Cormac McCarthy Biography

Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

ph_0111201240-Mccarthy.jpgCormac McCarthy Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Cormac McCarthy, like many of the characters in his novels, has kept moving from place to place, responding keenly to the pulse of his new settings. McCarthy was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and at the age of four moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, with his parents, Charles Joseph and Gladys McGrail McCarthy. After graduating from a Catholic high school in Knoxville, McCarthy attended the University of Tennessee in 1951-1952. The next year he spent wandering around the United States, doing odd jobs. He finally returned to the university in 1957 after four years’ service in the Air Force. In 1960, the English department recognized his talent by granting him an Ingram-Merrill Award for creative writing. This may have encouraged him to leave school and devote his attention completely to his writing, which he did the same year, without receiving a degree. Since then McCarthy has eschewed academic patronage, though he has been the beneficiary of a number of generous institutional grants.

McCarthy’s first novel, The Orchard Keeper (1965), like his subsequent fiction up to Blood Meridian: Or, The Evening Redness in the West (1985), draws upon his intimate knowledge of eastern Tennessee, the area where he spent his childhood and early adulthood. The novel, written in Sevier County, Tennessee; Asheville, North Carolina; and Chicago, won the William Faulkner Foundation Award for best first novel by an American writer. By the time the novel was published, McCarthy had been granted a fellowship by the American Academy of Arts and Letters for travel abroad. His European travels, supported further by a Rockefeller Foundation grant (1966-1968), took him to London, Paris, and the Spanish island of Ibiza, while he worked on his second novel, Outer Dark (1968).

McCarthy returned to the United States in 1967, now married and with a completed novel. He and his wife, Anne de Lisle, a singer from...

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Cormac McCarthy Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Any reckoning of those voices in contemporary American literature that have been most innovative and have spoken most powerfully about the human condition would surely grant a place to Cormac McCarthy, who has provided such vivid and poignant depictions of the cultural and geographic landscapes of Appalachia and the U.S.-Mexico border region. The issues arising so naturally from McCarthy’s fiction are those that have always been at the center of American literature—an uneasy truce with the land, the conflict between the individual and society, the relation between technology and nature, the struggle to come to terms with genealogical and historical precedents, and the eruption of violent potential. All of this is made the more remarkable by McCarthy’s distinctive literary style—his vibrant images, rugged language, and precise diction.

Cormac McCarthy Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Cormac McCarthy was born Charles Joseph McCarthy, Jr., into a middle-class Catholic family—about as far as one can get from the backgrounds of most of his characters (with the notable exception of Suttree)—in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1933. When McCarthy was four years old, his family moved to the Knoxville, Tennessee, area, where his father was chief legal counsel to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). There McCarthy grew up, attending a parochial elementary school, Knoxville Catholic High School, and the University of Tennessee. He dropped out of the university after one year, traveled for a year, and then joined the U.S. Air Force, in which he served for four years. Afterward, he attended the University of Tennessee for three more years but finally left without getting a degree. Around this time McCarthy also married another student, Lee Holleman, but they later divorced.

McCarthy discovered his writing vocation at the University of Tennessee, where he began work on a novel. After the publication of The Orchard Keeper, he traveled in Europe for three years, living in London, in Paris, and on the Spanish island of Ibiza. While in Europe, he married Anne de Lisle of Hamble, England. Later, they lived on a small farm in Rockford, Tennessee, just outside Knoxville, but this second married also ended in divorce. McCarthy moved to El Paso, Texas, during the time he was writing Blood Meridian.

As both his East Tennessee...

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Cormac McCarthy Biography (Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Until the publication of All the Pretty Horses, which won national awards and recognition, Cormac McCarthy was something of a cult writer, kept alive by a devoted circle of critics and readers who appreciated his dark, brooding sensibility and poetic prose style. Although he is now a writer with a national reputation, McCarthy remains a mystery man. He eschews publicity and seldom grants interviews. Restless and elusive, he has divorced twice and has lived in Chicago, Las Vegas, New Orleans, London, Paris, and various border towns in Texas and Mexico.

