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Books Are Made Out of Books: A Guide to Cormac McCarthy’s Literary Influences by Michael Lynn Crews

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Books Are Made Out of Books: A Guide to Cormac McCarthy’s Literary Influences by Michael Lynn Crews. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2017. 332 pages with an Index, Bibliography, and Notes. Hardback in dust jacket, $35.

Cormac McCarthy grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, where his father was a lawyer and Chief Counsel for the TVA. His first four novels were set in East Tennessee, but he moved to El Paso in 1976 and completed his Border Trilogy of novels set in the West in 1992. They received significant critical and popular attention, and his 2005 novel, No Country for Old Men was made into an award-winning movie. McCarthy returned to an Appalachian setting for his post-apocalyptic novel, The Road, published in 2006. It became the second Appalachian novel to garner a Pulitzer after A Death in the Family by James Agee, also of Knoxville, received it posthumously in 1957.  A very private person, McCarthy granted his second interview to Oprah Winfrey on the occasion of winning the Pulitzer. The New York Times Magazine published an article based on his first interview in 1992 entitled “Cormac McCarthy’s Venomous Fiction” by Richard B. Woodward. In it Woodward quotes McCarthy as saying, "the ugly fact is books are made out of books," and then elaborating with the sentence, "The novel depends for its life on the novels that have been written.” Crews takes that for the title of this book in which he meticulously demonstrates the sources that McCarthy depends upon in creating his literary oeuvre.  Crews uses the notes in the margins of McCarthy’s manuscripts, now housed at the Wittliff Collection at Texas State University in San Marcos, to find over 150 authors acknowledged in this way.  This book takes each of McCarthy’s books and provides an annotated alphabetical listing of the authors cited and then adds more citations from McCarthy’s correspondence also housed there. Harold Bloom, a paragon of literary studies retired from Yale, notes, “This compendium of Cormac McCarthy’s sources is remarkably complete. Any student of one of the great living American novelists would benefit immensely from having this volume.” Rich Wallach, one of the guiding lights of the Cormac McCarthy Society who has written extensively about McCarthy, enthuses, “I confess to being impressed, if not dazzled, by the sheer indefatigability of Crew’s scholarship. . . . A landmark accomplishment.”

Austin: University of Texas Press, 2017. 332 pages with an Index, Bibliography, and Notes. Hardback in dust jacket