National Book Awards Acceptance Speeches

Cormac McCarthy, Winner of the 1992 FICTION AWARD for ALL THE PRETTY HORSES

Sonny Mehta Speaking for Cormac McCarthy:

On behalf of Cormac McCarthy, his thanks and ours to those who have created and maintained this Award, and our congratulations to all the writers honored here tonight. I am merely an emissary of Cormac, who is working away, as is his wont; but this pleasure is no less real for his absence. There is a brief story that was given to me by someone also absent, unfortunately -- Albert Erskine, who worked for Cormac as his editor from the very beginning, that is, on The Orchard Keeper, which was published in 1965; and most of you will know that Albert is himself a major figure in American letters. Given what Cormac has accomplished over the last 27 years, six novels so far, and that these books were not afforded wide success until lately, Mr. Erskine has reminded us of another writer, who also waited on such recognition.

The Sound and the Fury was issued on the 7th of October, 1929, and despite its immediate claims on the literary conscience, this book enjoyed a sale of some 3,000 copies over a 15 year period, at which point, as we know, all hell broke loose. Awards and bestsellerdom come two ways, to paraphrase Hemingway on bankruptcy. Gradually, and then suddenly, if at all. So it's a special pleasure to celebrate a writer who has made a remarkable excursion into literature, and this evening is an honor, as well, for those like Mr. Erskine or Dan Halfon (ph), who kept Cormac's books in print for so long.

People have never doubted that with Cormac McCarthy, we were in the most vivid presence of a man whose books were made to last, so thank you all very much indeed.