McCarthy’s fiction explores violence and evil as a countermyth to the more official and optimistic premises of American society. McCarthy’s early novels are set in Tennessee, the state in which he grew up and in which he was largely educated. These novels are gothic and nihilistic, and they reflect in style and mood the influence of such Southern authors as William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. When McCarthy moved to Texas, his novels engaged with the tradition of the American Western. These meditative Westerns are his signature pieces, and the first of them, Blood Meridian, is the touchstone of the McCarthy canon. A gruesome historical novel set in the 1840’s, Blood Meridian concerns the maraudings of a band of scalp hunters as they rape, murder, and plunder in the borderlands of the Southwest. His next two novels, All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing, are also stories of youthful initiation into evil and are the first two novels in a projected series. They are set in a postwar world of conflicting and competing cultures, economies, and systems of values, and significantly include the terrain and culture of Mexico as well as Texas. Although set in modern times, these novels follow Blood Meridian in seriously interpreting the genre of the American Western, adding a dark, mysterious dimension that sophisticates the form beyond its popular formulaic identity.

Cormac McCarthy Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Once considered the most obscure major writer in the contemporary United States, Cormac McCarthy gained national attention through the phenomenal success of his 1992 novel All the Pretty Horses. He was at first named Charles Joseph McCarthy, Jr., but later renamed Cormac after an ancient Irish king—one who was, incidentally, renowned for his literary scholarship. McCarthy’s parents, Charles Joseph and Gladys McGrail McCarthy, were middle-class Catholics, but when McCarthy was four the family moved to the Protestant stronghold of Knoxville, Tennessee. His father was chief legal counsel to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which permanently flooded many valleys, removing traditional mountain families who had been living on the land for generations. Some local people have still not forgiven the government for the trauma of their “relocation,” which included even the gruesome contents of cemeteries. Whatever McCarthy learned about these operations probably fueled his later work, which features similar gruesome scenes and identification with the local people and land.

McCarthy experienced a rather conventional upbringing, attending parochial school and then Knoxville’s Catholic High School. A recurrent restlessness set in at the University of Tennessee, where he dropped out after a year. After another year’s hiatus, he joined the U.S. Air Force for four years, then he returned to the University of Tennessee for three more years. While at the university, he received encouragement for his writing and began work on at least one novel. He left the university again in 1959 without taking a degree. Six years later McCarthy finally published his first novel, The Orchard Keeper. Centered on traditional mountain characters who clash with the forces of modernity, represented by government and the law, the novel reveals McCarthy’s sympathy with outcasts and renegades, a theme that recurs throughout his work. The Orchard Keeper won for McCarthy immediate critical acclaim and prizes but few readers. Recalling William Faulkner’s narrative techniques, the novel earned for McCarthy the 1965 William Faulkner Foundation Award, which honors the best first novel by an American author. An American Academy of Arts and Letters Fellowship enabled McCarthy to travel in...

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Cormac McCarthy Biography (eNotes Publishing)

Cormac McCarthy was born on July 20, 1933, in Rhode Island. His first name is a Gaelic word meaning “son of Charles.” Fittingly, the author’s father was indeed named Charles.

McCarthy attended the University of Tennessee, where he majored in liberal arts and where he won the Ingram-Merrill award two years in a row for creative writing. Later, he moved to Chicago, where he worked as an auto mechanic while he wrote his first novel, The Orchard Keeper (1965). Around this same time, he married Lee Holleman (a poet), but the couple divorced. They had a son. Later, McCarthy remarried, this time to Anne DeLisle. This marriage also eventually ended in divorce.

In 1979, McCarthy wrote what many critics...

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Cormac McCarthy Biography (eNotes Publishing)

Cormac McCarthy, who turned seventy-five on July 20, 2008, appears to have refused his senior citizenship. In 2007, McCarthy’s novel The Road won the Pulitzer Prize for best novel. Then in 2008, McCarthy’s best-selling novel No Country for Old Men was adapted to film and won the 2008 Academy Award for best movie. McCarthy also recently signed a two-book deal with his publisher, which means his fans have at least two more novels to look forward to.

McCarthy was born in Rhode Island in 1933, to a family of six children. His father, Charles, was a lawyer, who later moved his family to Tennessee. McCarthy attended the University of Tennessee for two years before...

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