Cormac McCarthy shaped a generation of writers like me — even when we didn’t admit it

Cormac McCarthy shaped a generation of writers like me — even when we didn’t admit it

Cormac McCarthy in Santa Fe, N.M., in 2014. For the entirety of my writing life, Cormac McCarthy has been a mountain. Some of the novelists of my generation found the mountain beautiful; others found it oppressive. But virtually all of us, whatever our position or attitude, existed in its shade. In spite of the enormity of his shadow, however, I've never before written the author of so many novels I've studied and admired. In the two decades since my first book was published, I've fielded the boilerplate question about my influences no end of times, name-checking an almost absurdly ragtag crew: Shirley Hazzard , Denis Johnson, William S. Burroughs , Amos Tutuola, Lydia Davis, Toni Morrison , John Berger, Ursula K. Le Guin — even, just a few weeks ago, whoever ghost-wrote David Lee Roth's , “Crazy From the Heat.” But one name I've conspicuously avoided all these years has been that of McCarthy, who died last week at 89 . Why on earth is that? The omission wasn't due to any lack of impact on my writing, that's for certain. I might never have finished a book if not for “ All the Pretty Horses ” — and I don't mean this in some vague or sentimental sense. When McCarthy's sixth swept into my life, I was 24 years old and living in a tent I'd pitched in the basement of a warehouse under the Manhattan Bridge. I'd recently lost both my job and my apartment, and a friend thought a book about cowboys might distract me from my woes. What neither of us imagined was that the glossy trade paperback with its attractively minimalist black-and-white cover would act as the catalyst for my entire professional life . Obituaries Cormac McCarthy, author of ‘No Country for Old Men' and ‘Blood Meridian,' dies at 89 June 13, 2023 From the first paragraph — from the first sentence — “All the Pretty Horses” reconfigured my understanding of novelistic language so radically that months would pass before I felt able to read anyone else. All these years later, its […]

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