The Road Ahead

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Oh, I've been wanting to do an illustration about any McCarthy novel for a while now. But it has been a meandering road, and I've only just gotten to it.

That pun is the only lighthearted thing that will be ever be associated with this book. Be forewarned.

The Road is a gripping, haunting post-apocalyptic story about survival, humanity and the lack thereof.

To start off the novel, the main character learns that America has just been nuked in various places. He immediately goes fill his bathtub up with water. That gave me an indication of what lay ahead. Without rules and something in place to keep everything in check, things basically go nuts.

When most of the crops fail, when all the energy goes out, when food goes scarce, what will become of society? This book paints a pretty...bleak picture, but you can pretty much believe it. Heck, I believed it instantly after that bathtub was filled with water, turning it into a large canteen.

I'm trying to give you the impression that this book is a brutal account of a man and his young son trying to make their way south to the Gulf of Mexico while traversing a dead, bleak, dismal and dangerous land. It is always cold in this world, because the sun is blotted out. Very cold. You have to scrounge for whatever food you need to get by on (I remember one part when they find shriveled, pathetic apples, and they are SO relieved and revived). Shoes are very important, and you should worry about their condition. People are dangerous because, well, they might be cannibals. There are several scenes and situations which push this upon the reader.

But what makes this book, and Cormac McCarthy, so genius is that it's not REALLY about all that bad stuff. It's about digging through it and finding the hope and humanity. The dialogue (all done with no quotation marks) between father and son is startlingly straightforward and heartfelt. Here's a sample that takes place right before the section that my illustration is from:

(son speaks first, then father, then you can follow from there)

We wouldnt ever eat anybody, would we?
No. Of course not.
Even if we were starving?
We're starving now.
You said we werent.
I said we werent dying. I didnt say we werent starving.
But we wouldnt.
No. We wouldnt.
No matter what.
No. No matter what.
Because we're the good guys.

You read this book and you sigh relief along when the characters when they find respite from their environment. They find food one day, and you smile because they smile. In the illustration above, they by chance happen upon an underground bunker/storeroom behind some abandoned house. And it's like heaven. And it is heartbreaking when they have to leave it to continue on. Because, as the father says, everyone else is looking for the same thing, and it wouldn't be good to be caught unawares there.

Upon finding the bunker, they are cautious about opening it. When the father finds that it is chock-full of supplies and empty of hazards, he can barely contain himself. And when he tells the boy to come on down, the boy hesitates. Which is the moment I tried to capture. I can picture him just looking around and checking to make sure no one is watching them. They had just come from a rather traumatic encounter in another house...


This is probably one of the "happier" moments in the novel. I've also read Blood Meridian and All The Pretty Horses, both of which have that same wonderfully dark, dangerous feel to them. Bad things happen. Good things happen. Really great stuff. Must have more.

Year of the Rat

1984 by George Orwell

Ah, the dystopian genre. While definitely not uplifting (at all), these bleak looks at humanity and society and control are often great works of literature. And, being a great work of literature, 1984 has been promoted on high school reading lists for a while now. So, it's pretty interesting how many people you know that might have read it!

I actually didn't experience it in high school; I waited until I was somewhere in the middle of my college branding. To make matters more dystopic (I love messing with words), I read Brave New World right after that. It was a very bleak period! Hahaha.

Anyway, this novel is about how the world is divvied up under the control of three huge super-powers. One of these, Oceania, is where the novel is set. Specifically, in London. The government tells everyone that they are at war with one of the other super-powers, and that terrorists are constantly trying to sabotage daily life. Big Brother watches every citizen's ever move. Oh, you just have to love hand-in-fist propaganda. Whatever the government deems "unsafe" is permanently deleted from every record, and thus from history. This is one of the tasks assigned to the Ministry of Truth.

Yes, the Ministry of Truth. There's also a Ministry of Love that... well... makes people like the government. By any means necessary.

One citizen, Winston Smith (who works at the Ministry of Truth) ends up straying from the set path and finds out all sorts of chinks in the machine. This leads to a whole mess of events, one of which may involve rats and psychological "conditioning." Definitely stuck in my mind!

So yeah, if you are deathly afraid of rats, I apologize. And you probably will want to skip a chapter or two of this book. On second thought, just take my word that it's a good book (KIND OF a downer), and go get some ice cream.

Rock Credentials Validated

Never Mind The Pollacks by Neal Pollack

A fictional account of a the world's greatest unknown fictional rock critic. Funny, lewd, zany, rockin' and most definitely rolling something at any given point in time. Usually followed by smokin'.

Alright, enough with me trying to be witty in describing this book. I'll just paste the disclaimer from the copyright section of the book. It does an excellent job of giving an idea of what this book is like to read.

This is a work of fiction. References to real people, including the author's friends whose lives have been ruined by major label record deals, as well as events, establishments, organizations, or locales, are intended only to let you know that corporate rock still sucks. They are all used fictitiously or satirically, but especially the stuff about Kurt Cobain. All other characters and all incidents and dialogue are drawn entirely from the author's fertile imagination and are not to be construed as real, even if they, against your will, stir up unbearable waves of sexual desire.

After I finished the book, I went back and pored over the copyright page and all the credit information for little gems like that. It's something that I'm pretty sure a lot of people glossed over. It's like in great comedies (like my personal favorite, Top Secret) they'll hide funny stuff in the credits for people who look for that sort of thing. Well, yay.

Never Mind the Pollacks is an over-the-top helping of rock culture, served up to you by a journalist searching for the true story behind Neal Pollack, infamous rock critic. We find out a million unbelievable things about Pollack, such as being run over and befriended by Elvis. And giving many now-famous and well-known artists their start. Like getting the Velvet Underground their first gig. And letting Iggy Pop find is identity. And being in the Ramones for a short time. And becoming a father figure of sorts to Kurt Cobain.

It's a book that's purely for entertainment, by means of a satirical kick in the teeth. Laced with vulgarity and outlandishness for comedic effect.

This booksketch illustration has a little conceptual twist up at the top. Hope you like it! Ahhhhh, rock.

The Morel of the Story

The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares

I found out about this novel from a friend. He suggested The Invention of Morel to me because he had heard it had a similar feel to the spectacumondously awesome television show LOST. Since I'm a huge fan of that show, I ordered the novel on blind faith.

I chose it as a booksketch inspiration because on the "Eggtown" episode of LOST, one of the characters happened to be reading the novel in one scene! I also sent Ben and Ralph over at the Dharmalars LOST Podcast an email saying that I'd try to do an illustration inspired by the book.

And it was excellent. I can't really tell you anything about what happens, without giving anything away. The entire 90-or-so page novel builds up mystery and mood until the ending. I guess I should try to explain a little so I can justify doing a sketch about it, right?

OK, so the main character is a fugitive who has been hiding out on a deserted island. The island is made up mostly of swamp and marsh, but has some high land, on which a museum, chapel, and swimming pool sit. There are tales of some mysterious disease associated with the island, but the fugitive doesn't really have a choice of better living conditions.

One day, he finds that some strange tourists appear on his island. He doesn't want to be seen (and maybe turned over to the authorities), so he hides and spies. He observes numerous weird and puzzling things, and as the novel progresses, details are revealed pertaining to the nature of the "tourists."

A scientist, Morel, is among them. He seems to be their leader, and it is revealed that he has invented a great machine. I refuse to tell you what the machine is; no spoilers allowed. I don't believe they ever really described the invention, just various parts and workings of it and related inventions.

This sketch is my imagining of Morel's invention.

Also, if you like LOST, you'd probably like this book. And probably the Dharmalars podcast! Check 'em out.