James D. Lilley
Even before Harold Bloom designated Blood Meridian as the Great American Novel, Cormac McCarthy had attracted unprecedented attention as a novelist who is both serious and successful, a rare combination in recent American fiction. Critics have been quick to address McCarthy’s indebtedness to southern literature, Christianity, and existential thought, but the essays in this collection are among the first to tackle such issues as gender and race in McCarthy’s work. The rich complexity of the novels leaves room for a wide variety of interpretation. Some of the contributors see racist attitudes in McCarthy’s views of Mexico, whereas others praise his depiction of U.S.-Mexican border culture and contact. Several of the essays approach McCarthy’s work from the perspective of ecocriticism, focusing on his representations of the natural world and the relationships that his characters forge with their geographical environments. And by exploring the author’s use of and attitudes toward language, some of the contributors examine McCarthy’s complex and innovative storytelling techniques.
Edwin T. Arnold
Originally published in 1993, this was the first volume of essays devoted to the works of Cormac McCarthy. Immediately it was recognized as a major contribution to studies of this acclaimed American author. American Literary Scholarship hailed it as "a model of its kind." It has since established itself as an essential source for any McCarthy scholar, student, or serious reader.
In 1993, McCarthy had recently published All the Pretty Horses (1992), the award-winning first volume of the "Border Trilogy." The second volume, The Crossing, appeared in 1994, and the concluding novel, Cities of the Plain, in 1998. The completion of the trilogy, one of the most significant artistic achievements in recent American literature, calls for further consideration of McCarthy's career. This revised volume, therefore, contains in addition to the original essays a new version of Gail Morrison's article on All the Pretty Horses, plus two original essays by the editors of The Crossing (Luce) and Cities of the Plain (Arnold). With the exception of McCarthy's drama The Stonemason (1994), all the major publications are covered in this collection.
Cormac McCarthy is now firmly established as one of the masters of American literature. His first four novels, his screenplay "The Gardener's Son," and his drama The Stonemason are all set in the South. Starting with Blood Meridian (1985), he moved west, to the border country of Texas and Old and New Mexico, to create masterpieces of the western genre. Few writers have so completely and successfully described such different locales, customs, and people. Yet McCarthy is no regionalist. His work centers on the essential themes of self-determination, faith, courage, and the quest for meaning in an often violent and tragic world. For his readers wishing to know McCarthy's works this collection is both an introduction and an overview.
Edwin T. Arnold is a professor of English at Appalachian State University. Dianne C. Luce is chair of the English department at Midlands Technical College.