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Cormac McCarthy (born Charles McCarthy; born July 20, 1933) is an Americanmarker novelist and playwright. He has written ten novels in the Southern Gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic genres, and has also written plays and screenplays. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Road, and his 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. He received a National Book Award in 1992 for All the Pretty Horses.

His earlier Blood Meridian (1985) was among Time Magazine's poll of 100 best English-language books published between 1923 and 2005 and he placed joint runner-up for a similar title in a poll taken in 2006 by The New York Times of the best American fiction published in the last 25 years. Literary critic Harold Bloom named him as one of the four major American novelists of his time, along with Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo and Philip Roth. He is frequently compared by modern reviewers to William Faulkner.

Early life

McCarthy was born in Providence, Rhode Islandmarker on July 20, 1933, and moved with his family to Knoxville, Tennesseemarker, in 1937. He is the third of six children, with three sisters and two brothers. In Knoxville, he attended Knoxville Catholic High Schoolmarker. His father was a successful lawyer for the Tennessee Valley Authority from 1934 to 1967.

McCarthy entered the University of Tennesseemarker in 1951-1952 and was a liberal arts major. In 1953, he joined the United States Air Force for four years, two of which he spent in Alaskamarker, where he hosted a radio show. In 1957, he returned to the University of Tennessee. During this time in college, he published two stories in a student paper and won awards from the Ingram Merrill Foundation in 1959 and 1960. In 1961, he and fellow university student Lee Holleman were married and had their son Cullen. He left school without earning a degree and moved with his family to Chicagomarker where he wrote his first novel. He returned to Sevier County, Tennesseemarker, and his marriage to Lee Holleman ended.

Writing career

McCarthy's first novel, The Orchard Keeper, was published by Random House in 1965. He decided to send the manuscript to Random House because "it was the only publisher [he] had heard of." At Random House, the manuscript found its way to Albert Erskine, who was William Faulkner's editor until Faulkner's death in 1962. Erskine continued to edit McCarthy for the next twenty years.

In the summer of 1965, using a Traveling Fellowship award from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, McCarthy shipped out aboard the liner Sylvania, hoping to visit Irelandmarker. While on the ship, he met Anne DeLisle, who was working on the ship as a singer. In 1966, they were married in Englandmarker. Also in 1966, McCarthy received a Rockefeller Foundation Grant, which he used to travel around Southern Europe before landing in Ibizamarker, where he wrote his second novel, Outer Dark. Afterward he returned to America with his wife, and Outer Dark was published in 1968 to generally favorable reviews.

In 1969, McCarthy and his wife moved to Louisville, Tennesseemarker, and purchased a barn, which McCarthy renovated, even doing the stonework himself. Here he wrote his next book, Child of God, based on actual events. Child of God was published in 1973. Like Outer Dark before it, Child of God was set in southern Appalachia. In 1976, McCarthy separated from Anne DeLisle and moved to El Paso, Texasmarker. In 1979, his novel Suttree was finally published. He had been writing Suttree on and off for twenty years.

Supporting himself with the money from his 1981 MacArthur Fellowship, he wrote his next novel, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West, which was published in 1985. The book has grown appreciably in stature in literary circles. In a 2006 poll of authors and publishers conducted by The New York Times Magazine to list the greatest American novels of the previous quarter-century, Blood Meridian placed third, behind only Toni Morrison's Beloved and Don DeLillo's Underworld.

McCarthy finally received widespread recognition in 1992 with the publication of All the Pretty Horses, which won the National Book Award and was followed by The Crossing and Cities of the Plain, the two subsequent books in a Western trilogy. In the midst of this trilogy came The Stonemason, which was McCarthy's second dramatic work. He had previously written a film for PBS in the 1970s, The Gardener's Son. McCarthy's next book, 2005's No Country for Old Men, stayed with the western setting and themes yet moved to a more contemporary period. It was adapted into a film of the same name by the Coen Brothers; the film won four Academy Awards and more than 75 film awards globally. McCarthy's latest book, The Road, was published in 2006 and won international acclaim and the Pulitzer Prize for literature. A film adaptation directed by John Hillcoat, written by Joe Penhall, and starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee was set for release on October 16, 2009, but has recently been pushed back for November 2009 release. That same year, McCarthy published another work, a play entitled The Sunset Limited (2006).

McCarthy is currently working on his next novel, which is set in 1980s New Orleansmarker and follows a young man as he deals with the suicide of his sister.

Personal life

McCarthy now lives in the Tesuque, New Mexicomarker, area, north of Santa Femarker, with his wife, Jennifer Winkley, and their son, John. He guards his privacy. In one of his few interviews (with The New York Times), McCarthy is described as a "gregarious loner" and reveals that he is not a fan of authors who do not "deal with issues of life and death," citing Henry James and Marcel Proust as examples. "I don't understand them," he said. "To me, that's not literature. A lot of writers who are considered good I consider strange." McCarthy remains active in the academic community of Santa Fe and spends much of his time at the Santa Fe Institute, which was founded by his friend, physicist Murray Gell-Mann.

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey chose McCarthy's 2006 novel The Road as the April 2007 selection for her Book Club. As a result, McCarthy agreed to sit down for his first television interview, which aired on The Oprah Winfrey Show on June 5, 2007. The interview took place in the library of the Santa Fe Institute; McCarthy told Winfrey that he does not know any writers and much prefers the company of scientists. During the interview he related several stories illustrating the degree of outright poverty he has endured at times during his career as a writer. He also spoke about the experience of fathering a child at an advanced age, and how his now-eight-year-old son was the inspiration for The Road. Cormac noted to Oprah that 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 "block the page up with weird little marks."



  • Cullen McCarthy, son (with Lee Holleman)
  • John Francis McCarthy, son (with Jennifer Winkley)


  • Lee McCarthy, née Holleman, (1961) divorced
  • Annie DeLisle, (1967 - divorced 1981)
  • Jennifer Winkley (married as of 2007)





Film and television adaptations



The comprehensive archive of Cormac McCarthy's personal papers is preserved at the Wittliff collections, Texas State Universitymarker, San Marcos, TX. The McCarthy papers consists of 98 boxes (46 linear feet). The acquisition of the Cormac McCarthy Papers resulted from years of ongoing conversations between McCarthy and Southwestern Writers Collection founder Bill Wittliff, who negotiated the proceedings; Glenn Horowitz served as McCarthy’s representative in brokering the contract. Additionally, the Southwestern Writers Collection / Wittliff collections also holds The Wolmer Collection of Cormac McCarthy, which consists of letters between McCarthy and bibliographer J. Howard Woolmer, and four other related collections.


  1. Retrieved on 2008-06-03.
  2. Retrieved on 2008-06-03.
  5. Fred Brown, Cormac McCarthy: On the trail of a legend; Author's writing reveals how East Tennessee shaped the man, Knoxville News Sentinel, December 16, 2007
  7. Retrieved on 2008-17-08.
  8. Cormac McCarthy Papers at The Wittliff Collections, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX
  9. Acquisition of the Cormac McCarthy Papers by The Wittliff Collections, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX
  10. The Woolmer Collection of Cormac McCarthy, Wittliff Collections, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX
  11. Cormac McCarthy Collections at The Wittliff Collections, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX

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