Remembering Cormac McCarthy

By Coll Rowe | July 12 2023 | Literature

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy died on June 13th, 2023 of natural causes at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was eighty-nine years old. His death was confirmed by his son, John McCarthy.

McCarthy was one of the world’s most influential and renowned writers, His career spanned nearly six decades and several genres, including fiction and drama. His work has entered the modern canon and won several prestigious literary awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Born in 1933 in Providence, Rhode Island, McCarthy was raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, and briefly attended the University of Tennessee where he began crafting short fiction and received the Ingram-Merrill Award for creative writing. Frequently compared to William Faulkner, McCarthy was known for his spare writing style and epic themes of apocalyptic danger, the nature of evil, and the fragility of the human condition. He set many of his novels amid the landscapes of the American Southwest and wrote all of them on an Olivetti Underwood Lettera 32 typewriter.

McCarthy published his first novel, The Orchard Keeper, in 1965 at Random House where he would work with legendary editor Albert Erskine over the next twenty years. His second novel, Outer Dark was published in 1968, followed by Child of God (1973), Suttree (1979) and Blood Meridien (1985).

Long hailed a “writer’s writer” with a dedicated fan base of critics and readers, McCarthy became a best-selling author with the publication of his sequence of novels collectively referred to as The Border Trilogy, which includes All the Pretty Horses (1992), The Crossing (1994), and Cities of the Plain (1998). No Country for Old Men was published in 2005, and The Road, which was selected as an Oprah’s Book Club pick (resulting in his only televised interview), in 2006. His final two novels, The Passenger and Stella Maris (2022), are interconnected books questioning the notions of God, truth, and existence.

Nihar Malaviya, CEO of Penguin Random House, said, “Cormac McCarthy changed the course of literature. For sixty years, he demonstrated an unwavering dedication to his craft, and to exploring the infinite possibilities and power of the written word.  Millions of readers around the world embraced his characters, his mythic themes, and the intimate emotional truths he laid bare on every page, in brilliant novels that will remain both timely and timeless, for generations to come.”

McCarthy’s other works include The Gardener’s Son (screenplay, 1977), The Stonemason (play, revised 1994), Sunset Limited (novel in dramatic form, 2006) and The Counselor (screenplay, 2013). His works adapted to film include All the Pretty Horses, The Road, and No Country for Old Men, with the latter receiving four Academy Awards, including the award for Best Picture.

McCarthy was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship “genius grant” in 1981 and began to attend MacArthur functions where he immersed himself in the worlds of science, mathematics, and psychology. He later became a member and trustee of the Santa Fe Institute. McCarthy was also the recipient of an American Academy of Arts and Letters traveling fellowship, the Texas Institute of Letters Lon Tinkle Lifetime Achievement Award, and a Rockefeller Foundation grant. His ninety-eight boxes (forty-six linear feet) of complete papers are housed in the Southwestern Writers Collection, The Wittliff Collections at Alkek Library, Texas State University – San Marcos.

Notoriously press-shy, McCarthy granted few interviews over the course of his career. In 1992 he told The New York Times, “Of all the subjects I’m interested in, it would be extremely difficult to find one I wasn’t. Writing is way, way down at the bottom of the list.”


Cormac McCarthy

July 20, 1933 – June 13, 2023

James Wood wrote in appreciation: “To read Cormac McCarthy is to enter a climate of frustration: a good day is so mysteriously followed by a bad one. McCarthy is a colossally gifted writer, certainly one of the greatest observers of landscape.”

Joy Williams reviewed McCarthy’s last novels thus, “McCarthy is not interested in the psychology of character. He probably never has been. He’s interested in the horror of every living creature’s situation. . . . McCarthy has long maintained a reverence for the unconscious, a belief that language can pay only inadequate homage to it. It’s that part of being that knows what cannot be known only through its own particular process.”

Robert Hass acknowledged Cormac McCarthy’s unique style: “Mr. McCarthy, because he is interested in the mythic shape of lives, has always been interested in the young and the old or, if not the old, then those who have already performed some act so deep in their natures (often horrific, though not always) that it forecloses the idea of possibility.”

 

Some of his notable works include:

The Passenger
978-0-307-26899-0

The Passenger is the story of a salvage diver, haunted by loss, afraid of the watery deep, pursued for a conspiracy beyond his understanding, and longing for a death he cannot reconcile with God.

$30.00 US
Oct 25, 2022
Hardcover
400 Pages
Knopf

Stella Maris
978-0-307-26900-3

The second volume of The Passenger series: Stella Maris is an intimate portrait of grief and longing, as a young woman in a psychiatric facility seeks to understand her own existence.

$26.00 US
Dec 06, 2022
Hardcover
208 Pages
Knopf

The Road
Pulitzer Prize Winner
978-0-307-38789-9

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.

$17.00 US
Mar 28, 2007
Paperback
304 Pages
Vintage

Blood Meridian
Or the Evening Redness in the West
978-0-679-72875-7

Blood Meridian is the epic novel that attended America’s westward expansion, brilliantly subverting the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the “wild west.”

$18.00 US
May 05, 1992
Paperback
368 Pages
Vintage

The Stonemason
A Play in Five Acts
978-0-679-76280-5

The Stonemason bears all the hallmarks of Cormac McCarthy’s great fiction: precise observation of the physical world, language that has the bite of common speech and the force of Biblical prose, and a breathtaking command of the art of storytelling.

$15.00 US
Aug 01, 1995
Paperback
144 Pages
Vintage

All the Pretty Horses
Border Trilogy 1 (National Book Award Winner)
978-0-679-74439-9

Winner of the National Book Award
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award

The first part of McCarthy’s Border Trilogy, All the Pretty Horses has become a modern-day classic on both the high school and collegiate levels for its compelling epic narrative and magnificent drama about men and the human heart in conflict with itself.

$18.00 US
Jun 29, 1993
Paperback
320 Pages
Vintage

The Crossing
Border Trilogy (2)
978-0-679-76084-9

In The Crossing, McCarthy gives a novel with the unstoppable momentum of a classic western and the elegiac power of a lost American myth.

$18.00 US
Mar 14, 1995
Paperback
432 Pages
Vintage

Cities of the Plain
Border Trilogy (3)
978-0-679-74719-2

In this final volume of The Border Trilogy, two men marked by the boyhood adventures of All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing now stand together, in the still point between their vivid pasts and uncertain futures, to confront a country changing or already changed beyond recognition.

$18.00 US
May 25, 1999
Paperback
304 Pages
Vintage

No Country for Old Men
978-0-375-70667-7

Finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

In this blistering novel, Cormac McCarthy returns to the Texas-Mexico border, setting of his famed Border Trilogy.

$18.00 US
Jul 11, 2006
Paperback
320 Pages
Vintage

Child of God
978-0-679-72874-0

Child of God a taut, chilling novel that plumbs the depths of human degradation. Cormac McCarthy depicts the most sordid aspects of life with dignity, humor, and characteristic lyrical brilliance.

$17.00 US
Jun 29, 1993
Paperback
208 Pages
Vintage

Outer Dark
978-0-679-72873-3

Outer Dark is a novel at once fabular and starkly evocative, set in an unspecified place in Appalachia, sometime around the turn of the century.

$17.00 US
Jun 29, 1993
Paperback
256 Pages
Vintage