They cannot scare me with their empty spaces

Between stars—on stars where no human

race is.

I have it in me so much nearer home

To scare myself with my own desert places.

—Robert Frost

Picture Cormac McCarthy in Ibiza. Before anything else, picture the flush young author in the late ’60s, as he was never then or afterward seen in the public eye: tooling around that wild island off the coast of Spain in a yellow Jaguar convertible, accompanied by his second wife, Annie, and often by another up-and-coming writer, Leslie Garrett—he and Cormac both recent award winners, living high and savoring success. Picturing McCarthy this way suggests a worldly side to the Knoxville-raised novelist, who made his reputation initially by putting his Southern Gothic impress on landscapes far closer to home, writing novels wherein the narrator names for you all the hardwoods in darkest Appalachia, while splitting open on his pitiless chopping block the hacked and scored wood of which man’s own dark heart is made.

After 1979, he turned his attention to the Texas and Mexico borderlands, which got him parodied in Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) as a sham philosopher-poet of the West, a romancer of the sagebrush. But McCarthy was no Larry McMurtry; romantic nostalgia was never his métier. Few novelists

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