What does legendary author Cormac McCarthy say about writing?
August 9, 2017
McCarthy brings an almost biblical fury as he bears witness to signs man was never meant to see.
Janet Maslin wrote in The New York Times about Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which won a Pulitzer Prize: “A boy and his father lurch across the cold wretched, wet, corpse-strewn, ashen landscape of a post–apocalyptic world.
“The imagery is brutal even by Cormac McCarthy’s high standard for despair. This parable is also trenchant and terrifying, written with stripped-down urgency and fueled by the force of a universal nightmare . . . Mr. McCarthy brings an almost biblical fury as he bears witness to signs man was never meant to see.”
To know Cormac McCarthy is to read his words, especially from The Road:
- You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.
- Nobody wants to be here, and nobody wants to leave.
- People were always getting ready for tomorrow. I don’t believe in that. Tomorrow wasn’t getting ready for them. It didn’t even know they were there.
- There is no God, and we are his prophets.
- He walked out into the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the interstate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.
- If trouble comes when you least expect it then maybe the thing to do is to always expect it.
- When you die, it’s the same as if everybody else did too.
- He knew only that his child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God, God never spoke.
- Listen to me, he said, when your dreams are of some world that never was or some world that never will be, and you’re happy again, then you’ll have given up. Do you understand? And you can’t give up. I won’t let you.
- Then they set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.
The words, the thoughts, the insights on the rhythms of life are lyrical and poetic and haunting.
Cormac McCarthy, however, is a loner, a self-imposed outcast in his own profession. He never shows up at book festivals, signings, or readings.
He says he doesn’t know any other writers and prefers to hang out with smart people like thinkers and scientists and professional poker players.
He doesn’t believe that long books are marketable anymore, saying: “The indulgent 800-page books that were written a hundred years ago are just not going to be written anymore, and people need to get used to it. If you think you’re going to write something like The Brothers Kaaramazov or Moby Dick, go ahead. Nobody will read it. I don’t’ care how good it is or smart the readers are. Their intentions, their brains are different.”
Yet McCarthy has no interest in writing short stories, pointing out: “Anything that doesn’t take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing