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Cormac McCarthy

In one of Cormac McCarthy's works, The Road, a father and son find themselves wandering across a world in which an apocalyptic event ha occurred, with most survivors having been reduced to cannibalism in order to survive. This is characteristic of the kind of subjects that McCarthy writes about. Those subjects are often dark, violent, and focused on what could only be called the seedier side of human nature.

Introduction & Background

Cormac McCarthy is an American screenwriter, playwright, and novelist. His ten novels fall into all different genres, such as western, gothic, and post-apocalyptic. For his various works, he has won a Pultizer Prize, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award. He has been listed on Time magazine’s 100 best English-language books list and was named runner up in 2006 in a poll of the best American fiction published within twenty five years. His book The Road has placed on the list of 100 best fiction and non-fiction books of the past ten years, published in The Times. He continues to publish work that impresses the public and critics alike.


Cormac McCarthy published his first book in 1965. He published Child of God and Suttree in 1973 and 1979, respectively. In 1985, he wrote Blood Meridian, a book that continues to be incredibly popular today; in 2006, it was listed by The New York Times Magazine as the third greatest American novel of the previous twenty five years. In the nineties, he experienced more success and notoriety with All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, Cities of the Plain, and The Stonemason. In the first ten years of the twenty first century, McCarthy published No Country for Old Man, The Road, and a play called The Sunset Limited. In 2012, he sold his screenplay, The Counselor, and is currently rumored to be working on three different novels.

Writing style

Cormac McCarthy is widely known for his three punctuation quirks. First, his lack of quotation marks. He states that he was inspired by MacKinlay Kantor, another author who omits quotation marks. McCarthy says that the lack of quotation marks require him to write in such a descriptive way that you have to guide the reader to who is speaking. Second, he never uses semicolons. He believes that colons are only acceptable when the writer is listing something. Finally, he keeps the rest of his punctuation very minimal, using only periods, capitals, and the occasional comma.

Additional information

Many of Cormac McCarthy’s works have been adapted for television and film. In 1977, a screenplay of his book The Gardener’s Son aired as a series for PBS. McCarthy himself penned the screenplay after a special request from the movie’s director, Richard Pearce. Much later, in 2000, his novel All the Pretty Horses was turned into a film directed by Billy Bob Thornton and staring Penelope Cruz and Matt Damon. Perhaps the most famous film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s books is the 2007 film No Country for Old Men. This film stared such names as Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin. The movie won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture and four Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Supporting Actor. 

In 2009, the movie adaptation for The Road, which began development in 2007, was released. Directed by John Hillcoat, the movie starred Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron. Two years later, in 2011, HBO aired a film adaptation of McCarthy’s play The Sunset Limited. The adaptation stared Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones, who also directed the film. Finally, in 2013, an adaptation of his third novel Child of God premiered at the Venice International Film Festival and was directed by James Franco. In addition, there have been rumors of a film adaptation of Blood Meridian for several years.


In conclusion, Cormac McCarthy continues to be one of the most prevalent and best-loved contemporary American writers. He is still publishing widely-acclaimed works and is even working on several novels currently. His writing is powerful and leaves a lasting impression, making it exceedingly popular, whether being experienced in writing or by film adaptation. 

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