"Books are made out of books" : a study of influence from the Cormac McCarthy archives.
In December of 2007, the Southwestern Writers Collection, part of the Wittliff Collection of the Alkek Library at Texas State University, in San Marcos, Texas, acquired Cormac McCarthy’s literary papers. The collection contains early drafts, correspondence, and notes. Access to the archives makes possible scholarly investigations into influences on McCarthy’s work, a subject that, given the author’s reticence about discussing other writers, has been largely relegated to informed speculation. The following study moves scholarly interest in McCarthy’s influences away from speculation and toward a more solid foundation based on detailed manuscript research. By chronicling McCarthy’s references to writers, books, and thinkers in his correspondence, in working notes, and in marginalia found in early drafts, I have provided a reference guide that will serve other scholars engaged in the study of Cormac McCarthy’s influences. The work is composed primarily of alphabetized entries corresponding to the names of writers, artists, and thinkers found in the archives. For instance, the first entry is Edward Abbey, the last the ancient Greek philosopher Xenophanes. Each entry describes the location of the reference in the archives by identifying the box and folder in which it is contained, and describes the context of its appearance. For instance, the reference to Edward Abbey appears in Box 19, Folder 14, which contains McCarthy’s notes for Suttree. It refers to a specific passage in Abbey’s book Desert Solitaire. Having identified the location of the reference, I then describe the passage from Abbey’s book and explain the way in which McCarthy used ideas and images from it in a scene from Suttree. Some entries are relatively short, while others, if the influence of the writer on McCarthy is significant, are long essays. In addition to the descriptions of the archival material and the relationship of that material to McCarthy’s published works, I draw conclusions about McCarthy’s methods of composition, arguing that he is less interested in the thematic possibilities inherent in his sources than he is in the aesthetic possibilities they provide as raw material to be incorporated into his own work.