Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is a Love Letter to Lee Van Cleef

Cormac McCarthy, 89, has a new novel — two, actually. And they’re almost perfect. Not only did he write them almost 10 years apart, but Cormac McCarthy’s new book, The Road, is almost a…

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is a Love Letter to Lee Van Cleef

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

Not only did he write them almost 10 years apart, but Cormac McCarthy’s new book, The Road, is almost a sequel to his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Road West.

They’re not, however, two books at all. McCarthy has two books from memory, a memoir — his own words — called Blood Meridian — and a novel called The Road, which is, according to a review by author and critic Peter Carey, a “fantastical, hypertextual confection.”

McCarthy first published the novel in 1996, in two parts, in a volume that contained only the first version. The collection of stories had been published in 1991 by the small press Sesquicentennial to critical acclaim; the second volume won a pair of prestigious awards — including another Pulitzer Prize — for best novel.

Two years later, the second book — complete with his own revisions and additions — won the same award.

The Road, according to The Atlantic, “is an epic novel about America; it tells us of the journey from frontier to modernity.” He calls it “the most important work of American fiction ever written.”

It tells about a young man named Lee Van Cleef — a character who’s gone through a lot — but McCarthy has always felt very close to Van Cleef through his own experiences. He doesn’t call him by his first name, but he knows him by his last name, McCarthy.

He believes that the novel is a love letter to his former brother-in-law, Robert Lee, a young man from New York City who died in a car accident when Van Cleef was 13. Robert died leaving a wife and two children. Robert was, to McCarthy, the nearest thing Van Cleef had to a father figure.

On a quiet Sunday afternoon — the kind of summer day that usually prompts McCarthy to write a long novel — he’s at his home in upstate New York with the manuscript. An occasional dog bark and the rumble of the nearby highway remind his wife of their time in the city. It’s late July, and McCarthy is in the process of finishing up the last touches of a revision that has been in the works for some time.

He’s still working on what’s

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