Ahead of The Road’s November 25 film release, The Wall Street Journal has a wide-ranging interview with the author Cormac McCarthy. In the interview he discusses the creative process, the back story to some of his books, his thoughts on the human future, the presence of beauty and goodness in a world out of sorts and the question of God.
Here are some excerpts from the article, Hollywood’s Favorite Cowboy.
WSJ: What kind of things make you worry?
CM: If you think about some of the things that are being talked about by thoughtful, intelligent scientists, you realize that in 100 years the human race won’t even be recognizable. We may indeed be part machine and we may have computers implanted. It’s more than theoretically possible to implant a chip in the brain that would contain all the information in all the libraries in the world. As people who have talked about this say, it’s just a matter of figuring out the wiring. Now there’s a problem you can take to bed
WSJ: Does this issue of length apply to books, too? Is a 1,000-page book somehow too much?
…the indulgent, 800-page books that were written a hundred years ago are just not going to be written anymore and people need to get used to that. If you think you’re going to write something like “The Brothers Karamazov” or “Moby-Dick,” go ahead. Nobody will read it. I don’t care how good it is, or how smart the readers are. Their intentions, their brains are different.
WSJ: How does the notion of aging and death affect the work you do? Has it become more urgent?
…I hear people talking about going on a vacation or something and I think, what is that about? I have no desire to go on a trip. My perfect day is sitting in a room with some blank paper. That’s heaven. That’s gold and anything else is just a waste of time.
….I’m not interested in writing short stories. Anything that doesn’t take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.
Is there a line between art and science, and where does it start to blur?
CM: There’s certainly an aesthetic to mathematics and science. It was one of the ways Paul Dirac got in trouble. He was one of the great physicists of the 20th century. But he really believed, as other physicists did, that given the choice between something which was logical and something which was beautiful, they would opt for the aesthetic as being more likely to be true.
Do you think people start as innately good?
CM: I don’t think goodness is something that you learn. If you’re left adrift in the world to learn goodness from it, you would be in trouble. But people tell me from time to time that my son John is just a wonderful kid. I tell people that he is so morally superior to me that I feel foolish correcting him about things, but I’ve got to do something–I’m his father. There’s not much you can do to try to make a child into something that he’s not. But whatever he is, you can sure destroy it. Just be mean and cruel and you can destroy the best person.
WSJ: Do you feel like you’re trying to address the same big questions in all your work, but just in different ways?
CM: Creative work is often driven by pain. It may be that if you don’t have something in the back of your head driving you nuts, you may not do anything. It’s not a good arrangement. If I were God, I wouldn’t have done it that way. Things I’ve written about are no longer of any interest to me, but they were certainly of interest before I wrote about them. So there’s something about writing about it that flattens them. You’ve used them up. I tell people I’ve never read one of my books, and that’s true. They think I’m pulling their leg.