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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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...
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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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