's a love story. McCarthy has admitted it's his most personal work. It has so many channels, so many layers, and a network of emotion runs through it like a grand tapestry. Considering it deals with so much deadness, it's a marvel of life.

With my friend's interpretation parked on my shoulder, I started reading. By page 30, I was a mess. This was my father and I. He carried me through, and I had to watch the life leak out of him. The line from this one that punched me in the gut? "Every day is a lie, he said. But you are dying. That is not a lie". This is every parent and child. McCarthy has stripped away everything to show the abundance of life in that connection.

So, all these western themes, both old and post-modern, all these tales of connections and losses, all the isolation and desolation of the country we live in and our very souls, have teamed up to wrestle in my wee brain.

Love who you love; cherish what you have. And be cautious about both.


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