Cormac McCarthy to Release First Novels in 16 Years

two-novel box set will be first since pulitzer-winning "the road"

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

Pulitzer-winning author Cormac McCarthy’s new novels release on October 25 and December 6. First, The Passenger tells the story of a Mississippi salvage diver in 1980. Then, Stella Maris takes place in 1972 at a mental institution in Wisconsin. His previous novel, The Road, was published in 2006.

Woman reading a novel
Cormac McCarthy’s new novels will be available in October and December of this year. Photo by file404 / Shutterstock

Cormac McCarthy has authored 10 books published between 1965 and 2006, including Child of God, All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, and The Road, all of which have been adapted into feature-length films. By the end of the year, he’ll add two more to his bibliography: The Passenger, releasing October 2, and Stella Maris, on December 6. Together, they tell the stories of a brother and sister haunted by loss.

Before The Passenger and Stella Maris, McCarthy hadn’t released a novel since his 2006 The Road, which won him the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. In her video series Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature, Dr. Pamela Bedore, Associate Professor of English at the University of Connecticut, analyzes The Road and its themes of hope in impossible circumstances.

A Man and a Boy

The Road is a work of apocalyptic fiction without the inhuman antagonists. No aliens, zombies, monsters, or mutants stalk its pages. Instead, an unspecified disaster has wiped out most life on Earth, leaving two unnamed main characters to wade through what remains: “The Man” and “The Boy.” The extent of life on Earth consists of some fungi; several mangy dogs; and some other humans, most of whom have turned to cannibalism.

“The Man and The Boy are father and son, the mother having killed herself some years ago,” Dr. Bedore said. “They are hardened, of course, since they are among the Earth’s last survivors, but they have somehow maintained a sense of what we might think of as their humanity. We are pretty sure that no matter how hungry they get, they will not turn to cannibalism.”

To make matters worse, The Man is dying. He has a consistent cough that’s only getting worse. Still, he and The Boy have left their frozen home looking for the ocean, which they hope is warmer. They have backpacks, a gun with two bullets, and a shopping cart to carry their belongings.

“As they walk, they talk, and it’s those conversations—and the strict contrast between those conversations and the setting—that provides so much of the power of this text,” Dr. Bedore said.

For example, the two characters carefully discuss the cannibals and the enslavement occurring in the world around them, including an agreement that The Man and The Boy are “good guys” who are “carrying the fire” so they won’t resort to violence. “The fire” may be the ethics or morals of now-dead civilization, or it could be hope, or something else entirely.

Hope and Despair on the Road

“The road is a central trope in American literature, and it has long symbolized a narrative of progress—the road as a metaphor for a journey through a human life or, more broadly, through notions of human expansion,” Dr. Bedore said. “Whether it’s historical, with various geographical expansions; or futuristic, with journeys and expansions through space and perhaps time; or cybernetic, with the information highway as a metaphor for understanding an increasingly complex digital world.”

In McCarthy’s novel, the road is often seen through a rearview mirror fastened to the cart. In other words, much of the road—the metaphorical journey—is behind The Man and The Boy. The dream of progress, so ingrained into American society, is long dead.

“Some scholars have noted that with the death of nature in The Road, we see the slower—but just as complete—death of language, culture, and ethics,” Dr. Bedore said. “I know what they mean by that. But at the same time, as you can trace a major loss of ethics in the roving bands of cannibals, for example, along with a sort of devolution of language as the few survivors speak less and less; there’s also an odd sort of hopefulness in this dark novel.”

In The Road, there is always—just barely—a fire to carry on through the dark.

Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature is now available to stream on Wondrium.

Edited by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily