Fifty years after the publication of The Orchard Keeper, his first novel, Cormac McCarthy appears to be nearing the release of his 11th, the long-rumored The Passenger. Earlier this month, McCarthy debuted sections of the unpublished novel at a live reading in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
According to Newsweek:
“Passages from the much-anticipated book, called The Passenger, were read as part of a multimedia event staged by the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The reading is the first public confirmation of the novel and its title, long the subject of rumors in the literary world.”
This staging of The Passenger appears to have been a part of a larger program entitled “Drawing, Reading, and Counting (Beauty and Madness in Art and Science),” which may give you some idea about the The Passenger’s themes. The program also featured drawings by the artist James Drake and an original musical composition by McCarthy’s son, John.
At least one spectator noted that the novel contains “much allusion to mathematics and insanity, with references to Gödel and other masterful minds.” More specifically, The Passenger makes mention of “Feynman diagrams, Kurt Gödel, subatomic particles, collisions, weighted routes, equations, variations, and reality.” The staging also revealed that one of the protagonists is a woman, a musician who may be institutionalized. This squares with what McCarthy told the Wall Street Journal in a rare interview six years ago:
“I’m not very good at talking about this stuff. It’s mostly set in New Orleans around 1980. It has to do with a brother and sister. When the book opens she’s already committed suicide, and it’s about how he deals with it. She’s an interesting girl.”
The novel is also, according to McCarthy himself, long — it may even be split into two volumes. McCarthy describes the project in the special features of the Blu-Ray version of The Counselor (a film he wrote):
“I’m writing two novels. One pretty long novel, and one short, that are part of the same project really, and I have been working on them for a long time.”
If readers are worried about McCarthy’s analytic and scientific turn, perhaps they shouldn’t be. The author has worked out of the Santa Fe Institute — an “independent research and education center…where leading scientists grapple with some of the most compelling and complex problems of our time” — for years. Like a retired professor, McCarthy apparently roams the halls and tortures scientific minds young and old with the eschatological weight of his observations on madness and chaos. [Read More]