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Cormac McCarthy Biography

(1933– ), Child of God, Suttree, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

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American novelist, born in Rhode Island but brought up in Knoxville, Tennessee, educated at the University of Tennessee. McCarthy is a reclusive writer who presents a dark vision of America. His prose style is an extraordinary hybrid which intermingles Faulkner and Melville, Joyce and Stephen Crane. Resonant and imagistic, it focuses upon an almost exclusively masculine universe, marked by the curse of violence and satanic dissent. There is nothing pleasant about his collection of outcasts and degenerates; Lester Ballard, the central figure in Child of God (1973), is an utterly estranged necrophiliac, his perversion representing the only form of contact left to him by a society which has taken his land and abrogated his most basic human rights. Suttree (1979) focuses on the squalor and violence surrounding a pack of outcasts living by the Tennessee River; its hero nevertheless reserves a dignity based on his refusal to acquiesce to the compromises of mainstream society. McCarthy's masterpiece, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West (1985), presents a vision of the American West as a kind of Hell, ruled by an insane appetite for destruction and presided over by the Ahab-like Judge, nihilist philosopher of this Dantesque Inferno. Blood Meridian is essentially a non-realistic novel; even the detailed landscape is perceived as an active participant in the drive towards apocalypse. Its central figure is an etiolated Ishmael, an orphan cast adrift in a cruel world; though he finally tries to extricate himself from his immersion in evil, its influence is too pervasive and he is eventually destroyed. McCarthy confirms the landscape of the Mexican/US border as his own in All the Pretty Horses (1992), the first novel in his highly regarded ‘Border Trilogy’ and his first work to attain popular success. A horseback journey of exploration and discovery for two boys, as well as a love story, it captures the romanticism and menace of wilderness culture. The Crossing (1994), a bleaker novel, recounts the quests of its young protagonist who ventures into the same elemental terrain, initially with a wolf he plans to return to her native hills. Each novel conveys the sense of man alone.

Mary McCarthy (Mary Therese McCarthy) Biography - (1912–89), (Mary Therese McCarthy), Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood, Partisan Review, The New Republic, The Nation [next]

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