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Cormac McCarthy



Cormac McCarthy
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 7 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   10.18

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    post-apocalyptic, best, unpublished, recognition, irony, ninth, dialogue, themed, well-received, screenplay, completion, liberal, liner, attendance, currently, fisherman
     content words:    Cormac McCarthy, Southern Gothic, Charles McCarthy, Rhode Island, Gladys McCarthy, Tennessee Valley Authority, Roman Catholic, United States Air Force, Air Force, Ingram Merrill Foundation Award


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Cormac McCarthy
By Jamie Kee
  

1     Cormac McCarthy is a novelist and playwright who published his first novel in the mid 1960s. Although some of his novels have covered harsh subjects, they have typically been well received. After approximately thirty years into his writing career, McCarthy switched his general themes from Southern Gothic to western and later to post-apocalyptic. Despite the drastic switch, he still continues to be a successful writer.
 
2     Cormac McCarthy was born Charles McCarthy on July 20, 1933, in Providence, Rhode Island. He is one of six children born to parents Charles and Gladys McCarthy. It is not clear whether his parents renamed him Cormac, the Gaelic equivalent of "son of Charles," or if he changed his own name to that of an Irish king. As a young child, McCarthy lived in Rhode Island until 1937. His family then moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, and his father became a lawyer for the Tennessee Valley Authority. McCarthy completed his schooling in Knoxville. He was raised Roman Catholic, so his parents sent him to Catholic schools.
 
3     After the completion of high school, McCarthy entered the University of Tennessee where he majored in liberal arts. He attended the university for approximately two years, but in 1953 McCarthy decided to join the United States Air Force. Two of his four years in the Air Force were spent hosting a radio show in Alaska. After completing his four year service, McCarthy made the decision to return to the University of Tennessee, where he began writing. During his attendance at the university, McCarthy published two stories in the school literary magazine. He also won the Ingram Merrill Foundation Award for creative writing in 1959 and 1960. McCarthy left the University of Tennessee without earning a degree and moved to Chicago, working as an auto mechanic while writing his first novel. McCarthy married Lee Holleman, also a student at the university and a writer. They had a son, Cullen, but the marriage later ended.
 
4     McCarthy's first novel, The Orchard Keeper, was published in 1965 and received positive reviews. The Orchard Keeper tells the haunting story of Uncle Ather Ownby, an old woodsman living independently in a small cabin next to a ruined apple orchard. Ownby has been guarding the corpse of a stranger who turned up in a pit on his land. He has also been trying to share his knowledge with John Wesley Rattner, a young mountain boy. The story's irony is seen when the identity of the corpse is revealed.
 
5     In 1965 McCarthy won a grant from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He used it to travel to Europe on an ocean liner. While on the liner Sylvania, McCarthy met Anne DeLisle, the ship's singer. They married in 1966 in England. With another grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, the two traveled throughout southern Europe, eventually settling for awhile on the island of Ibiza, where he wrote his second novel.

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