Lately, I’ve been drawn to end-of-the-world stories. “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy and “Swan Song” by Robert McCammen are the most recent entries. “The Road” is the more literary of the two; spare, poetic, unrelenting. It stayed with me long after I finished the last page. “Swan Song” is typical McCammen (a good thing), almost 1,000 pages of gothic horror, kids with magical abilities, and some seriously twisted bad guys. It’s somewhat derivative of King’s “The Stand,” in terms of the epic battle of good vs. evil, but it certainly packs its own wallop. (I read “The Stand” more than 30 years ago when I was stuck at home with the flu. I’m sure my 102 degree fever greatly enhanced my reading experience.)
In a similar vein, I’m very much looking forward to the new flick, “Zombieland” with Woody Harrelson. I haven’t read a single review (and won’t, because I want to be surprised), but the previews look hysterical and I’ve never seen a zombie film without some redeeming value. I hear the novel “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is a lot of fun, too, but it may be too highbrow for me. I’ll let you know.
I was also transfixed by a program on the History or Discovery or SyFy Channel (they’re all a blur in my mind) about the Mayan predictions for the end of the world in 2012. My personal theory is that they simply ran out of ink (or patience). That, however, won’t sustain a 2-hour show. I’ve heard quite a few end times scenarios in my life, so I’m not taking this too seriously. Still, I may stock up on a few extra cans of tuna to get over those first few wobbly days when the earth shifts its axis. (I’ll worry about mercury poisoning at a later date.)
So, what’s up with this fascination with death and destruction? I think it has something to do with the rough economic times we’re muddling through. For one thing, a little recesssion doesn’t seem so bad when you’re staring a nuclear holocaust or flesh-eating virus in the face. For another, misery loves company, especially when the company is even more miserable than us. Our heroes in these books and movies are in much worse shape than you and me. It’s kind of like going to group therapy and thinking,” Hey, I’m the most normal guy in the room.”
We went through something similar in the 50s, when all the World War III and Joe McCarthy anxiety led to classic cheeseball movies about giant critters running amok. It also inspired some very good films like the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” With the film version of “The Road” on tap, we may be heading for a similar renaissance. If we live to