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KNOXVILLE — In his latest work, “The Road,” author Cormac McCarthy returns to Appalachia to examine life in the nuclear winter.

Last month, Oprah Winfrey announced the novel as the latest pick for her book club and sources have said the reclusive McCarthy, who grew up in Knoxville and attended the University of Tennessee, will appear on a future episode of Winfrey’s talk show.

This month, UT will host two events on McCarthy and his work.

On April 17, Chris Walsh, a lecturer in the English department, will present a book talk titled, “Knoxville and Appalachia in the Works of Cormac McCarthy.” The talk will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. in 605 Hodges Library. Sponsored by the University Libraries and the Ready for the World Committee, the book talk is free and open to the public.

From April 26-28, UT’s English Department, with support from the Cormac McCarthy Society, will host a conference, “The Road Home: McCarthy’s Imaginative Return to the South.” The conference will be held in Suite 400A of the UT Conference Center, 600 Henley St.

“The attention generated by the Oprah Book Club and McCarthy’s confirmed appearance on her show have created a lot of curiosity and excitement about McCarthy and his works,” Walsh said. “The book talk and the conference will be interesting to both serious students of McCarthy and the general public.”

Walsh said five of the world’s leading authorities on McCarthy’s work will speak at the conference. The keynote speaker will be Jay Ellis, a professor at the University of Colorado and author of “No Place for Home: Spatial Constraint and Character Flight in the Novels of Cormac McCarthy.” Other McCarthy experts participating include Dianne Luce, Edwin Arnold, Rick Wallach and Wesley Morgan.

Deadline to register for the conference is April 19. For registration information, contact Walsh at cwalsh2@utk.edu or (865) 974-8888.

McCarthy is one of the major authors of contemporary Southern and American literature. His novels include “The Orchard Keeper” (1965); “Outer Dark” (1968); “Child of God” (1974); “Suttree” (1979) which is set in Knoxville; “Blood Meridian, Or the Evening Redness in the West” (1985); “All the Pretty Horses” (1992), which was made into a move starring Matt Damon; “The Crossing” (1994); “Cities of the Plain” (1998);and “No Country for Old Men” (2005).

Walsh said McCarthy’s last two books, “No Country for Old Men” and “The Road,” along with his most recent play, “The Sunset,” are his most accessible ever, perhaps signaling a new stage in his career.

In a review of “The Road,” author Dennis Lahane wrote: “Cormac McCarthy sets his new novel, ‘The Road,’ in a post-apocalyptic blight of gray skies that drizzle ash, a world in which all matter of wildlife is extinct, starvation is not only prevalent but nearly all-encompassing, and marauding bands of cannibals roam the environment with pieces of human flesh stuck between their teeth. If this sounds oppressive and dispiriting, it is. McCarthy may have just set to paper the definitive vision of the world after nuclear war, and in this recent age of relentless saber-rattling by the global powers, it’s not much of a leap to feel his vision could be not far off the mark nor, sadly, right around the corner.”

McCarthy was born in 1933. When he was 4, the family moved to Knoxville, and his father worked as a Tennessee Valley Authority lawyer. The family lived in Knoxville until 1967, and McCarthy attended UT from 1951-52 and from 1957-59. While at UT, McCarthy published two stories, “A Drowning Incident” and “Wake for Susan” in a student literary magazine, The Phoenix. He also won the Ingram-Merrill Award for creative writing twice.

McCarthy lived for a while in Rockford and Louisville, Tenn.

He has been married three times and has two children. The family now lives in Santa Fe, N.M.

McCarthy has granted only two interviews in the past — one to The New York Times and one to Vanity Fair, Walsh said.

McCarthy’s reclusive lifestyle has added to his mystique and led to a sort of cult following, Walsh said. The Oprah Book Club selection has caused a flurry of interest in “The Road,” and rumors that he’ll appear on “Oprah” have provoked mainstream attention.

Walsh said he thinks interest is well-deserved.

“As a writer, I think McCarthy is unrivaled. Yet his work has never received the attention it warrants, partly due to his reclusive nature,” he said.


Chris Walsh, (865) 974-8888, cwalsh2@utk.edu
Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu