Cormac McCarthy: Southern Literature's Adopted Son

Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy | Last image: © Wei Tchou/Flickr
Lindsay Parnell

Cormac McCarthy’s unsettling works have reinvigorated the Southern Gothic genre of literature by taking the archetypal Cowboy narratives of the Southern States and turning them into something uniquely bleak and apocalyptic. According to Lindsay Parnell, Cormac McCarthy is the literary godson of William Faulkner and has inherited his twisted take on Southern life.

Cormac McCarthy is a displaced Northerner, who has become an adopted and proud son of the South. McCarthy’s name is now synonymous with contemporary narratives of the Gothic South, the violent grotesque imagination of the West which still haunts the region today. McCarthy’s literary career spans over 50 years and various genres of fiction, screen and stage. His body of work solidifies his recognition as a unique writer of prose. Through his skilled use of motifs including the apocalyptic, the religious, the moral and immoral, McCarthy’s stories are American folklore infused masterpieces. His canon is marked by depictions of the isolated and violent gothic and grotesque, making him the undeniable leading voice of the contemporary literature of the American South.
Born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1933, Cormac McCarthy was just four years old when his family moved from their home to Knoxville, Tennessee, where McCarthy would spend his childhood and adolescence. This relocation proved to be a pivotal point for the budding writer and provided the landscape and culture that would come to define many of his novels. Published in 1973, McCarthy’s underrated debut Child of God, tells the story of the alleged deviant outcast Lester Ballard living in rural Tennessee. He is unlawfully arrested and labeled an infection of the supposedly righteous Christian community. But upon his release, Ballard begins a sadistic pursuit of revenge, wreaking havoc on the community and those who unjustly imprisoned him.
McCarthy’s greatest contribution to the contemporary American canon is largely regarded as 1985s Blood Meridian. McCarthy’s fifth text is an epic novel that seamlessly fuses together a traditional Western narrative with a philosophical interrogation of the apocalypse. Blood Meridian, based partly in Texas,is an accomplished retelling of classic cowboy folklore through the narrative of its protagonist. Known only as the Kid, this bloodthirsty teenager ravages the countryside in his band of horse-backed misfits on a journey from Tennessee to the great unknown of the vastly untouched American Midwest in the mid-1800s, pre-Civil War era. The novel is as lyrical as it is harsh, never drifting into sentimentality. A sense of obscurity lingers throughout the pages, its characters and its plot subverting conceptions of the heroic cowboy in the Western panorama and simultaneously questioning notions of modernity and justice.
No Country for Old Men, first published in 2005, is a lyrical narrative of a seedy drug deal gone wrong and the subsequent paths of three men in a bloody chase for the drugs, the money, and each other. The Road was released in the following year and marked a turn from McCarthy’s Western and Southern storytelling to a deviation of a post-apocalyptic tale. An unnamed father and son desperately struggle to survive at the end of days in The Road. Famished, unwashed and exhausted, the father and son embark on a bleak journey and are forced to examine their own limitations at the cost of their own survival in this Pulitzer Prize winning novel.
With a number of critical and commercial successes in the cinematic adaptations of his novels, McCarthy continues to be, above all else, a genuine storyteller. And he will undoubtedly be known for his meticulous control of his tightly wound and sinister plots. A master of craft, a sly puppeteer, he is the undeniable voice of contemporary Southern literature.
By Lindsay Parnell

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.