Cormac McCarthy liked to keep a low profile, typically keeping to himself and out of the spotlight. But all that changed in 2007, when Oprah Winfrey selected his novel The Road for her book club, and the film adaptation of his novel No Country For Old Men won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Picture, substantially raising public awareness of his writing.
Born Charles Joseph McCarthy in 1933 in Providence, RI, the novelist and playwright later changed his name to Cormac, meaning ‘son of Charles’ to honour his father.
McCarthy was one of six children. When he was four his family moved to Tennessee, where he grew up and attended the University of Tennessee, before joining the U.S. Air Force.
In his career, McCarthy has written 10 novels, as well as three screenplays (The Gardener's Son, The Sunset Limited and The Counselor) two plays (The Stonemason and The Sunset Limited) and some short fiction. Critics consistently list him as one of the top American novelists of our time.
While many call Blood Meridian (1985) or Suttree (1979) McCarthy's finest works, his writing did not receive much attention until the publication of All The Pretty Horses in 1992. It made the New York Times bestseller list, sold nearly 200,000 copies during its first six months, and won the National Book Award. Previously, McCarthy had enjoyed and endured both acclaim and criticism, but not huge commercial success.
McCarthy is a bibliophile with a personal library of over 7,000 books. He has in the past cited Moby Dick as his favorite book, while eschewing the work of writers who avoid larger, darker themes like death, such as Henry James.
McCarthy's own work tends to be virtually devoid of typical themes like romance and sex. Instead, the writing is spare, often violent and relentless, with no fear to explore the darkest, ugliest parts of humanity.
For example, The Road is a novel in which a father struggles desperately to keep his son and himself alive in the aftermath of a terrible disaster renderin the world a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Its writing is stunning, however, and earned the 2007 Pulitzer Prize. After Oprah Winfrey selected The Road for her Book Club, McCarthy appeared on her show, which is a rarity - while he's not quite up to JD Salinger's standards of reclusiveness, McCarthy certainly values his privacy, agreeing to appearances very infrequently. As such, signed copies of Cormac McCarthy books are highly collectable and sure to appreciate in value. McCarthy is now in his eighties and lives in New Mexico with his wife Jennifer, and their son John.
(play 2006, screenplay 2011)