One reading is enough
- Julie Ann Ensomo () - March 7, 2010 - 12:00am


MANILA, Philippines - Julie Ann Ensomo, 26, is leaving for Singapore where she “hopes to find a high-paying job as a graphic designer or a writer. That would enable and encourage me to have a new 2x2 ID picture taken.” She rues her self-admitted stinginess for not getting a new ID picture.

I usually buy books that I’ve read halfway through inside a bookstore or are on 70 percent discount. The former is out of guilt and fear; the bookstore employees including their security guard snooping around my area, their intimidating presence contributes to my purchasing decision, and the latter is out of gluttony. Anything on sale is always better, a mantra I’ve always believed in when buying heavily discounted products. Occasionally though, I seek out something that is widely recommended by a group of strangers in a forum I usually visit and by trusted authors such as Nick Hornby and, somehow, I felt compelled to buy Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

I saw two versions of the book cover, one was simply done in black and the other had a weary, bearded picture of Viggo Mortensen with a tiny arm draped on his shoulder. I opted for the simple black cover, as I wouldn’t want to confuse The Road with the journey of the fellowship of the ring with an equally harassed Aragorn on its cover.

Now there’s this sub-category of books that I’ve bought and only a tiny portion of it makes up the miserable-themed books. Life is already miserable, why would I want to read about it? But there was just something about Nick Hornsby’s article about The Road that made me want to read it so badly. I convinced myself that I wouldn’t be able to live a fruitful life without satisfying my literary curiosity. I was dying to read it in silence, alone in my room.

Nick Horny says, “Sometimes they find shriveled heads, or the remains of a baby on a barbecue.” I’ve watched too many gory and violent films, I can probably slurp spaghetti while watching an autopsy but the “remains of a baby on a barbecue”? Was this a Holocaust-inspired book? Would there be a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler in it? A crossover from The Lord of The Flies maybe? I have never heard of such a thing, I just had to read it.

The first few pages literally prepared me for its gloomy tone; the blinding light bulb inside my green-colored wall room kept getting dimmer and dimmer as I continued numbly with the pages. And it didn’t help that I was reading it in the middle of the night, the deep silence and the dark aura made the story more believable and saddening.

I already knew the premise of the novel from Nick Hornby’s book review. A father and a son set out on a journey in a post-apocalyptic world. Forever traveling and contemplating seem to be the main activities of the characters. Eating is a privilege, as well as having some clothes, a safe place to stay and freedom certainly are a huge advantage. Cannibalism is rampant and there are creatures that tend to round up their captives to throw them in a dingy, small room filled with living, naked, frightened homo sapiens, all ready to be picked and sautéed or fried or baked, whatever their captors fancy.

As casual as I want that to sound, I still shiver a little just thinking about it. Imagine that. Imagine finding a roomful of dirty, scared human beings begging you to help them and when you’ve realized the situation they are in and you might be in, you run as fast as you can, dragging your son away from that house to hide from the monsters that imprison these people. I started crying when I finished that scene and as much as I wanted to burn the book, I felt an obligation to finish it. Damn Nick Hornby and his compelling book reviews.

I finally came upon the dreaded infant-barbecued scene and it was as harrowing as Nick Hornby made it sound. Apparently there is this group of people traveling together and one of them is a pregnant woman. Or probably a pregnant female heathen, I’m not sure, but when that group leaves, the father and the son see the remains of a headless baby burning on a stick. It isn’t directly stated where the baby came from but the implications are sickening enough for the boy to look away and for his father to apologize for a situation he has no involvement in. I cannot remember if I started weeping again while reading that particularly disturbing scene or if I just stared dumbly at the empty space on my wall, imagining the whole scene in its entirety.

I already had an inkling of the ending but I would not have expected it to be so wretched and heartbreaking. My heart literally ached when I read that scene. It was like being present at the saddest funeral of a very close family member. You want nothing to do with it but you need to attend it. The father wheezes and coughs through the night and when he already knows that he can’t go any further and that he would be leaving his son alone comes the saddest, most agonizing, most mentally exhausting conversation I have ever read in my life. I thought I’d already dried my tear ducts out but I could barely read the last talk between the father and his son, the tears blurring my vision and my snot obscuring my breathing. I never realized that one can become almost dehydrated from crying gallons of tears but I didn’t stop crying even after I finished the book. I stayed awake until I heard our maid cooking early breakfast. I looked at the clock and, damn it, it was already 5:30 a.m. Why did I even think of reading or even buying this book — am I masochist or what? This is all Nick Hornsby’s fault, I declared.

The burnt, headless infant and the human-eating livelihood project were only a few of the most devastating scenes in the book. This is clearly not recommended for the depressive, suicidal type. I bet even Mary Poppins would kill herself after reading a portion of this book.

Even now when I see the novel, I can’t help but recall the awful scenarios Cormac McCarthy created and embedded in my mind. I always reread a favorite book, especially when I have nothing better to read; but for this one, I think I’ll pass. Once is already enough. Just seeing the cover makes me feel depressed and I think I’ll just read it again when I need a reminder of how blessed and fortunate I am.

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