Saturday, December 06, 2008


This image of an early draft of one of Cormac McCarthy's novels is part of the archives the author gave (sold, donated) to Texas State. (click on image to read)

I think this is juicy stuff. When the novel No Country For Old Men came out...some readers thought McCarthy was losing it and had several plot holes in the novel. One of these assumed plot holes was the line "I sent one boy to the gaschamber in Huntsville."

Texas didn't have gaschambers for it's executions. What is fascinating to me in this kind of that McCarthy seems to have made a conscious decision to change the line form the more accurate therefore "realistic" electric chair to the gas chamber. I wonder why?

Electric Chair by Andy Warhol.

New Mexico gaschamber for executions.

A new Cormac McCarthy Room is under
construction at the Southwestern Writers Collec-
tion on the Alkek Library’s seventh floor. The
reading room will be equipped for exhibits and
general research, which is expected to be brisk
once the archives are processed and made avail-
able. Plans are in the works for events surrounding
the archives’ debut, and we’ll announce things as
they are scheduled.

Cormac invited us to breakfast the day we
were to pick up his papers, but the snow and ice
made the road to his house suspect — to me at
least, unaccustomed as I am to such conditions
and feeling responsible for the staff. So, we erred
on the side of caution and waited for the snow
to melt a bit. I hadn’t seen Cormac in years; he
hauling the Rubbermaid bins out to the vans and
loading them up.

We said our goodbyes and drove straight south,
hung a left when we were out of the snow, and
headed back to San Marcos, arriving around 1 in
the morning to offload at the library. Although road
weary, Steve, Beverly, Katie and I were euphoric,
feeling the import of the trip — so pleasant and
light-hearted but filled with deep resonance for
The Wittliff Collections, for the university and
for McCarthy scholars all over the world, many of
whom have postponed books and dissertations
waiting for us to open this amazing archive to the
public, which we will do come fall.

Oh yeah, btw, I read somewhere McCarthy was asked why he made the execution a gaschamber when Texas ddn't have gaschambers...he said he put it there to see if his readers were paying attention, or something along that line...funny...


mister anchovy said...

I always feel weird around this kind of material, like there is something inately voyeuristic about looking at the private notes of an author, or the private sketches of a painter. It can influence how you see the finished work, and in a way, I feel that isn't fair. I want the book to stand on it's own. In that way, I like Mr. McCarthy's answer to the question about the gas chamber. If I was asked something like that about one of my works, I think my answer would be that I reserve the right to make it up the way I see fit.

Gardenia said...

Yes, artistic license!

Re gas chambers - I grew up (part of my life off and on) two blocks from a prison. A SPOOKY prison - they made a movie there called "The Prison" - a horror movie. Anyway I've seen the "gas chamber" more than once - it is always eerie, something remains in the atmosphere, it has a literal smell of death. But so many times I remember knowing that an execution was happening two blocks away.

I love the documentaries on artists, and one artist I follow talks about her work, shares her notes, gives tips - etc. I like it, I feel more involved in her work and "closer" to the painting.
Maybe its a vouyeristic thing - kind of like interest in movie stars' private lives....???

Anonymous said...

Hi, Candy,
Think you'll get a chance to travel to Texas State to see his papers? You could be our travel writer/embedded Cormackian so we can enjoy vicariously!
Hope you have a wonderful holiday season.