Saturday, September 14, 2013

Early McCarthy Interview

One day in 2008 I found the following interview with Cormac McCarthy online. It was excerpted from BRICK Magazine 1986, Toronto. I had posted it here before with a link to the authour...but the link has long disappeared. So I have no idea who interviewed McCarthy by phone...

I reached McCarthy by phone in Texas and put it to him that perhaps the public found his tales a mite bleak. “Jolly tales,” he said, “are not what it is all about. My feeling is that all good literature is bleak. When a work gets a certain gloss on it with age, and the current reality of it is dulled, then we can say what has and what does not have the true tragic face. I’m guided by the sweep and grandeur of classical tragedy. Mine are the conditions common to people everywhere and finally the work has little to do with any personal aberration of the characters.”
I suggested that perhaps one reason his work has not secured its deserved audience was that his characters were indeed cast adrift in some “unanimous dark of the world,” within a “lethal environment” which offered neither relief nor instruction, pre-wheel times, time without mercy, time presided over by the implacable face of Nothingness, with a will to survive, fortitude, as the only and last testament. Whereas today’s reader wanted events explained, lamented, accounted for: Lester is the way he is because he comes from a broken home, his parents whipped him, he had no shoes until he was ten years old.
“I don’t doubt it,” McCarthy said. “Modern readers are a lot more familiar with Freud than with Sophocles.”
I asked him how difficult he finds it to write these amazing novels. “I work on each for several years,” he said, “and am brought to the brink of innumerable suicides. I want, even for the worst of the characters, grace under pressure, some slinking nobility.”
I asked him what he had been reading lately.
“I’ve just finished Shakespeare and the Common Understanding,” he said. “And one of your guys, Michael On—? How do you say it?”
“That’s right. Ondaatje. Wonderful stuff.” 

From Brick 27, Spring 1986, 


Eugene Knapik said...

It's always best not to read interviews with writers and artists and musicians you admire. I get sucked into it time and again and after I wish I had left well enough alone. After all, what could a writer say in a 10 minute interview that he or she didn't say way better in the work.

I once met an artist whose work I very seriously admired, a guy who had a huge influence on a whole genre of art-making. I had a chance to chat with him for a while, and after meeting the guy it ruined the work for me. That was back in the 80s and to this day I can't look at that guy's work anymore.

Candy Minx said...

Well, I totally agree with you...but I qualfy it towards literally talking about the work and it's content.

What McCarthy sayshere isn't a literal aspect of his work. I'ts his feelings abot work. for me that is not a problem. It's when artists or writers create a philosophy or structure they present to the world with a formula...then it is depressing to me. Or when they talk about writing. McCarthy himself there isn't anything much more boring that a writer talking about the writing.

These quotes however I found fairly interesting because they are are not about the specific work. They are about life. They are observances i the language of everyday not literary language.

Anonymous said...

According to, the interview was conducted by Leon Rooke - and apparently it's anthologized in The Brick Reader (!