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...
(The entire section is 789 words.)