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noir. Artist Lance Letscher reveals the boy behind The Perfect Machine. And Steve Davis gives us a glimpse into the files of Cormac McCarthy, who, suffice it to say, will not be appearing at the festival. Book festivals focus on what’s fresh and exciting in print. In this issue, we also celebrate what’s old and forgotten: the lost books of Texas. These works have been buried by time, left to gather dust while newer works take their place in the public imagination. Sometimes, lost books become more interesting as the years go by. So we asked our regular literary contributors to unearth their favorite forgotten texts. The response was so enthusiastic that we will be running these features for some time. In this issue, Brad Tyer introduces us to people like Twitchy Tess, Deacon Neal the Gospel Man and Sam Petro the Tomato King, all real people chronicled in Sig Byrd’s Houston. Steven Kellman introduces us to the 1844 book that helped found the Texas myth, The Cabin Book. Char Miller looks back at a survey of San Antonio called City in the Sun and notices how little some things have changed in the past half-century. And Stayton Bonner unleashes the naked conquistadors from the Chronicle of the Narvdez Expedition, the first account of what we now call Texas. MICHAEL MAY Unpacking Cormac McCarthy by Steve Davis NE COLD MORNING IN DECEMBER 2007, I WAS AMONG THOSE shivering outside Cormac McCarthy’s adobe man sion in Santa Fe. The first thing you notice about McCarthy’s front door is that it’s formidableit looks like it came from an old Spanish mission, or possi bly a fort. It’s a good, solid door meant to keep peo ple out. It’d take a battering ram to break through. Fortunately, McCarthy was expecting us, so he let us inside. A few weeks earlier, he had quietly let it be known that he was ready to dispose of his literary papers. Key universities, and some individuals, competed for the archive. McCarthy, perhaps owing to his long friendship with Bill Wittliff, chose the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University-San Marcos, where I work as a curator. Opposite page, top: A display from the Cormac McCarthy exhibit currently at the Wittliff Collections in San Marcos Bottom: A page from the draft of No Country for Old Men COURTESY OF THE WITTLIFF COLLECTIONS, ALKEK LIBRARY, TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY-SAN MARCOS WATCH McCarthy’s interview with Oprah at WATCH a documentary crew search for McCarthy in El Paso at For many years, no one was quite sure if McCarthy had an archive. He is widely viewed as a presiding genius of American literature, but he is also a legendary recluse, having granted a handful of interviews in a half-century of writing. McCarthy grew up in Tennessee, and he published four critically acclaimed novels set in the South during the 1960s and 1970s. Each sold poorly, and he lived at the edge of poverty. A fiercely private man, he refused to do book signings, lectures, or interviews. One former wife, British singer Anne DeLisle, once lived with McCarthy on a pig farm. She recalled that, “Someone would call up and offer him $2,000 to come speak at a university about his books. And he would tell them that everything he had to say was there on the page. So we would eat beans for another week.” In 1981, McCarthy bought a house in El Paso after receiving a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant. There he began writing books set in the Southwest. His 1985 novel, Blood Meridian, received little attention at the time but is considered a classic today. In 1992, McCarthy’s fortunes changed with All the Pretty Horses, which made the best-seller list and won the National Book Award. McCarthy did not show at the ceremony to claim his prize. In the last decade, McCarthy sealed his status as one of America’s top authors with two hugely popular works. His 2005 novel, No Country for Old Men, became an Academy Award-winning film. In 2007, The Road won the Pulitzer Prize and became an Oprah’s Book Club pick. McCarthy shocked longtime fans by agreeing to appear on Oprah’s daytime show. A few months after the Oprah appearance, we showed up at McCarthy’s house to claim his archives. As we walked inside, all I could think about were the stalkers out there who’d give anything to change places with us. McCarthy’s success, combined with his reclusiveness, has created a kind of frenzy around him. Back in El Paso, fans and journalists cruised his street hoping for a glimpse of the great author. One artist made a series of paintings called “Cormac McCarthy’s House.” A reporter even began digging through McCarthy’s trash, searching for clues about 12 1 THE TEXAS OBSERVER WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG