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September 22, 2006

Why shouldn't bookofjoe readers in Britain benefit from Amazon's scope?


The thought occurred to me yesterday as I read a review in the September 14 issue of The Economist of Cormac McCarthy's new novel, "The Road."

I tore the review out to take to the computer to order the book from Amazon.

Up top in the hard copy — but not the online — version of the review it said, after noting that the book was published by Knopf, has 256 pages and costs $24 (list — Amazon [U.S.] sells it for $14.40), To be published in Britain by Picador in November.

That's when the penny dropped.

At least once a month I read about a new book in The Economist or Financial Times, published in the U.K. and only later — or never — to appear in the U.S.

So I go to Amazon U.K., where by some miracle all my One-Click settings work just like in the U.S. store and voila — the book is on its way.

But Brits


can enjoy the same delicious pleasure and ease of use in the other direction.

Try it — I guarantee you'll like it.

The Economist review follows.

    Desert storm

    With its Old Testament self-importance, its predictable tics and often redundant phrasing (“The snow fell nor did it cease to fall”), Cormac McCarthy's “The Road” may seem grating at first. Nevertheless, his story of an unnamed father and son after an unnamed Armageddon, shambling ever southwards in an unnamed country, gradually conjures a compelling and memorable dread.

    The post-apocalypse novel, usually but not always the province of science fiction, is intrinsically mournful. Normally, there is a skewed social structure through which, at least in pockets, humanity has regrouped. “The Road” has no reconfigured society beyond a few roving bands of cannibals. The father's fierce loyalty to his son is all that is left of Rotary Clubs, democratic elections and supermarkets. The duo scavenges stray tins of peaches from houses largely looted years before, but clearly the tinned goods will soon run out altogether.

    The opening's pretentious intonations give way to passages that are wrenchingly elegiac: “Perhaps in the world's destruction it would be possible at last to see how it was made. Oceans, mountains. The ponderous counterspectacle of things ceasing to be.” In the incinerated cities, “The melted window glass hung frozen down the walls like icing on a cake.” And single plot twists chill the blood. Followed by a small band of raggedy travellers, including a woman who is pregnant, the father frightens the group into abandoning camp. There, the two find a human infant blackening over the fire on a spit.

    Mr McCarthy brutishly portrayed the American West in his last novel, “No Country for Old Men”. Yet here he encourages gratitude for even that compromised world of heroin dealers and human trafficking. When “the man” discovers a brass sextant carefully preserved in a baize-lined case, “He is struck by the beauty of it,” and so is the reader. Under Mr McCarthy's bleakness burns a retroactive treasuring. To wit, even with rising oil prices, terrorism and insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, there may come a time when readers look back in wonder that they ever had it so good.

September 22, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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