I've been out of town the last few days, attending the funeral of my Great Uncle, so this post will be short. That "Great", I should add, isn't just a title to apply. He was a great man. In a lot of ways, he was a third grandfather to me. The world is worse off without him in it.
The funeral was in the small town I grew up in, four hours away, so I was out of commission almost all day, both attending the service and then driving back. But you can imagine my surprise when I opened my phone once back in Omaha and saw this in my Twitter mentions:
Sixteen Years After ‘The Road,’ Cormac McCarthy Is Publishing Two New Novels
I mean, holy shit.
Or, if that's too profane for you, you can see my actual immediate thoughts upon hearing the news here.
Honestly, I'm still kind of blown away. Years back, I was able to go through some of McCarthy's papers at the Witliff Collection in San Marcos, at Texas State University. I knew they had a rough copy of THE PASSENGER there, but it was under lock and key, and, despite literally begging, I wasn't even allowed to see the box the manuscript was in.
After so long, I, and I think a lot of people, kind of assumed it was never going to happen.
Meticulous is a word that has been used to describe McCarthy, but I think a better word might be Perfectionist. Though McCarthy has been known to let projects gestate for decades, I think, after no one had heard anything about it for six years, everyone assumed THE PASSENGER was a nut he couldn't crack. That his perfectionism was stopping him from going forward with the project.
And that would make sense. The little we knew about the novel, that it was set in New Orleans and that it prominently featured a woman character, told us McCarthy was trying new things, something that always carries a risk of failure with it. And who would blame a perfectionist for abandoning a project they couldn't nail down 100%? Especially after your last book won the god damn Pulitzer Prize?
And then today. When its announced that not only is it done, it has a literal sister novel as well..
That he was working on it this whole time, reshaping it, and ultimately splitting it in to TWO separate novels... As I said. Holy shit.
The information we have on the books right now is thin, but, like most McCarthy obsessives (and one of the only McCarthy obsessives I've ever met who had a particular interest in his plays), I'm most interested in the second novel, STELLA MARIS.
It's not that THE PASSENGER is old news, but the Times describes STELLA MARIS like this:
“Stella Maris,” which will be released on Nov. 22 and serves as a coda to “The Passenger,” tells Alicia’s story, over roughly 200 pages. The narrative unfolds entirely in dialogue, as a transcript between Alicia and her doctor at a psychiatric institution in Wisconsin in 1972, where Alicia, a 20-year-old doctoral candidate in mathematics at the University of Chicago, receives a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.
That sounds a lot like a sister novel both to THE PASSENGER, but also like it may be thematically connected to THE SUNSET LIMITED, one of the greatest, yet least praised, works in McCarthy's bibliography (which in turn was in conversation with McCarthy's first play, THE STONEMASON).
Even if that's not quite it, I'm still thrilled. I'd consigned myself to not only believing, but knowing that we would never get another McCarthy novel. Maybe, possibly, after he was gone, but not before. How glad I am to be proven wrong.
That we're getting THE PASSENGER feels like a minor miracle. That there's something else, something that might be in conversation with his plays, feels like a major one.
Until we can get our hands on them, there's only one thing we can do:
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