We don't claim much insight into the world of big-time literature, so we were surprised to learn today that Cormac McCarthy was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for his latest novel, The Road.
Just last week (see below), we noted that The Road was an Oprah Book Club selection, a choice that has boosted some writers from relative obscurity to fame and fortune. McCarthy didn't need Oprah's help. He became a famous writer some years ago with the critical and popular success of his Border Trilogy, powerful stories set in the West Texas and northern Mexico.
McCarthy grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he attended the University of Tennessee. Several of his early works were set in East Tennessee. Later, McCarthy moved to El Paso, Texas, where he wrote a series of startling western novels, including Blood Meridian, All My Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain.
McCarthy is notoriously reclusive. He gives few interviews and makes few public appearances. In person, however, he can be friendly and gracious. We say that based on a chance meeting with McCarthy some years ago in Knoxville. We were driving down Kingston Pike near the UT campus when our sharp-eyed passenger, a Tennessee poet, spotted McCarthy walking up the street.
We invited him to lunch at the nearby Rudy Tuesday's, and spent the next hour or so listening to the writer himself. The details of that meeting have faded over the years, but we do recall his friendliness on that occasion. Also, his intensity.