Newly released Cormac McCarthy archives now open at Wittliff Collections

Inside TXST

Jayme Blaschke | November 10, 2022

cormac mccarthy
Cormac McCarthy (Photo credit: Dawn Jones—Professor Productions/Alamy)

Famed author Cormac McCarthy set the literary world ablaze with the October publication of The Passenger—his first new book since his novel The Road won the Pulitzer Prize 15 years ago. For The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University, that meant it was time to unlock the files containing early drafts of The Passenger, kept sealed away ever since they were acquired with the rest of the McCarthy archive for The Wittliff in 2007.

The newly opened materials in The Wittliff’s archive trace The Passenger’s impressive evolution, including 221 heavily-corrected pages marked “Old First Draft” and 328 pages dated 1991 and 2001 identified as “Old Second Draft,” along with a folder of corrected pages from 2004.

“You can see McCarthy’s early vision, which he later refined and expanded as he completed the novel,” said Steve Davis, The Wittliff Collections’ literary curator. “McCarthy worked on The Passenger for at least 30 years and we were obligated to keep the papers sealed until his book was finished and published. We are delighted that we can now share those manuscripts with the rest of the world.”

There is already a waiting list for access to The Passenger archive. The first scholar, Michael Crews, chair of the Department of Humanities at Regent University, Virginia, arrived the very day The Passenger hit bookstores. Crews had earlier made extensive use of The Wittliff’s McCarthy archive in writing an acclaimed study, Books Are Made Out of Books: A Guide to Cormac McCarthy’s Literary Influences.

"The release of the archived papers for Cormac McCarthy's The Passenger opens up new research opportunities for McCarthy scholars," Crews said. "The drafts and fragments allow us to see how the new novel developed over time, and substantial differences between McCarthy's early efforts and the published novel pose fascinating questions about McCarthy's artistic goals.

"The paths not finally taken, but tentatively opened up in the drafting process, are paths that researchers can now travel," he said. "Once again, the Wittliff archive has opened windows into the work of one of America's greatest novelists."

McCarthy, author of such acclaimed novels as No Country for Old Men, All the Pretty Horses and Blood Meridian, is widely considered one of America’s leading writers. Since his archive opened to the public in 2009, scholars from around the world have traveled to The Wittliff to study the legendary author’s correspondence and writing processes. The McCarthy Papers contain almost 100 boxes and include research, notes, hand-written and typed drafts, correspondence and other materials documenting McCarthy’s career. A Guide to the Cormac McCarthy Papers, 1964-2007, may be accessed online at www.thewittliffcollections.txst.edu/research/a-z/mccarthypapers.html.

The Wittliff Collections are on the seventh floor of the Alkek Library at Texas State in San Marcos, located along the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio.

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922