Tuesday, 2 September 2008

It's The End Of The World As We Know It...

...And I feel blue. There has been a temporary blog slowdown over the last few days, and you can blame Cormac McCarthy for it. Last week I read his breathtaking novel The Road, which paints such a convincing and relentlessly bleak picture of what the world would be like during a nuclear winter that I was propelled headlong into a brainfunk of catastrophic proportions. I can't remember the last time I read something that affected me so profoundly, though I do remember the last film that did; Cronenberg's criminally underrated Spider, doing for my psyche what Cronenberg had previously managed with Dead Ringers many years ago.


Maybe it wasn't just the fault of The Road. Over the last few months I have read Matt Taibbi's The Great Derangement (the world has become completely irrational and it's only going to get worse), Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great (religious fundamentalists will be the death of us all), Scott Smith's The Ruins (a metaphor for how we are all doomed due to our ignorance and fear of facing our responsibilities, and a shit-scary horror classic to boot), and Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson's The Gods That Failed (a lengthy and eloquent rant about the forthcoming economic Armageddon that will make paupers of us all). The cumulative effect of all this bleak reading material is to make me even more pessimistic than I previously was.

Maybe if I had followed The Gods That Failed with Thomas Frank's The Wrecking Crew as planned, I might only be very miserable instead of emotionally washed-out, but it too will be a sobering and downbeat read, even taking into account Frank's deadpan wit. Instead, plumping for McCarthy's novel might have been the worst choice possible. It's all because photos of the adaptation hit the internet last week, showing Viggo Mortenson as the unnamed dad trudging across a blasted and ash-strewn hellscape with his son in tow, waiting for death to take them both before they fall to the hands of marauding cannibal rapists. Well, the photos only showed Viggo looking really miserable, so I went into the book not realising how well McCarthy would paint a picture of a world utterly without hope. Or colour. The inside of my head has been the same ash-gray since finishing the book which, incidentally, I did as quickly as I could in order to get it over and done with.


Though I'm sure most people stumbling across this blog have already read The Road, if you haven't I hesitate to recommend it due to the overwhelmingly negative empathic reaction I had to it. On a non-emotive level I definitely would recommend it. McCarthy is operating at the peak of his phenomenal powers, and with spare poetic prose creates an utterly convincing post-apocalyptic nightmare that has been designed with such rigour that there is no room for hope or optimism (I won't include spoilers that might or might not ultimately qualify that statement. Those who have read The Road will have their own ideas about whether that statement is true or not). It is a totally convincing scenario, and thanks to McCarthy's incredible descriptive facility, there is no escape from his vision of hell on earth. It felt like a mantrap had grabbed onto my soul. So yeah, stunning book, and one everyone should read, but if you don't feel like being really really glum for several days after, skip it.

So, even though I'm not the type to shy away from potentially downbeat material, I figured I needed to take a break from fiction or non-fiction making serious points about how fucked up the world is. Maybe spending the whole weekend watching pretty much the whole third season of The Shield wasn't the best move, but even though it featured nervous breakdowns, beloved characters either killing animals or beating each other almost to the brink of death, rape (perpetrated upon both male and female), dismemberment, moral compromise, racism, homophobia, systemic corruption, unrelenting tension, violence, and a bleak vision of urban decay, at least it was occasionally funny, plotted with astonishing precision, and was never less than riveting. A rewatching of Zoolander was more calming, as was a viewing of the last five episodes of Venture Brothers season three, which would have been an unqualified uplifting triumph if the last two minutes of the finale didn't make me so sad (stupid Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick making me unhappy with the shock ending!).


Nevertheless, the sadness has yet to pass, even with the best efforts of Canyon to cheer me up, which could be evidence that my soul has been tainted by the power of McCarthy's prose even unto its core. After spending some time pootling around the excellent Quiet Earth website, which is devoted to post-apocalyptic sci fi fiction, I realised that that kind of dystopian sci fi can either be depressing (The Road) or kinda fun (they linked to news that a director's cut of the exuberantly daft and entertaining Waterworld is being released, which was one of the few things over the last few days that has cheered me up, and all the Waterworld haters out there can kiss it). As a result, I have gone out of my way to experience less harrowing dystopic sci fi over the last couple of days, in an effort to replace McCarthy's harrowing vision with something that doesn't make me despair, and I shall spend the rest of the week discussing my efforts. If that doesn't appeal to our readers, apologies, but seriously, it beats moaning about Mike Leigh again, folks.

4 comments:

Chrissy said...

How about this?

The Fall is coming out on DVD in the US on 9.9.08.

Does that help?

Admiral Neck said...

Thank you for that, Chrissy, that is good news indeed. However, I'm hesitant to buy it straight off, as it might not be the awesome spectacle I'm hoping it is. Or rather, I'm sure that... TARSEM!!!... will bring the pretty, but will it work as a film? Uncomfortable memories of The Cell still linger. Has anyone actually seen it yet? It had such a crappy release I don't think anyone did. I've read one review of it; Moriarty on AICN loved it, but it sounded like an acquired taste.

And so, I'm planning on seeing it first during its limited run in London in a few weeks time (hopefully it will be digitally projected at the Curzon Soho; Man On Wire was shown in that format and it was staggeringly pretty). I'm so excited about it I kept bugging Canyon about it while she was planning a holiday getaway for us, making sure the dates didn't clash. The things she has to put up with...

Of course, if it's good, I'll buy it (along with Speed Racer SHUT UP HATERS). Or I'll wait for it to come out on Blu-Ray and use that as an excuse to drop serious bank on expensive but pretty hardware. All in the name of... TARSEM!!!

Chrissy said...

I dunno. The combined weight of ... TARSEM ..., Lee Pace and ... TARSEM!!!... is pulling me in like a runaway shuttle to a black hole.

I am one of the few who unabashedly loves The Cell. In fact, it's one of the movies that got stolen that I paid full price for to replace.

The Judge said...

Loved the Road. Utterly depressing, of course, but can't wait to see the film. I haven't felt that disturbed by a book since reading "When the wind blows" aged about 8... still, when the revolution comes, I know it will be one of the books I grab from the shelf before heading for the hills. Or, you know, being in Holland, the man made dunes.