Cormac McCarthy (born Charles McCarthy) is an American writer known for his gritty, stylistically complex works of fiction in the southern gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic genres. He attended the University of Tennessee and served in the US Air Force. McCarthy published his first novel, The Orchard Keeper, in 1965.
He quickly became known for his stylistic prose and frequent depiction of the lives of outsiders. His first novel was well-received by critics but was not a commercial success. Thanks to literary grants, he was able to travel across Europe and write his second two novels. He published one of his most successful novels, Blood Meridian, in 1985. Though the novel didn’t make much of a splash in 1985, it has since become increasingly popular, often listed among Great American Novels. His first commercial hit was All the Pretty Horses, released in 1992. It was the first in his Borderlands trilogy. The book earned him the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2006 he was awarded The Pulitzer Prize for his novel, The Road. Throughout his career, McCarthy has published ten novels, two plays, and five screenplays. Several of his works have been adapted into a film. Though his books have received mixed reviews, he is considered one of the most important living writers in the American literary canon. The following passages represent some of McCarthy’s trademark style:
He walked out in the gray light and stood, and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness is 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.– The Road
It's not about knowin where you are. It's about thinkin you got there without takin anything with you. Your notions about startin over. Or anybody's. You don't start over. That's what it's about. Ever step you take is forever. You can't make it go away. None of it. You understand what I'm sayin?
You think when you wake up in the mornin yesterday don't count. But yesterday is all that does count. What else is there? Your life is made out of the days it's made out of. Nothin else. You might think you could run away and change your name and I don't know what all. Start over. And then one mornin you wake up and look at the ceilin’ and guess who's layin there?–No Country for Old Men
That night he dreamt of horses in a field on a high plain where the spring rains had brought up the grass and the wildflowers out of the ground and the flowers ran all blue and yellow far as the eye could see and in the dream he was among the horses running and in the dream he himself could run with the horses and they coursed the young mares and fillies over the plain where their rich bay and their rich chestnut colors shone in the sun and the young colts ran with their dams and trampled down the flowers in a haze of pollen that hung in the sun like powdered gold and they ran he and the horses out along the high mesas where the ground resounded under their running hooves and they flowed and changed and ran and their manes and tails blew off of them like spume and there was nothing else at all in that high world and they moved all of them in a resonance that was like a music among them and they were none of them afraid neither horse nor colt nor mare and they ran in that resonance which is the world itself and which cannot be spoken but only praised. – All the Pretty Horses
The universe is no narrow thing, and the order within it is not constrained by any latitude in its conception to repeat what exists in one part in any other part. Even in this world, more things exist without our knowledge than with it, and the order in creation which you see is that which you have put there, like a string in a maze, so that you shall not lose your way. For existence has its order and that no man’s mind can compass, that mind itself being but a fact among others. – Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West
Grief is the stuff of life. A life without grief is no life at all. But regret is a prison. Some part of you that you deeply value lies forever impaled at a crossroads you can no longer find and never forget. – The Passenger