A look back at author Cormac McCarthy’s sentinel interviews Knoxville News
As those close to Cormac McCarthy have said, the Ionic author “lets his books do the talking.”
Known for ‘All the Pretty Horses’, ‘No Country for Old Men’ and ‘Suttree’, McCarthy – who grew up in Knoxville – is one of America’s most revered novelists.
He is also one of the most reclusive, choosing to do very few interviews throughout his long literary career which began in 1965.
Now 89, he released two new novels this fall, his first releases since 2006’s Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘The Road’.
“The Passenger,” released Oct. 25, has been in the works for more than a decade. And its prequel, “Stella Maris,” will be released on November 22. A box set of both books will be available on December 6.
Knox News revisited notable excerpts and quotes from McCarthy when he told us about his early career work in the 1960s and 1970s.
His brother Dennis McCarthy and his ex-wife Annie DeLisle also offered a bit more information about the private author in a 1990 News-Sentinel report.
Here are some of the ways the author expressed himself:
Cormac McCarthy on his novel “Outer Dark” (1968)
“I was living in Sevier County when I started writing my second novel. … I worked on it for several years, some time in Asheville, and finished it in Spain.
A preview of “Suttree” (1968)
This interview goes back to when a young McCarthy was working on his fourth novel: “It’s still in draft form and is set in Knoxville,” he said.
Indeed, it was. Finally released in 1979, “Suttree” is a semi-autobiographical novel set in Knoxville in the 1950s. Cornelius Suttree chooses to reject his family’s tradition and wealth to mingle with the town’s misfits and live in a houseboat. as a fisherman on the Tennessee River. Landmarks like Gay Street and Market Square are mentioned in the book.
Suttree Landing Park on the Tennessee River in downtown Knoxville is a tribute to the book and its main character.
Why McCarthy personally bonded with a character from his first screenplay, ‘The Gardener’s Son,’ based on real events (1977)
“Robert McEvoy grew up being a black sheep, the bad boy in town. That was familiar to me too.
McCarthy’s family moved to Knoxville when he was just 4 years old. They lived in the Sequoyah Hills and South Knoxville areas and McCarthy attended Catholic High. Her childhood home in South Knox burned down in 2009.
McCarthy also attended the University of Tennessee for a year in the 1950s until he “dropped out or was expelled, depending on your sources,” News-Sentinel writer Don Williams reported. After a four-year stint in the Air Force, he returned to UT, but dropped out again to finish writing his first novel, “The Orchard Keeper.”
How McCarthy Fell into Writing (1977)
“I don’t know why I started writing,” he says laconically. “I don’t know why anyone does it. Maybe they’re bored or failing at something else. Look at (former Vice President) Spiro Agnew. He is now a novelist.
McCarthy on what drives him to write (1977)
“I find that when I’m really comfortable and have some money I tend to relax too much – whereas when my feet are on fire I tend to get up early and go to work.”
McCarthy on what interested him in cinema (1977)
“It’s grueling work. On site for 30 days, and last week we were working 16 to 18 hours a day. You have to be some kind of weirdo to think it’s fun. But it sure kept my interest – and writers are basically pretty lazy people.
Several of his novels were eventually made into films. “No Country for Old Men” directed by Joel and Ethan Coen won four Oscars, including Best Picture.
And other film adaptations of his work include “All the Pretty Horses,” starring Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz; “The Road”, with Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron; and “Child of God”, directed by James Franco.
Why McCarthy Is So Private (1990)
“He just doesn’t want anyone to say anything about him. … It’s almost like a superstition. He is afraid of ruining everything he does if he speaks.
– Dennis McCarthy (brother)
What the friends of the “great man” and the “literary genius” who flee the press say (1990)
“It’s not snobbery. Cormac lets his books do the talking.
How McCarthy coped after writing the graphic and violent material depicted in his work (1990)
“After he wrote, he was like, ‘Well, it’s cocktail hour. Then he would take a shower like he was washing everything out of his hair.
– Annie DeLisle (ex-wife)
Other rediscovered interviews from McCarthy’s early career (1968-1980) were recently published by the Cormac McCarthy Journal. The collection includes the News-Sentinel interviews from 1968 and 1977 and the Knoxville Journal and Maryville Daily Times interviews.