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The Southwestern Writers Collection acquires Cormac McCarthy papers

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
January 10, 2008


 

Cormac McCarthy (Photo by Derek Sharpton)

The Southwestern Writers Collection (SWWC), a part of The Wittliff Collections at the Alkek Library, Texas State University-San Marcos, has acquired the papers of author Cormac McCarthy.

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, on which the recent film by Joel and Ethan Coen is based, 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.” In December, the movie was named best film of 2007 by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.

 

THE ARCHIVES

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 (2006) 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.

Lead Archivist Katie Salzmann is currently creating the initial inventory for the 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 this fall.

“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.

The Southwestern Writers Collection is online at www.swwc.txstate.edu.