Cormac McCarthy is one of the most influential writers of our time. While his recent death is certainly a devastating loss for humanity, there's no doubt that Cormac McCarthy leaves behind an incredible legacy.
In celebration of a fascinating life, here are 5 amazing facts about Cormac McCarthy (you probably don't know).
1. McCarthy lived in a dairy barn
Cormac McCarthy may be one of the most well-known (and respected) authors today, but when he first started out things weren't easy. McCarthy and his wife Annie—whom he met on a ship—moved to Tennessee in 1969 and purchased a dairy barn.
McCarthy did the renovations on the barn himself and Annie described their situation as living in 'abject poverty'. Often, they would go weeks with nothing to eat but beans. It was during this time that McCarthy penned Child of God, which tells the story of a violent, dispossessed man who is released from jail and haunts the hills of Tennessee.
2. Cormac McCarthy won a Pulitzer for The Road
The Road is perhaps one of McCarthy's darkest works. It tells the story of a father-son journey through a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Although a grim tale, there is an underlying theme of hope in the face of unspeakable despair. So, it came as no surprise when, in 2007, Cormac McCarthy scooped up the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his masterpiece The Road.
The inspiration behind the novel is another fascinating peek into the author's life. In 2003, while on a trip to El Paso, Texas with his young son, McCarthy recalled looking out his hotel room window in the middle of the night. As his son lay asleep behind him, the writer tried to picture what El Paso would look like in 100 years. Clearly, he didn't see anything good. But that moment caused Cormac McCarthy to dig into his own experiences and emotions around fatherhood and create the father-son relationship at the core of The Road.
3. McCarthy was famously reclusive
Although McCarthy rose to fame in the 90s, he was famously reclusive and always shunned the media spotlight. In fact, he refused to give any televised interviews until 2007—over 40 years after he published his first book. McCarthy agreed to go on Oprah for the famous interview, but only because she'd chosen The Road for her bookclub.
Cormac McCarthy often said that he didn't need to give interviews because everything he wanted to say could be found in his books. When asked why he shunned the limelight, McCarthy said:
“I don’t think it’s good for your head – if you spend a lot of time writing about a book, you probably shouldn’t be talking about it, you should be doing it.”
4. Cormac McCarthy always wrote on a typewriter
Despite technological advancements and the ease offered by computers, McCarthy used a typewriter to hammer out every single one of his incredible books. In 1963, McCarthy paid $50 in a pawnshop to purchase a portable Olivetti typewriter. Incredibly, this typewriter would see the author through the next five decades of his career.
In 2009, the Olivetti was beginning to show signs of age and McCarthy agreed to auction it off. He estimated that he'd written upwards of 5 million words on it during his then 50-year career. Auctioneers believed it would sell for around $20,000. However, an American collector ended up paying a whopping $254,500 for the privilege of owning McCarthy's typewriter! The sale of his beloved Olivetti did not prompt Cormac McCarthy to move on to more modern modes of writing. Instead, he purchased another Olivetti for roughly $30 and wrote on that!
5. Cormac McCarthy's favorite book was Moby-Dick
No author produces great work in an isolated bubble, and it's common for them to find inspiration in other's work—both contemporary and classic. McCarthy cited Moby-Dick by Herman Melville as his favorite novel, and echoes of the classic can be found in all his works—in particular Blood Meridian.
Undoubtedly, Cormac McCarthy's bloody, violent tale of the American West will have the same lasting impact that Melville's Moby-Dick does. Blood Meridian has already achieved its own brand of immortality and we'll be talking about, and reading, it for decades to come.
Do you enjoy these Cormac McCarthy facts? Tell us in the comments👇 which of his books is your favorite!