In response to:

The Sun Also Sets from the September 24, 1998 issue

To the Editors:

I’d like to correct a few factual errors concerning the activities of the Cormac McCarthy Society, as reported in A.O. Scott’s review of Cities of the Plain [NYR, September 24].

Your reviewer apparently misinterpreted some information from a recent article about McCarthy in Texas Monthly. First of all, the assertion that we “collect” (a poor choice of words to begin with) members who look through McCarthy’s trash is unequivocally wrong. The Society’s position is and has been since inception that we respect the author’s desire for privacy and actively discourage attempts to contact him directly, referring all inquiries to his publisher, agent, or legal representatives. Over half of our members and all of our senior officers hold Ph.D.’s and, as professional educators, would have nothing positive to say about such a specious and invasive practice. Your reviewer should reread the Texas Monthly article a bit more carefully and note that the “trash collector” was an El Paso librarian who was not even linked to the Society in the article. The individual in question never has been a member of the Society in the first place.

Secondly, the Society does not “collect” (that word again) paintings of McCarthy’s house. The paintings in question cost over a thousand dollars each and, most of us being academics, we’re lucky if we can cover our quarterly Website costs. The exhibit mentioned in the article was painted by New York artist Peter Josyph and arranged by the Centennial Museum of El Paso, and runs for three months, of which only three days will coincide with the Society’s annual fall conference at the University of Texas. This distinction was also pretty clear in the Texas Monthly article. Mr. Josyph, who has shows running simultaneously in New York, Texas, and Germany, became interested by McCarthy’s old stone house in El Paso and used it as a motif in his series of paintings. Whether Society members will “collect” any of them remains to be seen.

It’s quite true that some of our members can recite McCarthy’s more memorable passages by heart. But then, most of us grew up having to memorize the prologue to the Canterbury Tales, Marc Antony’s oration, and the Gettysburg Address as well. The main difference between those estimable relics and the passages we’ve retained from McCarthy’s works is that the latter were a lot more fun.

Rick Wallach
The Cormac McCarthy Society
Miami, Florida

A.O Scott replies:

I’m sorry if my admittedly elastic use of the word collect has offended Mr. Wallach, and if I have inadvertently implicated his society in activities with which they are not connected and of which they don’t approve. I am however glad that Mr. Wallach’s letter confirms my larger point—that Cormac McCarthy has attracted an unusually committed and active body of admirers.

This Issue

December 3, 1998