Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wall Street Journal Interview with Cormac McCarthy

One of my favorite authors is Cormac McCarthy, creator of "The Road," "No Country for Old Men," "Cities of the Plains," "Blood Meridian," and others. While I typically prefer authors who write short and sparse sentences in the Hemingway mold, McCarthy is far from that. Some people find his books too wordy, and he does make a point of being very descriptive, but I just find his work incredible. Everything is dark, from the setting of his stories to the characters. I have heard his style described as "Southern Gothic," drawing comparisons to William Faulkner, and that sounds pretty accurate.

McCarthy is something of a recluse, and usually shuns interviews. I won't type out the whole discussion from the Wall Street Journal, but I did find some of his answers to be very interesting.

WSJ: How does the notion of aging and death affect the work that you do? Has it become more urgent?

CM: Your future gets shorter and you recognize that. In recent years, I have had no desire to do anything but work and be with my son. I hear people talking about going on a vacation or something and I think, what is that about? I have no desire to go on a trip. My perfect day is sitting in a room with some blank paper. That's heaven. That's gold and anything else is a waste of time.

WSJ: How does that ticking clock affect your work? Does it make you want to write more shorter pieces, or to cap things off with a large, all-encompassing work?

CM: I'm not interested in writing short stories. Anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.

WSJ: The last five years of your life have seemed very productive for you. Have there been fallow periods in your writing?

CM: I don't think there's any rich period or fallow period. That's just a perception that you get from what's published. Your busiest day might be watching some ants carrying bread crumbs. Someone asked Flannery O'Connor why she wrote, and she said, "Because I'm good at it." And I think that's the right answer. If you're good at something it's very hard not to do it. In talking to older people who have had good lives, inevitably half of them will say, "the most significant thing in my life is that I have been extraordinarily lucky." And when you hear that you know you're hearing the truth. It doesn't diminish their talent or industry. You can have all that and fail.



Katana said...

You've just named off one of my favorite authors - I love his epics on journeys and seeking paradise and all that. As lame as it might be, All the pretty horses is one of my favorites.

Martin said...

"All the Pretty Horses" was amazing. I have heard that the movie sucked though. Have you read the newt two books in that series? "Cities of the Plains" and "The Crossing" make up the last two books in his Border Trilogy. "Cities of the Plains" in particular, was amazing.

KA said...

I've read The Crossing, but not Cities of the Plains. Maybe I'll look into that.