Coca-Cola references in Cormac McCarthy novels:
The Orchard Keeper, p. 199
Suttree, pp. 23, 70, 71, 72, 156, 185, 392
All the Pretty Horses, p. 221
Cities of the Plain, p. 114
No Country For Old Men, p. 20
The Road, ARC pp. 19, 123
"Stacking up stone is the oldest trade there is," he says, sipping a Coke. "Not even prostitution can come close to its antiquity. It's older than anything, older than fire. And in the last 50 years, with hydraulic cement, it's vanishing. I find that rather interesting." From New York Times Interview.
From the Oprah/Cormac interview last week:
C: I think you have, as you said a passion and if you do it well then you may get rich in spite of yourself.
O: And so all those years that you were poor did you ever think that um one day or was it a concern at all not having money. You know a lot of people, a lot of, you’re a different kind of man because a lot of people have a lot of angst have a lot of anxiety feel a lack of self worth…because they couldn’t earn the money.
C: Yeah. Well.
O: You never had that?
C: That’s them and this is me I don’t know how to answer your question its um, I always very naïve I always assumed I’d be taken care of in some way or another and I was I was always very lucky something always happened just when things were truly truly bleak some totally unforeseen thing would occur.
C: Oh like I was I was living in Lexin Lexington Kentucky once and I was housesititng a friend of mine gotten me this job housesitting so I had a place to live but I didn’t have any money I was um I don’t mean that I didn’t have much money, I didn’t have any money but there was still some groceries left in the house so I ate those
O: Uh huh.
C: And uh, then one day someone knocked at the door and I went to the door and there was a guy standing there and he said are you Cormac McCarthy and I thought I don’t think there are any warrants out for me and I said yes I am. He said sign this please I said what is it he said it’s he said I’m a courier and uh he said thank you and got in his car and drove away and I opened up the letter and there was a cheque in it for $20,000 . And it was from, I was the first I was the first fellow of a new foundation that they had started some people in Chattanooga the Lyndhurst Foundation they had some Coca Cola money and they started this foundation and they were going to give these fellowships to people this you know long before the MacCarthur Fellowship.
Can you imagine what kind of profound product placement may be able to work into the movie version of The Road? The novel is the story of a father and son crossing an ecologically savaged America where the boy has never seen the world as it is now. They find a soda machine at one point during their cautious almost military secret maneuvers to avoid death cults of cannibals. In a ash covered land with no food they find a can of Coke. The boy has never tasted Coke before. In marketing, especially the Coca Cola Company, they have a term called mind share, which regards brand awareness. when I read the novel, this scene was very touching because in the wasteland the little boy got to have a treat. The kind of effect this could have on the budget, on the emotional impact of the scene and the opportunity for Coke to get a literary product placement is kind of exciting.
I believe McCarthy's use of Coke in his novels supports his work as lying in a conservative American folk tradition. This tradition contains hobo art, outsider and folk painting as well as the folk revival of the 60's.
Grant McCraken writes:But something happened to America. It went from a couple of ideas of Americanness to many ideas of Americanness. This may be hard to see from the genteel surroundings of Atlanta headquarters and from the pleasant residential world of Buckhead, but you only had to look at the CSD (carbonated soft drink) "category.”
It stopped being a category. Suddenly, there were new age drinks (Snapple), energy drinks (Red Bull), nutritional drinks (7 Up Plus), lots of little start ups working every niche, and some very scrappy competitors (Pepsi). Not one America, but many Americas. And in this new choice set, Coke began to look too sweet, too caffeinated, too fattening, a little unhealthy, and, gasp, a little old fashioned.
I believe McCarthy's use of the possibly old fashioned but ever popular and sentimental fave Coke is like Hobos and folk artists using familiar images for narration. I believe it also indicates a narritive rooted in a conservative tradition. Conservative as a looking back to the past for guidance and rejecting the materialism driving art, politics and ideologies.
"In Harvard Square, in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Greenwich Village in New York City and other locales situated near college campuses, thriving folk music scenes developed. The revival was a social construct made out of a conservative, restorative, cultural patriotism. Though expressed as a romanticised vision of the past, seeking a more just, genuine society, the revival rebelled against oppresion, consumerism, and modernism. Young people participated in such numbers and with such fervor that the folk revival became an immense cultural and ideological force." From Craig Morrison.
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