Cormac McCarthy’s two-novel release of the year

“These new novels flush McCarthy out of his rhetorical cover, and his decidedly austere and unillusioned answer to both of these questions is no. In a world lit by the “evil sun” of nuclear invention, all history, Bobby thinks, is nothing more than “a rehearsal for its own extinction.” And, when the world finally kills itself off, nothing will be left—not words, not music, not mathematics, not God. Not even the Devil.” – James Wood in “Cormac McCarthy Peers Into the Abyss,” The New Yorker.

Fans of Cormac McCarthy–and I am one of them–will see in the two paired novels (The Passenger and Stella Maris) which can be purchased separately or as a boxed set, a gift from the eighty-nine-year-old novelist that (perhaps) represent a swan song, a look at something different, the abyss as James Wood says.

The Passenger

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Road returns with the first of a two-volume masterpiece: The Passenger is the story of a salvage diver, haunted by loss, afraid of the watery deep, pursued for a conspiracy beyond his understanding, and longing for a death he cannot reconcile with God.

NEW YORK TIMES BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR

“McCarthy returns with a one-two punch…a welcome return from a legend.” —Esquire

“Look for Stella Maris, the second volume in The Passenger series, available now.

“1980, PASS CHRISTIAN, MISSISSIPPI: It is three in the morning when Bobby Western zips the jacket of his wet suit and plunges from the Coast Guard tender into darkness. His dive light illuminates the sunken jet, nine bodies still buckled in their seats, hair floating, eyes devoid of speculation. Missing from the crash site are the pilot’s flight bag, the plane’s black box, and the tenth passenger. But how? A collateral witness to machinations that can only bring him harm, Western is shadowed in body and spirit—by men with badges; by the ghost of his father, inventor of the bomb that melted glass and flesh in Hiroshima; and by his sister, the love and ruin of his soul.
 
“Traversing the American South, from the garrulous barrooms of New Orleans to an abandoned oil rig off the Florida coast, The Passenger is a breathtaking novel of morality and science, the legacy of sin, and the madness that is human consciousness.”

 

Stella Maris

“NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Road returns with the second volume of The Passenger series: Stella Maris is an intimate portrait of grief and longing, as a young woman in a psychiatric facility seeks to understand her own existence.

“1972, BLACK RIVER FALLS, WISCONSIN: Alicia Western, twenty years old, with forty thousand dollars in a plastic bag, admits herself to the hospital. A doctoral candidate in mathematics at the University of Chicago, Alicia has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and she does not want to talk about her brother, Bobby. Instead, she contemplates the nature of madness, the human insistence on one common experience of the world; she recalls a childhood where, by the age of seven, her own grandmother feared for her; she surveys the intersection of physics and philosophy; and she introduces her cohorts, her chimeras, the hallucinations that only she can see. All the while, she grieves for Bobby, not quite dead, not quite hers. Told entirely through the transcripts of Alicia’s psychiatric sessions, Stella Maris is a searching, rigorous, intellectually challenging coda to The Passenger, a philosophical inquiry that questions our notions of God, truth, and existence.”

The Passenger and Stella Maris are spun around existential themes and big ideas like morality and science. They follow the story of two siblings, Bobby and Alicia Western, who are tormented by the ghosts of their physicist father, inventor of the atom bomb that “melted glass and flesh in Hiroshima.” In The Passenger — which opens on a frigid night at Mississippi’s Pass Christian in 1980 and traverses the 19th century American South — salvage diver Bobby Western becomes a “collateral witness” to machinations that put him in harm’s way.  McCarthy, as ever, is interested in the “madness called the human consciousness”. – Nawaid Anjum in “Inside the violent, visceral world of Cormac McCarthy, one of America’s greatest writers” The Federal.

–Malcolm