‘The Green Afterword—Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and the Ecological Uncanny’
Criticism, Crisis and Contemporary Narrative: Textual Horizons in an Age of Global Risk London: Routledge, 2010.
Edited by Paul Crosthwaite
In the many dark gardens of apocalyptic imagination, vestiges of the built present appear with ominous punctuality. National monuments softened under sea-algae, great churches where Kalahari predators cruise the variegated light, iconic road bridges freighted with snow. Just as designers of picturesque landscapes sought to preserve memento mori in the margins of their grounds – a dead tree, a crumbling wall – so too do the authors of apocalypse typically embed recognizable elements of hardscape, derelict or devastated, into their cataclysmic visions. So J.G. Ballard sank the Statue of Liberty in Hello America (1981) and Charlton Heston raged before her barbed crown engulfed by dunes in Planet of the Apes (1968), before the same statue was bombed in Children of Men (2006), beheaded in Cloverfield (2008), frozen into pack-ice in The Day After Tomorrow (2004), and finally rendered a diminutive, referent-less souvenir in Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey (2009). That apotheosis of end-style: the torch of enlightenment dulls, cracks, falls. Enfeebled, the left-behind are impuissant against the dismantling of symbols – symbols that in any event, have long been divested of their semaphoric capacity. This is the way the world ends. The second law of thermodynamics settles into ideas of things as much as into the physical things themselves, and entropy begins its slow rasp on the tethers between the signifier and the signified. Ravel and unravel, those endless, synonymous days.