Salutations to Cormac McCarthy on his 80th birthday

Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy celebrates his 80th birthday Saturday.
(Alfred A. Knopf / Associated Press)

Writer Cormac McCarthy turns 80 today. Happy birthday, Cormac McCarthy!

McCarthy was born on this day in Rhode Island in 1933. The Pulitzer Prize winner is mostly known for his stories set in Texas, but it took him some time to get there.

His father, a lawyer, moved the family to Knoxville when Cormac (then Charles) was 4. McCarthy stayed in Tennessee through college, and his first four novels are set there. “The Orchard Keeper” (1965), “Outer Dark” (1968), “Child of God” (1974), and “Suttree” (1979) all have some of the brutality and exquisite control of language as his later work.

McCarthy’s next book, “Blood Meridian” (1985), was his first set in Texas. It was written after he had been awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship; according to the Cormac McCarthy Society, he used part of his prize money to travel through Texas and Mexico, and also to learn Spanish.


“For such an obstinate loner, McCarthy is an engaging figure, a world-class talker, funny, opinionated, quick to laugh. Unlike his illiterate characters, who tend to be terse and crude, he speaks with an amused, ironic manner,” wrote the New York Times, which was granted a rare interview in 1992 upon the publication of his next book.

That was “All The Pretty Horses,” the first book in what is now known as the Border Crossing Trilogy. It was followed by “The Crossing” (1994) and “Cities of the Plain” (1998). “All the Pretty Horses” was McCarthy’s first bestseller, a bleak, updated western that introduced his singular vision to a wide audience.

He found a larger audience still with 2006’s “The Road,” a novel that resembles his other work in spirit and style, set in a post-apocalyptic landscape. Oprah selected the book for her book club; it won the Pulitzer Prize; and it was made into a film starring Viggo Mortenson.

McCarthy, a private man who rarely grants interviews and has made his home in Texas and New Mexico, may be one of the least likely authors to go to Hollywood. But his work has found new enthusiasts there, particularly since the film version of his novel “No Country For Old Men” was a commercial and critical success, winning four Oscars.


Later this fall, the first story McCarthy wrote for the big screen comes to theaters: “The Counselor.” It stars Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz and Javier Bardem, and was directed by Ridley Scott. In it, an attorney gets mixed up in drug trafficking; the trailer is below. Vintage Books is putting out a print edition of the screenplay in October.

Maybe McCarthy has been devoting so much time to Hollywood that he hasn’t had a chance to work on a new book. Although the screenplay is coming and he has recently published book versions of his plays, his last novel was “The Road.”

Philip Roth, just a few months older than McCarthy, said in a recent interview that he has quit writing for good. McCarthy hasn’t said any such thing -- although he so rarely grants interviews, he probably wouldn’t.

Perhaps the film will bring him back to Hollywood for a visit; and our door is always open. Happy birthday, Cormac McCarthy!



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