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23 Sep 2015 at 11:06 pm #7620
Rick: Thanks for the link to your paper; I enjoyed it immensely. So toot away! The stuff about “the breakdown in family traditions” made me appreciate Tokyo Story all the more. Oh and your “nuclear anxiety strikes as deeply into culture as radiation penetrates to the genome” kind of, sort of returns us to McCarthy.
Ztutor: There is more than a suggestion that the entire world, and not just North America, has been destroyed by the cataclysm. Would the fall-out from an erupting caldera cover the whole planet? I’m not so sure about this. For this reason, I am more prone to infer that the disaster was caused by global nuclear war. Regardless of this, wouldn’t it be fair to say that apocalyptic anxiety, as registered in literature and film, has become febrile in our nuclear age?
cantonaQuote24 Sep 2015 at 4:35 pm #7622
The narrative gives us the mechanism for the ash: with the onset of nuclear winter, thick layers of particulate in the upper atmosphere block sunlight and shut down all photosynthesis. The ash is a function of a planetary cover of dead trees going rotten and catching fire with every lightning bolt from the statically supercharged air. McCarthy describes the ash as light and swirling with the wind, which is much more characteristic of wood ash than volcanic ejecta, which is a cross between sand and broken glass.
And for the umpteenth time, the hecatombs of the dead sitting in cars, on doorsteps, or lying in the street where they fell are unmistakable signs of sudden, massive irradiation, as from a nuclear explosion. You could certainly expect scenes like that in Knoxville, so close to the Oak Ridge laboratories which would have been targeted in any shooting thermonuclear war.
One of the big issues concerning the Yellowstone supervolcanic hotspot that McCarthy doesn’t discuss is that while the supervolcano itself remains stationary in the earth’s mantle, the North American plate keeps shifting in a parabolic curve from northeast to southwestward under pressure from the Pacific Plate along both the slip-strike and subduction areas of their boundary along the California, Oregon and Washington coastline. That pressure lifted the Rocky Mountains and Sierras and has now shifted them over the top of the Yellowstone and Long Valley supervolcanoes, respectively – placing a much thicker, heavier “cap” over them than they had millions of years ago during their prior eruptions. Ergo, they expend far more of their energy melting their ways upwards, doing some damage but not being able to make it to the surface for a big blowout. Simply put, in the time it takes them to approach the surface, the massive mountain ranges of the North American plate slide past them just a bit and in effect they have to start all over again melting upward through a fresh mass of overlying mountainrange.
Eventually, after several million more years – though our species as a whole probably won’t be around to see it for lots of other reasons, the Republican base ackcherley being the least of them – thinner segments of crust will reposition above the hotspots and then, kaplooie!
I think the Yellowstone or Long Valley hypothesis is fun to play with but just doesn’t apply to the scenario of The Road.
Rick WallachQuote24 Sep 2015 at 5:17 pm #7626
Great stuff, Rick. See you soon, amigo. I also enjoyed the article shared by Jim in addition to the thoughts on Cold War melancholy in McCarthy.
GlassQuote02 Dec 2016 at 5:51 pm #8704
And for the umpteenth time, the hecatombs of the dead sitting in cars, on doorsteps, or lying in the street where they fell are unmistakable signs of sudden, massive irradiation, as from a nuclear explosion.
I’m not convinced that this serves as evidence of a nuclear event. If that were the case, these people would have been near enough to the blast to have been killed instantaneously, yet there’s no evidence of any corresponding environmental or structural damage. Rivers are safe to swim in, canned foods and drinks are safe to consume, there’s no concern for residual radiation of any kind. The dead would be lying in the streets in the aftermath of any kind of apocalyptic disaster, and not necessarily as a direct result of the disaster itself. Heart-attacks, starvation, violence, car crashes, slips and falls – I’m reminded of the vignettes in Stephen King’s The Stand, where he exhibits the innumerable mundane ways in which people might find themselves dying in a world in which society has collapsed.
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