Cormac McCarthy: chargrilled novelist

By Toby Manhire In Books, The Internaut

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BBQ McCarthy. Not real.

BBQ McCarthy, imagined.

Cormac McCarthy has given a splendid interview to the Paris Review.

In the 223rd instalment of the publication’s “Art of Fiction” feature, the famously reclusive novelist responds to Bunny Truman’s questions with answers about hosting a dinner party – specifically, barbecues.

The glint of the grill in the sun’s fire ellipse, its entirety as it bends toward hyphenate unyielding horizon. I like to soak the mesquite chips for at least half an hour. Then there’s the marinade for the brisket, or the dry rub, the laying on of hands. A replication of primeval violence. In your fingertips the harm of generations, the wish to make right, the failure to cleanse and absturge. Raw matter. Chile ancho, dried chipotles, paprika and salt, pulverized plant and rock, the sad spice and crumble of the earth’s red crust. I put the beef in a plastic bag for two hours before my guests come.

The preview of the main piece continues:

Your guests—these are other writers?

The meat is all talk. It murmurs and sibilates. We stand and watch the conflagration of charcoal. The flame maze, the char, the sauce and slaw. In the glowing embers of the mesquite, the old dead wood, you see the incipient sting of godlessness. The smokehouse and the smoke and the burn in your eyes with which to fever it.

Would you say these gatherings have a profound effect on your writing?

They are my writing.

What advice would you give, then, to aspiring writers, especially those—and there are many, by now—who don’t wear your influence lightly?

Towelettes. Moist towelettes.



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