Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My big trip

Though my Halloween Countdown disguised the fact, I was gone for a spell last week, sunning my pasty northwestern legs and otherwise aging my skin cells in the turquoise waters of Napili Bay. Maui.

Sure, it was lovely. But remind me never to leave Portland again when it’s at the height of its autumn glory. There I was basking in tropical temps (overnight lows in the mid-70s!), and all I could think of was the mist sifting down through the lurid light show of all the falling leaves back home. Just like a Brontë novel. Except for the consumption, madness, and festering cisterns.

Seasonal Affective Disorder aside, I had some adventure, as the photos here attest. Yes, I parasailed! A joyous experience. Not only was I exhilarated as I lifted up into the air, I was actually moved emotionally; to be weightless and aloft and 1,200 feet high in the air was like slipping out of time altogether for a while. Just taking the world in from a distance, like it was a story someone once told me. Like I was leaving it behind forever.

We’ve been to Maui several times before, so the purpose of this trip was to be as idle as possible. To spend all day on the beach, eat from the roadside stands as much as possible, go to bed early. Snack on lotuses. But I can’t handle total relaxation, so I read several books while beached. One was by my friend Joan Herrington, about August Wilson, entitled “I Ain’t Sorry for Nothin’ I Done” -- still one of the best books about the playwright’s work, even though it’s 11 years old now.

And I brought a novel with me that could not have been more wrong for a sunny-soaked holiday: Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic nightmare The Road. This book, about a father and young son tramping through a grey world of ash in search of a warmer climate, is so compelling that I rapidly tore through page after page, hopeful and fearful that they would come across other people (they do, mostly for the worse). This book is bleak. I soon found I couldn’t read it in bed at night unless I seeking insomnia.

So I padded on down to the “hotel” clubhouse, a repository of abandoned vacation books. Reluctantly I picked up a copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Anne Shaffer Annie Barrows. Everything about the cutesy title and the pastel-colored cover seemed to shriek FOR GIRLS ONLY. But it’s a mega-best seller, so I considered it research, and therefore work, and therefore acceptable reading. And to my surprise, it turned out to be a lark. Starts out as silly as a daffodil, but then goes on to reach surprising depths. I was grateful for its light touch, finally, as a temporary antidote to The Road.

However, it’s the McCarthy novel that will stay with me forever. And which surprised me, finally, with its Beckettian view of a universe in which both the horror and the redemptive force of being alive is….well, other people.

Yeah, I’m glad to be back among them.


Jenny Wren said...

I read The Road a few months ago and it just blew me away. I loved the style of McCarthy's writing — staccato sentences, everything so well described and yet so much left to the imagination, the bleakness and, yes, the much needed hope.

There is a movie coming out soon. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I worry they will try to Hollywood-ize it, which would kill it.

Mead said...

Yes, a lot of us feel that way about the movie: they better not ruin it! Casting Viggo seems like a smart move, however -- even though I would have cast him in a different role, one I can't mention here without spoiling the story's inherent suspense.

Making a movie out of that story will certainly take a delicate touch; it's not an adventure yarn, after all, even though events occasionally happen. From what I've read about the adaptation, the occurences of the book's first hundred pages all happen within the movie's opening minutes! So there must be a lot of flashing back to before the story starts.

Above all, I hope the movie doesn't decide to explain away what has happened to the world. Because I think part of the book's harrowing power comes from the fact that we, like the characters, have no idea why they live in the world they do. How's that for existential.

h e r e x a c t l y said...

oh mssr. m,
i've floated, or been dragged thru the air, in just the same way off the maui shore, and i'm so happy to see a photo of you doing just that.
hurrah. and love. and all that rot.
teh x

"Cousin Tabitha" (n.m.r.n.) said...

Tell me if air is strong.