Cormac McCarthy was a famous American writer who unfortunately passed away on June 13, 2023. His debut novel was called The Orchard, which was published in 1965.
Though he is well known for his twelve novels, McCarthy was involved in many other projects including five screenplays, two plays, and three short stories. He is still considered “a key figure in modern American fiction” to this day.
Early Influences and Style
Cormac McCarthy was raised in a Catholic household alongside his parents, two younger brothers, and younger sister. Though several factors may be responsible for influencing his writing, his Catholic upbringing is often considered to be one of the main contributors to his literary style. This can be seen in the language and moral dilemmas presented.
The Bible is reflected in many of McCarthy’s novels. His writing style is described as “sparse and poetic” due to the minimal punctuation and lack of quotation marks. Biblical themes can also be seen in his novels, especially the exploration of morality. In addition to delving into themes of good and evil, McCarthy featured complex characters which were meant to be perceived as morally ambiguous and multifaceted. The purpose of this was to explore the human condition and complexity of human nature.
Many of McCarthy’s books were recognized for their amazing story telling, highly acclaimed, and granted several awards. Among some of the awards he won are the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. His works were also recognized by being turned into films.
Some were adapted into successful feature length films such as No Country for Old Men. Meanwhile Outer Dark was adapted into a 15 minute short film. His No Country for Old Men film won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2008. As for his The Road and All the Pretty Horses also garnered critical attention.
Cormac McCarthy is known for the following genres: southern gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic.
Southern gothic is a genre which explores the darker aspects of western settings. It features themes of poverty, violence, and even the supernatural. On the contrary, the western theme focuses on the less dark and more on the adventures in the American Southwest and Mexico.
These types of stories features young, adventurous men as they explore the rugged landscapes. Lastly, the post-apocalyptic genre focuses on stories taking place specifically in a post-apocalyptic or dystopian setting.
Books to Read
To celebrate Carmoc McCarthy’s legacy, here is a list of his most popular books in descending order.
A hunter named Llewellyn Moss stumbles upon the wreckage left behind from a chaotic drug deal. The only hinges left behind are a few dead bodies, some heroin, and a briefcase containing 2 million dollars. He decides to take the money, resulting in his demise as a group of drug dealers hunts him down.
This is a novel full of thrill, suspense, and violence. Through Moss’s perspective, we get to see the moral decay and brutality in West Texas. He slowly begins to how truly evil the world has become, too evil for an old man like him.
This novel follows a man and his son as they try to survive a post-apocalyptic setting. It is unknown what caused this dystopian landscape, but it has left a majority of the population dead and ruined the environment.
Throughout the novel, the man and boy ( as they are referred to in the novel) face several dangers together such as lack of food and especially the cannibalistic survivors. The novel’s main focus is the relationship between the man and the boy. They serves as foils for each other, with the man emphasizing the importance of keeping himself and his innocent son, who is consumed by hope, alive.
Blood Meridian follows the story of a teenage, runaway boy in the gang-infested Wild West. The gang, which the boy later joins, is known for collecting scalps in exchange for bounties. Together, the boy and the group go on scalp hunts all over the American Southwest and Mexico.
Along the way, they experience conflict with other gangs, Mexican forces, Native American tribes, and extreme violence. This novel is known for its grotesque story telling since it involves heavy themes of violence, brutality, and evil.
All the Pretty Horses is the first book in the Border Trilogy. The story follows John Grady Cole, a 16 year old Texan boy, on his journey of self discovery and romance. He travels with his best friend, Lacey Rawlins, in search of a traditional cowboy lifestyle.
They manage to find a job on a ranch, where John meets and falls in love with the ranch owner’s daughter, Alejandra. After a violent altercation, John and Lacy are forced to flee the ranch. The story focuses on John learning to survive on his own while attempting to reunite with Alejandra once again.
Child of God tells the disturbing story of a man named Lester Ballard as he descends into madness. The story has a heavy emphasis on isolation, mental illness, and After he loses his family home, he is forced to live in the forest and any abandoned building he could find. These circumstances cause the mentally unstable Lester to feel more alienated from society.
As his mental state deteriorates he starts committing heinous acts including murder, grave robbing, and necrophilia. Eventually, he is captured by the proper authorities and taken to mental institution instead of prison. Despite being captured, Lester’s violent and disturbing tendencies continue. The story focuses on the fragility of the human psyche and the impacts of feelings isolated from society, unable to conform to social norms.