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Feb 23rd
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Home People & Lifestyle Western Writers Blog Cormac McCarthy’s Work Touches Something Important

Cormac McCarthy’s Work Touches Something Important

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I admit it: I'm a relative newcomer to the work of Cormac McCarthy. I've known of his work for years and his books have been on my ever-growing "to read" list, but it was only recently that his books moved to the top of that list.

There's a reason for that: I received a proposal for a critical book of McCarthy's work. The proposal prompted me to take a close look at his work and the scholarly interest in it.

cormac_mccarthyI attended the Western Literature Association (WLA) conference in November and am planning to attend the Southwest/Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Association (SW/TX PCA) conference this month (February 2013). As an acquiring editor, my habit is to look over conference schedules so I can see which UNM Press authors are on panels and also see what topics are being presented that I might want to follow up on.

The scholarly interest in McCarthy's work is clear: at the WLA, ten papers were given on McCarthy's work, both as a whole and specifically on Blood Meridian, The Road, No Country for Old Men, and his Border Trilogy (All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain); and the upcoming SW/TX PCA conference will host two panels on Cormac McCarthy's work and a total of eight papers on his work in general and Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, and The Road specifically.

This is not news and certainly no surprise to McCarthy scholars and many non-scholarly readers, but it is intriguing to me. One of the perks of my job as an acquiring editor is being introduced to or given the freedom to learn and explore various topics and authors.

McCarthy's work explores the South and the West/U.S.-Mexico border and the lives (and deaths) of the people who struggle to live in them. In much of his work, the environment is a character in the novels. And much of his work explores the ferociousness of people and place while exploring how such ferociousness fits in the overall human experience and human spirit.

This is a simplistic overview
, of course, and others may feel differently. Scholars are doing much to explore the multitude of ways McCarthy explores the South and West, physically and metaphorically, and the people and the natural world that make up a part of those geographies. General readers turn to McCarthy and experience the pleasure that comes from reading fine literature. Both are valid ways to approach McCarthy's work.

The bottom line is this: McCarthy's work touches something important, and often indefinable, in his readers. He's captured readers' imaginations since the publication of his first novel, The Orchard Keeper, in 1965.

McCarthy will celebrate his eightieth birthday in July. I wonder what he makes of all the attention, both scholarly and general, paid to his work. My feeling is his work will be a center of attention for a long time to come. That's a good thing.

For more information on Cormac McCarthy's work and the conferences I've mentioned, visit these websites:

The Cormac McCarthy Society,
The Southwest/Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Association,
The Western Literature Association,

Have a comment or question for Elise? Drop her an email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

People & Lifestyle