Cormac McCarthy on reading

November 14, 2009

Cormac McCarthy says,

“…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.”

He also set aside  250 signed copies of The Road (his post-apocalyptic father-son fable) for his young son and is not signing any other copies.  How’s that for literary property patrimony?  … the materialized version of intellectual property.



  1. He certainly seems sure of the future value of his work. He has a particular breed of smugness that really puts me off. His bit about 800-page books sounds like rationalizing to me. I don’t think the problem is with readers, if there’s even a problem to begin with. If anyone is going to forestall a book like “Moby Dick”, it would be the publisher. His argument reminds me of the reasoning behind all the garbage we see on television. “We just show what the people want to see.” That type of logic eventually becomes like a self-fulfilling prophecy, pretty soon it’s hard to tell what people want because everything is crap, and people just want to watch TV even if there’s nothing on.

    A small side note. A lot of people talked up the movie “No Country For Old Men” which McCarthy wrote. I saw the movie and was very unimpressed. It was cerebral without any deep meaning. It constantly seemed on the verge of some big “statement” but never came through. I told my wife that it was the kind of movie that people who wanted to seem like intellectuals would think was intellectual. She thought I was just being mean to the people who recommended it to us. Now I’m just being mean to McCarthy.

  2. Cormac McCarthy makes some unwarranted assumptions about readers. Maybe I’m being a little sensitive to this because I don’t feel that way about myself or maybe the people in this class. But as an established author, I feel he has a responsibility to promote book reading based on other criteria other than the length of the material. He seems to embody everything I don’t like about certain literary or “intellectual” types. I haven’t read any of his works but I did see “No Country for Old Men” but mostly because of the cold and unpredictable yet calculating nature of the killer who goes on a killing spree. To echo Keith’s sentiments, I did not view the film as “intellectual” either but I did think it was well done.

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