As I mentioned in class today, yesterday I read the new Cormac McCarthy book, The Road, and holy crap, it blew my mind. It’s the bleakest thing I’ve read since the last McCarthy book I read, Blood Meridian. I think I’m obsessed with that kind of bleakness. It gives me the same kind of creeps that the new Alfonso Cuaron movie Children of Men gave me. Both the book and the movie combine familiar aspects of our culture and human nature with truly horrifying projections of a bleak future. McCarthy, for example, makes it seem plausible in his book–even natural–that in the future humans would be so degraded that rabid, feral men would travel with a slave-woman to make babies for them–for food. Details like that seem sensationalistic when I put it that way (and use a dramatic dash) but it’s not presented as anything exceptional in the book. The book has a quiet, measured tone that makes all the awfulness seem like a natural extension of currently acceptable human behavior, and when you see “normal” behavior taken to this extreme you have to ask, and keep asking, is this really who we are? Notice, it’s not about wondering if his vision is something we could become, but rather if it’s what we are.
The book is also about a relationship between a father and a son, which seems loving on many levels, but also selfish. Honestly, the most merciful thing the father could do for the son is kill him humanely, but the father refuses. The father places the remnants of his own hopes (and thus those of all the world, since they don’t know anybody else) on the son’s shoulders. The son, who has never known anything but life alone with his father on the road, assumes that mantle naturally. After all, he has never seen another young boy. Who else is there for him to share responsibility with?
We had class today. We took the verb quiz. Come take it during project period if you missed it (for an excused absence). Study the lecture and worksheet from last Friday before you do.
Then I introduced the mode of writing known as “persuasive” writing, in which the author takes a point of view and attempts to convince her or his audience to believe as she or he does. We started filling out a concept map for a persuasive essay (download below). A concept map is just a representation on paper of the thoughts you have swimming around in your head. It gives you a place to brainstorm and organize ideas before setting out a more specific plan in an outline. When most students take a writing test, they do the work of a concept map in their head, which is fine, as long as you know you’re doing it.
After that, we read Catcher to page 97, met Maurice, the elevator boy/pimp, and his employee, Sunny. Holden introduces this section by saying he made a big mistake, which we will probably find out more about tomorrow.
Quote of the day:””
Downloads: Persuasive essay concept map