“I dont know why I started writing. I dont know whyanybody does it. Maybe theyre bored, or failures atsomething else.”
• American novelist and playwright• Genre: southern gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic• Known for being very private• Grants very few interviews• Compared to authors like William Faulkner and Herman Melville, even worked with Faulkner’s editor for 20 years• Cormac McCarthy often sets his stories against the landscapes he knows best—the Appalachians near Tennessee and the Southwest.
• Born in Providence, Rhode Island on July 20, 1933 to Charles Joseph and Gladys Christina McGrail McCarthy• Eldest son of 6 children, originally named Charles after his father but later changed his name to Cormac (which in Gaelic means son of Charles)• He was four years old when he moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, and lived there and in neighboring Sevier and Blount counties for most of the first forty-three years of his life. Three of the four novels he wrote during this period were clearly set in East Tennessee. The next five novels were all set in the American Southwest, especially in the border country around El Paso, where McCarthy lived for the next two decades.• Went to the University of Tennessee in 1951-52. His major: liberal arts.• McCarthy joined the U.S. Air Force in 1953; he served four years.• From 1957-59, McCarthy returned to the university, where he published two stories, "A Drowning Incident" and "Wake for Susan" in the student literary magazine, The Phoenix, calling himself C. J. McCarthy, Jr.• Has been married 3 times. Has two sons; Cullen and John Francis. His youngest, John Francis, was the inspiration for his book The Road.• Is now widely viewed as one of America’s premier novelists.
"If there is an occupational hazard to writing, its drinking." McCarthy has been sober since 1976
McCarthy has long enjoyed a close interaction with scientists, keeping anoffice at the Santa Fe Institute, an independent research center that alsohouses a host of scientists, founded by the Nobel prize-winning physicistMurray Gell-Mann. He has written few of his books there. He has also beenworking as a scientific copy editor. He worked on Lisa Randall’s first twobooks Warped Passages: Unravelling the Mysteries of the UniversesHidden Dimensions and Knocking on Heavens Door. He also worked onQuantum Man by professor of physics Lawrence M Krauss.
Fellowships & Grants• 1965 Traveling Fellowship award from The American Academy of Arts and Letters-He used the funds to go to Ireland. En route on the ocean liner, Sylvania, he met English dancer and singer, Anne De Lisle, and the two were married in England in 1966.• 1966 Rockefeller Foundation Grant-supported the couple as they traveled through Europe and lived briefly on the Spanish island of Ibiza where McCarthy began work on his second novel, Outer Dark.• 1969 the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Writing• 1981 MacArthur Fellowship — often called “ genius grant.” The five-year grant provides recipients with “flexibility to pursue their creative activities in the absence of specific obligations or reporting requirements,” and it allowed McCarthy to concentrate on his next writing project, Blood Meridian.• 2007 Lyndhurst Foundation grant
Awards• 1959, 1960 Ingram-Merrill awards• 1965 Faulkner prize for a first novel for The Orchard Keeper• 1991 El Paso Herald-Post Hall of Fame• 1991 Jean Stein Award, American Academy and Institution of Arts and Letters• 1992 National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award for All the Pretty Horses• 1997 Texas Institute of Letters Lon Tinkle Lifetime Achievement Award• 2006 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction for The Road• 2006 Believer Book Award, winner for The Road• 2007 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for The Road• 2007 Institute of Arts and Letters award, The Road• 2007 Quill Award for general fiction, The Road• 2008 PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, for a career whose writing "possesses qualities of excellence, ambition, and scale of achievement over a sustained career which place him or her in the highest rank of American literature."
He wrote all his works on this Olivetti Lettera 32 typewriter that he bought in a pawn shop for $50 in 1963 and sold in an auction to benefit The Santa Fe Institute (a nonprofitinterdisciplinary scientificresearch organization) in 2009. "I tried to find the smallest, lightesttypewriter I could find." McCarthy estimates he has typed around five millionwords on the machine, and maintenance consisted of "blowing out the dustwith a service station hose". The typewriter was auctioned on Friday,December 4, 2009 and the auction house, Christie’s, estimated it wouldfetch between $15,000 and $20,000; it sold for $254,500. McCarthy’s friendJohn Miller, bought a replacement Olivetti for $11, which is what McCarthyhas been using since the auction.
From Books to Movies
Oprah Interview aired in June 2007 “The Road” was picked for Oprah’s Book Club in April 2007 This was McCarthys first TV interview ever. The interview took place in the library of the Santa Fe InstituteClick video to play clip -> Click here to view Oprah’s full interview with Cormac McCarthy
McCarthy’s Works10 Novels• The Orchard Keeper (1965)• Outer Dark (1968)• Child of God (1974)• Suttree (1979)• Blood Meridian, Or the Evening Redness in the West (1985)• All the Pretty Horses (1992)• The Crossing (1994)• Cities of the Plain (1998)• No Country for Old Men (2005)• The Road (2006)He had been working on Suttree on and off for 20 years“The Border Trilogy”- included the books “All the Pretty Horses”, ”The Crossing”,“Cities of the Plain”All the Pretty Horses was his first book to be on the Bestseller’s List
McCarthy’s Works cont.2 Screenplay• The Gardeners Son: A Screenplay (1996) • Written in 1976; published in 1996 • PBS movie in 1976• The Counselor (2012) • His first original feature-length spec script and was bought by the producers of “The Road” and may possibly be turned into a movie in the near future.2 Plays:• The Stonemason: A Play in Five Acts (1994)• The Sunset Limited: A Novel in Dramatic Form (2006) • Turned into an HBO film in 2011
McCarthy Works cont.2 Short Stories:• "Wake for Susan" (1959)• "A Drowning Incident" (1960)Unpublished works:• “Whales and Men”• “The Passenger”
Albert B. Alkek Library, Texas State University, as part of the SouthwesternWriters Collection acquired Cormac McCarthys papers. The WittliffCollection displays McCarthys work from 1964-2007. The McCarthy papersconsists of 98 boxes (46 linear feet).
A first edition of Blood Meridian and a draft of the manuscript are ondisplay at the Cormac McCarthy exhibit at Texas State University
McCarthys manuscript of No Country for Old Men shows hisnotations and how he was working on the name for the AntonChigurh character. The character was later played by JavierBardem in the 2007 movie. Bardem won an Oscar for the role .
A display case of Cormac McCarthys TheBorder Trilogy shows the work in differentlanguages as well as a screenplay .
Interesting Facts• He prefers "simple declarative sentences“ and that he uses capital letters, periods, an occasional comma, a colon for setting off a list, but "never a semicolon.“• He does not use quotation marks for dialogue and believes there is no reason to "blot the page up with weird little marks".• He was poor for most of his career, living in places like motels, a shack with no heat and running water, and an old dairy barn• His first wife left him when after having his son and taking care of the home he asked her to get a job so he could concentrate on writing• He lived mostly off his grants and fellowships• He never graduated from college• He doesn’t care much for other writers instead would rather be in the company of scientist• He was an artist as a child and would have local art shows
“I like what I do. Some writers have said in print that they hated writing and it was just a chore and a burden. I certainly dont feel that way about it. Sometimes its difficult. You know, you always have this image of the perfect thing which you can never achieve, but which you never stop trying to achieve. But I think ... thats your signpost and your guide. Youll never get there, but without it you wont get anywhere.”• McCarthy currently resides in the Santa Fe, New Mexico area.• He remains active in the academic community of Santa Fe and spends much of his time at the Santa Fe Institute and he continues to write.