Cormac McCarthy: The Road and The Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch

Cormac McCarthy, 89, has a new novel — two, actually. And they’re almost perfect.

He calls them “the two novels of my life,” and they’ve taken him from the literary stardom of the “Big House” books to stardom with “The Road” and “The Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch,” two of the most beloved books about the West, or maybe just about the West, anyway, among writers.

Cormac McCarthy, 89, calls himself a “writer who writes,” although he’s never been shy about his literary tastes, which have taken him from the literary stardom of books like “The Big House” (1956) to the literary stardom of “The Road” (1969), which was one of the first modern novels about America.

The road — as they are called in the book — is the California desert road that the protagonist, Pat O’Brien, takes to get to Tucson, where the action of the novel begins. It is also a metaphor for McCarthy’s life. His father left Ireland in 1936 to come to America when McCarthy was 16, and he spent his 20s and 30s on the road, often on foot. McCarthy said as much in a 2005 interview with The Irish Times.

“I was very interested in being able to walk back to anything I had left when I left Ireland — things people said to me when I had left, songs and stories and old books,” he said.

When McCarthy first started writing, he did everything by hand — “I used to look for a pencil and write out little stories by hand, little poems by hand, little diary entries by hand. I would put them all down on a piece of paper, I’d write them down by hand.”

But he always loved being read, or at least noticed — or at least heard — and his first experience of fame, in the 1950s, was as a high school student with a poem of his to read, to a senior class of 350. The poem, “A Life with People,” was a celebration of a friendship with Robert Lowell

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