photograph by Derek Sharpton.
The Wittliff Collections hold several Cormac McCarthy-related collections:
The Woolmer Collection of Cormac McCarthy, which consists of letters between McCarthy and bibliographer J. Howard Woolmer. The Woolmer Collection also includes 140 books and other published materials related to McCarthy. Many are signed and inscribed by the author
The John Sepich Papers include research, correspondence and drafts of works of commentary by John Sepich focusing on the novel, Blood Meridian. Sepich published Notes on Blood Meridian in October, 1993. A revised and expanded edition of Notes on Blood Meridian was published by the University of Texas Press as part of the Southwestern Writers Collection/The Wittliff Collections Book Series in 2008.
The Perspectives on Cormac McCarthy Collection is comprised of drafts and proofs of essays by various authors on the works of Cormac McCarthy. The essays were edited by Edwin "Chip" Arnold and Dianne Luce and appeared in Perspectives on Cormac McCarthy, published in 1993.
McCarthy's Drafts of two screenplays: "Whales and Men," and "Cities of the Plain," along with a typescript for McCarthy's stage play "The Stonemason." Donated by Cormac McCarthy and Bill and Sally Wittliff.
Dale L. Walker Collection of Cormac McCarthy-related clippings, reviews, and photocopies.
Also of note: The University of Virginia Special Collections holds the papers of Albert Erskine, McCarthy’s editor for twenty years. http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaead/published/uva-sc/viu03211.xml.frame
The Southwestern Writers Collection (SWWC), a part of The Wittliff Collections at the Alkek Library, Texas State University-San Marcos, acquired the papers of author Cormac McCarthy in December 2007.
The acquisition of the Cormac McCarthy Papers by the Southwestern Writers Collection resulted from years of ongoing conversations between McCarthy and SWWC founder Bill Wittliff, who negotiated the proceedings on behalf of Texas State. Prominent rare-book dealer Glenn Horowitz, who has been instrumental in acquisitions for institutions and individual collectors throughout the world, served as McCarthy’s representative in brokering the contract.
The McCarthy purchase was funded by a combination of individual and foundation support raised specifically for acquisitions by The Wittliff Collections (the Southwestern Writers Collection and the Southwestern & Mexican Photography Collection) and university funds allocated for library collection development at Texas State.
McCarthy’s body of work includes some of the finest novels of our times. Critic Harold Bloom declares Blood Meridian (1985) “the authentic American apocalyptic novel,” stating, “The fulfilled renown of Moby-Dick and of As I Lay Dying is augmented by Blood Meridian, since Cormac McCarthy is the worthy disciple both of Melville and of Faulkner. I venture that no other living American novelist, not even Pynchon, has given us a book as strong and memorable….”
In 1992, McCarthy won the National Book Award for the New York Times bestseller All the Pretty Horses, and in 2006 he was given the Pulitzer Prize for his most recent novel, The Road. The recipient of numerous other awards, including a Rockefeller Foundation Grant, Guggenheim Fellowship and MacArthur Fellowship (the so-called “genius” grant), Cormac McCarthy has been highly praised from the very start of his career.
James A. Michener said of McCarthy’s first novel, The Orchard Keeper, published by Random House in 1965, “His use of words is remarkable, for he lures from them a very special music…. But what is best, I think, is his acute observation and his ability to describe things in new ways. The specific gravity of his writing is high indeed….”
No Country for Old Men, McCarthy's 2005 novel that was made into a film in 2007 by Joel and Ethan Coen, was touted by Sam Shepard as “a monster of a book. Cormac McCarthy achieves monumental results by a kind of drip-by-drip process of ruthless simplicity. It will leave you panting and awestruck.” The film version of No Country for Old Men won four Academy Awards including Best Picture.
The complete collection of McCarthy’s literary papers documents his entire writing career. At the core is correspondence, notes, hand-written and typed drafts, setting copies, and proofs of each of his 10 novels, from The Road back to The Orchard Keeper; also included is the draft of an earlier unfinished novel.
Additionally, the archive contains similar materials related to his work on the 1994 play, The Stonemason, as well as four screenplays, including “No Country for Old Men,” which McCarthy began as a screenplay in 1984 then adapted 20 years later as a novel.
In order to maintain the integrity of the Cormac McCarthy Papers, the Southwestern Writers Collection has contracted right of first refusal to purchase all future materials relating to work by the author, who is in the process of writing three new novels.
“Cormac McCarthy is one of the most important, most influential of American writers, and Texas State is deeply honored to be entrusted with his legacy,” said University President Denise Trauth. “Texas State takes pride in its commitment and contributions to literature—from the renowned Southwestern Writers Collection to our signature MFA Program in Creative Writing. Mr. McCarthy’s papers will very much become the crown jewels of our literary treasury.”
The Southwestern Writers Collection has been steadily increasing in size and status since its founding in 1986 by screenwriter and photographer Bill Wittliff and his wife Sally. A repository of the major archives of such important writers as John Graves, Sam Shepard, Edwin “Bud” Shrake, Larry L. King and Stephen Harrigan, the SWWC also houses the production archives of the Lonesome Dove miniseries, Fox Network’s King of the Hill and Texas Monthly magazine.
The Southwestern Writers Collection has long been interested in McCarthy’s career, acquiring materials as they became available. This major acquisition is complemented by several related archives already held by the Collection.
Typescripts of one play and two screenplays by McCarthy were previously donated by Bill Wittliff and McCarthy. These are photocopies of originals, signed by the author on the title page, and do not include annotations or edits. The play, The Stonemason, was published in 1994. The first screenplay, "Cities of the Plain" (1984), predates the publication of the novel by the same name by 14 years. Both screenplays in this collection, "Cities of the Plain" (1984) and "Whales and Men" (n.d.) are unpublished.
A few Cormac McCarthy collections previously received by the Southwestern Writers Collection are currently available for research, including the photocopied typescripts noted above, John Sepich's Notes on Blood Meridian, and Perspectives on Cormac McCarthy. Please
contact Lead Archivist Katie Salzmann
for information about access to those collections.
Archivist Katie Salzmann is currently creating the initial inventory for the major collection of Cormac McCarthy Papers and transferring materials into archival folders and boxes for permanent housing. She will then arrange and describe the McCarthy collection according to archival standards, in a manner most effective for research. The number of requests to access the collection is expected to be high once the processing is finished and the complete inventory (finding aid) of the contents is online, perhaps as early as fall 2008.
“The works of a wondrous writer like Cormac McCarthy inspire serious research,” said Wittliff Collections Curator Connie Todd. “Even though very little original material has been available to scholars thus far, much work on his published texts has already been produced. When his major literary papers are opened, the Southwestern Writers Collection here at the Alkek Library will walk the inevitable tightrope of providing clear and prompt access to these unique materials while being good stewards charged with their protection.”
A room designated for the Cormac McCarthy Collection, will be located within the Southwestern Writers Collection on the Alkek Library’s seventh floor, and will be equipped for exhibits, study, and related activities.
Public events are being planned, and will be announced.
CORMAC McCARTHY BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE (compiled by Amanda Oates, 1999)
Cormac McCarthy, author of award-winning and best-selling novels including All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain, was born Charles McCarthy, Jr., on July 20, 1933, in Providence, Rhode Island. The McCarthy family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee in 1937. McCarthy later attended the University of Tennessee, completing one year. He then served four years in the U.S. Air Force, and then returned to the University of Tennessee for an additional 3 years, leaving without a degree in 1960 to pursue his writing career.
Early on, McCarthy won fellowships and awards, though not a wide readership. In 1959 and 1960, he won Ingram-Merrill Foundation grants for creative writing. In 1965 he published his first novel, The Orchard Keeper, for which he won the William Faulkner Award. Also in 1965, he won an American Academy of Arts and Letters travelling fellowship to Europe. The next year, he won a Rockefeller Foundation grant. In 1968, his second novel, Outer Dark, was published, followed by Child of God, in 1973. He won Guggenheim fellowships in 1969 and 1976. His fourth novel, Suttree, was published in 1979. Two years later, he won a MacArthur Foundation Grant, also known as a “genius award”, upon which he moved out of the motel where he was living in Knoxville, and purchased a home in El Paso, Texas.
As McCarthy tends to set his novels only in places of which he has first hand knowledge, his earlier novels were set in Tennessee, and novels written after his 1981 move to El Paso have been set in the Southwest and Mexico. In 1985, he published Blood Meridian, considered by many to be one of his finest works. In 1992, All the Pretty Horses, the first of the Border Trilogy, was published, winning the National Book Award for fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. In 1994, The Crossing became the second of the trilogy, followed in 1998 by Cities of the Plain. All three of the Border Trilogy novels have been very successful both critically and commercially. Also in the 1990s, McCarthy published a play, The Stonemason, a work he had begun writing in the 1970s.
McCarthy has been compared to writers such as William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and Herman Melville, sharing with such writers a “rustic and sometimes dark humor, intense characters, and violent plots,” (Dianne Cox, Dictionary of Literary Biography). New York Times reviewer, Sara Mosle, describes his works as having always been “drenched in blood, much of it spilled in the South and the Southwest in the latter half of the 19th century,” and McCarthy’s vision as one of “bleak timelessness,” (May 17, 1999). In one of a very few interviews, McCarthy said he had “always been interested in the Southwest. There isn’t a place in the world they don’t know about cowboys and Indians and the myth of the West,” continuing on to say that there “is no such thing as life without bloodshed…The notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is really a dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first ones to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous,” (New York Times Magazine, April 19, 1992).