Interview with Cormac McCarthy

The Wall Street Journal published a fine interview with Cormac McCarthy, just as the movie based on his book The Road is being released. I’ve never read a book by McCarthy or seen a movie based on his writings, but I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. Highly recommended

Some highlights:

WSJ: When you first went to the film set, how did it compare with how you saw "The Road" in your head?

CM: I guess my notion of what was going on in "The Road" did not include 60 to 80 people and a bunch of cameras. [Director] Dick Pearce and I made a film in North Carolina about 30 years ago and I thought, "This is just hell. Who would do this?" Instead, I get up and have a cup of coffee and wander around and read a little bit, sit down and type a few words and look out the window.

WSJ: But is there something compelling about the collaborative process compared to the solitary job of writing?

CM: Yes, it would compel you to avoid it at all costs.

And this:

WSJ: Does this issue of length apply to books, too? Is a 1,000-page book somehow too much?

CM: For modern readers, yeah. People apparently only read mystery stories of any length. With mysteries, the longer the better and people will read any damn thing. But the indulgent, 800-page books that were written a hundred years ago are just not going to be written anymore and people need to get used to that. If you think you’re going to write something like "The Brothers Karamazov" or "Moby-Dick," go ahead. Nobody will read it. I don’t care how good it is, or how smart the readers are. Their intentions, their brains are different.

And this:

CM: Well, I don’t know what of our culture is going to survive, or if we survive. If you look at the Greek plays, they’re really good. And there’s just a handful of them. Well, how good would they be if there were 2,500 of them? But that’s the future looking back at us. Anything you can think of, there’s going to be millions of them. Just the sheer number of things will devalue them. I don’t care whether it’s art, literature, poetry or drama, whatever. The sheer volume of it will wash it out. I mean, if you had thousands of Greek plays to read, would they be that good? I don’t think so. […] Just the appalling volume of artifacts will erase all meaning that they could ever possibly have.

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One thought on “Interview with Cormac McCarthy

  1. It seems to me that CM is ignoring the winnowing effect of time. There probably were 2,500 plays in Classical Greece — it’s just that the handful we have are the really good ones, that people saved through very hard times over the centuries.

    A thousand years from now, people may think that American novels from the turn of the millenium are very good — at least, the handful that survive. :)

    peace,
    Zach

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