I read this novel when it first came out in 2006 or so. I was teaching for my first year in Baltimore and I read this novel is my bare-ass room in a basement apartment in Baltimore. I had recently read and reviewed No Country for Old Men, and so the spare details of the novel and it’s subject was a lot to take.
This time around I listened to the audiobook while I cleaned out my gross ass basement. Like super gross. Bugs. Spidewebs. Muck. Dirt. All that. And here I am listening to descriptions of bodies in basements, not unlike my own, and spareness.
Oddly the book seems so much smaller the second time around. The focus on despair, on hope, on caution, and on the trappings of humanity don’t seem, quaint now, but small is scope in comparison.
Some things that feels different this time around. The man’s behavior is wholly consistent with a generalized understanding of how men should and hopefully would act. The bookends of his behavior and the final man’s behavior are the hope that this books sets up. The boy is pure, but that’s ok, he’s a necessary waypoint. The other interactions are horrifying at times, but also small and understandable.
The most alarming thing for me is how little time seems to have passed since the event that ended society. Something ten years. Whether it’s time or the scope of the event, not much stood in between life as it is now and utter destruction.
Lastly, this novel functions as a good counterpoint to Lord of the Flies. That novel was the fall of society at its own hands and chaos being reigned in at the very end. Here, society falls irrespective of our influence and the worst happens.