Cormac McCarthy is not dead. But if you checked Twitter on Tuesday morning, you might have thought he was.
An account claiming to be affiliated with publisher Alfred A. Knopf reported that legendary novelist Cormac McCarthy, author of "The Road" and "No Country for Old Men," had died.
If you were tired and coffee-deprived enough, this tweet could seem plausible:
But if you gave it even a second glance, it became apparent that something was wrong. "URGENT. Author Cormac McCarthy dies for stroke at 82," it reads, in a stunningly weak approximation of formal English. It was, in fact, a hoax.
McCarthy is not himself on Twitter, so it was up to his publisher’s parent company, Penguin Random House, to explain that he was not at all dead.
What’s more, he’s too tough to die. The author of bloody western novels set on the Texas-Mexico border – “Blood Meridian,” “All the Pretty Horses,” “The Crossing” and “Cities of the Plain” – chose an even more difficult landscape for his 2006 bestseller, “The Road,” in which a father and his son cross a mostly frozen post-apocalyptic America searching for food, comfort, and refuge from ruffians and cannibals.
If you’ve never read him, here’s a passage from “Blood Meridian” to get a sense of his writing.
“With darkness one soul rose wondrously from among the new slain dead and stole away in the midnight. The ground where he’d lain was soaked with blood and with urine from the voided bladders of the animals and he went forth stained and stinking like some reeking issue of the incarnate dam of war herself….He made his way among the pale and dismembered, among the sprawled and legflung horses, and he took a reckoning by the stars and set off South afoot. The night wore a thousand shapes out there in the brush and he kept his eyes to the ground ahead. Starlight and waning moon made a faint shadow of his wanderings on the dark of the desert and all along the ridges the wolves were howling and moving north toward the slaughter.”
McCarthy, who lives in Texas and mostly avoids the press, isn't intimidated by much, suffering least of all. "Creative work is often driven by pain. It may be that if you don't have something in the back of your head driving you nuts, you may not do anything," he told the Wall Street Journal in 2009
And death? It doesn't seem to worry him. "Your future gets shorter and you recognize that," he said. "Anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing."
For his talents, McCarthy has been awarded a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize. Fellow writer Joyce Carol Oates, the novelist and Twitter enthusiast, immediately mourned McCarthy’s passing – apparently unaware that he was not dead.
Despite the broken English of the original tweet, and the fact that the fake account started tweeting only today, even a major news organization fell for the hoax.
On Twitter, USA Today reported the "news":
Soon, Oates and USA Today had both recanted.And not long after, the creator of the fake Knopf account admitted the whole thing was a lie:
The announcement that Tommasso Debenedetti was behind the fake account didn't come as a surprise to followers of literary Twitter, who have been used to Debenedetti's antics for a long time.The Italian teacher has been attempting to hoax social media users for years, and he has previously "reported" the deaths of the pope, Fidel Castro and filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar.
With darkness one soul rose wondrously from among the new slain dead and stole away in the midnight. The ground where he’d lain was soaked with blood...
— Cormac McCarthy, 'Blood Meridian'
He also has a habit of creating fake Twitter accounts for reclusive authors. Most recently, he tried to fool users into thinking novelist Don DeLillo had opened an account. It did not work.
So there's bad news and good news. The bad news is that Debenedetti still has nothing better to do with his time than trying to fool people with stupid hoaxes.
The good news, of course, is that McCarthy is not dead, because he is too tough to die. And, if you think like the author, then even death can’t kill him. As he wrote in his semi-autobiographical 1979 novel “Suttree”: "How surely are the dead beyond death. Death is what the living carry with them. A state of dread, like some uncanny foretaste of a bitter memory. But the dead do not remember and nothingness is not a curse. Far from it.”
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