Inkheart and the failure of McCarthy’s The Road

This week I read Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. This is a children’s book, but I’ve had several (adult) patrons here who have enjoyed it, and also some that haven’t; so I’ve been interested to see what it was like. I can occasionally enjoy children’s lit, although I generally need to follow it with something with a little harder or sharper edge to it. NoveList recommends Inkheart for grades 4-12; our heroine is 12 years old, so that probably tells us who it’s intended for. But again, plenty of adult fans exist as well.

I enjoyed this book. It’s fantasy set in our real world, although our real world doesn’t interact much with that of Mo and Meggie. Mo is a bookbinder and, along with his daughter Meggie and aunt Elinor, general bibliophile. Books are an important element here, which of course I appreciate. There are good guys and bad guys and fairies and fire-breathers, and Meggie gets to be a hero. It’s enjoyable, with good imagery and satisfying good vs. evil action, and it’s the first in a trilogy, so it won’t be giving away too much to say the ending doesn’t leave everything tied up too neatly! I liked it. I would certainly pick up the second book if it crossed my desk at the right moment, but I won’t go requesting a hold at my local library or anything. That’s about a B score, same with J.D. Robb’s series. I’d pick up another but won’t go seeking them out.

When I finished Inkheart I picked up Cormac McCarthy’s The Road because, duh, everybody raved, so it must be good! Wrong! As I like to tell my patrons when they ask “did you like it?”… there’s room for all kinds of tastes in this world. How boring would it be if we all liked the same things? And how long would the lines be? There would have to be like two bands playing the same concert 6 nights a week to crowds of thousands. I think that sounds dull. So, we don’t all like the same things, and The Road is not for me. I was immediately upset by the sentence fragments, and McCarthy’s disregard for certain elements of punctuation. (Maybe he’s the next ee cummings, but I’m not impressed.) I failed to get involved with the father and the son in a few pages, and started skipping around throughout the book to see if I could find some action or interest or chapters or structure or quotation marks or commitment to complete sentences. None of the above. I spent about 30 minutes skimming cover to cover, read the beginning and the end and some parts in between, and I’m ready to say I don’t like this book. As one of my volunteers here at the library says, we’re adults now, we don’t have to finish books we don’t like!

Perhaps the enjoyment of this book lies in considering it as a poem (a la cummings, again, poetic license) or as inspirational fiction; a few reviews have pointed out the elements of faith and love as an important message, but I’m not looking for McCarthy’s version of either. This is a popular and highly reviewed book; clearly there’s a time and a place and a mindset for it. But I’m not there, and that’s ok.

So what’s next? I’m considering Secret Historian: the life and times of Samuel Steward, professor, tattoo artist, and sexual renegade by Justin Spring, or else Running the Books: the adventures of an accidental prison librarian by Avi Steinberg. Enjoy your weekend and I’ll tell you what I chose next week! Thanks…

Edit: Logged onto Librarything and asked it to predict whether I would like The Road or not and it said I probably would not, with very high confidence. Very good Librarything!!

2 Responses

  1. I ❤ The Road. But, I generally like dystopias.

    Yes, the most boring comment ever. But it's Friday afternoon …

  2. You got marked as spam. I just saw this! Wonder what happened.

    Clearly a lot of people like The Road. I don’t have a feeling for how I feel about dystopias generally but really loved 1984… What did you like about it?

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