Cormac McCarthy, author of ‘No Country For Old Men’ and ‘The Road,’ dead at 89 — rest in peace

Cormac McCarthy, one of the most acclaimed authors of his generation, has died at 89.

McCarthy was best known for his dark and often brutal novels about the American West, including Blood Meridian and No Country for Old Men. He is also known for the post-apocalyptic hit The Road.

NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 01: Writer Cormac McCarthy attends the HBO Films & The Cinema Society screening of “Sunset Limited” after party at Porter House on February 1, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/WireImage)

McCarthy was born July 20, 1933 in Providence, Rhode Island and was raised primarily in Tennessee. In 1953, he dropped out of the University of Tennessee to join the US Air Force.

He released his debut novel The Orchard Keeper in 1965. His earliest novels, set in the Appalachian South, received positive reviews but little commercial success.

His 1985 novel Blood Meridian, a brutal exploration of the American Western, was met with lukewarm reception at the time of its release but has been reappraised as a masterpiece of modern literature and McCarthy’s magnum opus.

After decades of struggle and poverty, McCarthy finally received recognition and widespread success with his 1992 novel All the Pretty Horses, which one the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. It was the first of his “Border Trilogy,” followed by The Crossing and Cities of the Plain.

Arguably his most famous work is No Country for Old Men: the 2005 novel received mixed reviews from literary critics but was adapted into a widely acclaimed 2007 film directed by the Coen Brothers. The film, starring Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones, won four Oscars including Best Picture.

McCarthy’s 2007 novel The Road, a bleak post-apocalyptic tale of a father and son, received acclaim, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It was also a commercial success, becoming McCarthy’s best selling novel.

McCarthy is regarded by many critics as one of the greatest contemporary American authors. He was known for his distinct, sparse writing style and his exploration of dark, violent themes and morally ambiguous characters.

“McCarthy was, if not our greatest novelist, certainly our greatest stylist,” J.T. Barbarese, a professor of English and writing at Rutgers University, told NPR. “The obsession not only with the origins of evil, but also history. And those two themes intersect again and again and again in McCarthy’s writing.”

Other critics have objected to the vividly violent nature of much of McCarthy’s prose, though he defended the bleak worldview of his writing in a rare interview.

“There’s no such thing as life without bloodshed,” McCarthy told the New York Times in 1992. “I think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first ones to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous.”

Throughout his career, McCarthy was known for being a recluse, rarely giving interviews or making press appearances, even as works like The Road and No Country For Old Men received mainstream attention.

McCarthy died at his home in Santa Fe on June 13, 2023, according to a statement from his publicist.

Rest in peace to the great Cormac McCarthy — one of the greatest authors of his generation. His novels like The RoadBlood Meridian and No Country for Old Men will no doubt live on as classics for decades to come.

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