I found myself thinking about Cormac McCarthy the other night. It’s strange to think of him out there in the world, having survived 2020. What does he think of what happened? What ink dropped to the page while the world was locked into a continuous monotony?
If you don’t know, Cormac McCarthy is considered one of the more important “literary” writers of our time. He’s a recluse, has done few interviews, and consistency rejects the type of publicity that most writer’s would die for. He’s a modern J.D. Salinger. But I would argue that he is a better writer and a more important voice.
But his status doesn’t matter. I’m not here to make a case for his significance to arts and letters. That’s not my job.
Regardless of his standing or importance in literature, Cormac McCarthy is hugely important to me. Or, at least, he was. Maybe he still is.
I think every wannabe writer, at some point, finds an author that feels like they are on the same wavelength. In a sea of books and genres, that writer become a voice of clarity in the noise. A pure moment for any reader, when it feels like the writer has written this material so that you would read it. It’s a strange connection. The author will never really know it happened. The reader will obsess over it.
That’s how I felt with McCarthy. Now, I’m not comparing myself to McCarthy. I don’t write like him, nor do I really want to. But when I, as an early 20’s kid, found McCarthy it was like I found fresh air for the first time.
I can’t explain that connection to you. It’s the same feeling that comes when the right song comes on at the exact right time. Serendipity.
There were a few years in my life where I tried to write like McCarthy. I mimicked his voice and tried to feel what he felt when he wrote. I wanted, as we all do with idols, to be like him. More than anything else, I wanted to feel what it would be to write something that felt important. Perhaps that was the magic ingredient to McCarthy’s writing. It always felt important.
I’m reminded of the story of Hunter S. Thompson. It’s been said, by Thompson or otherwise, that we would sit at a typewriter and write out Hemingway’s novels word for word. He wanted to know what it was to write something great. He needed to know what the rhythm felt like, how it would feel when your fingers hit the keys and the juice was flowing unhindered.
For better or worse, I found that type of rhythm, that practice with McCarthy. And, for that practice, I owe McCarthy a lot of credit for any strange success that I have achieved in writing.
But I often forget about my old idol.
I’ve changed a lot since when I was reading McCarthy. I grew up, went to work, went back to school, and then made a conscious decision to pursue writing as a dedicated practice.
Sometimes, though, I remember how important McCarthy was/is to me. I thought of him yesterday and wondered where he was. I wondered if his pen had hit paper. Will he ever write another book? Is there anything left in his tank? I don’t know.
For me, it doesn’t matter. I would love more McCarthy. But I think I will be left wanting.
It occurs to me now, though, that the writer’s we love, the ones that we believe see us in some way never really leave us. McCarthy will always be important to me. He’s a north star, a lodestar for me and my journey. And I miss him and his writing quite a bit.
Perhaps he appeared in my thoughts as a reminder of the things that I miss.