An interesting column from Dan Sinykin in the Times:
A career like Mr. McCarthy’s, with its long gestation before a blockbuster second act, would be nearly impossible to repeat now. An author without an agent or a track record of book sales would never gain a hearing at a major publishing house. And a state-school dropout in his early 30s would face slim odds of becoming a prizewinning author, as an M.F.A. from a prestigious writing program has often become the price of entry for splashy literary fiction debuts.
It’s impossible to know what kind of writer Mr. McCarthy would have developed into without decades in which to hone his singular voice. But contemporary success stories about novelists tend to have a very different aspect: They’re stories like that of Colson Whitehead, who followed up his well-received 1999 debut, “The Intuitionist” with novels that deftly navigated genres before reaching a new plateau by winning a Pulitzer Prize in 2017 for “The Underground Railroad.” Or Bonnie Garmus, the author of “Lessons in Chemistry,” whose very first book became a runaway hit in 2022.Cormac McCarthy Had a Remarkable Literary Career. It Could Never Happen Now.
I’m very interested in how the publishing industry conditions shape the literature that is produced, but I feel like there is more to the story than corporate consolidation. The nature of the reading public has also changed. The generation of young men in the trenches of World War 2 who eagerly read the first mass produced paperback novels are gone. I was reading reporting from the Ukrainian front line only a few weeks ago that featured a young soldier on the front line posting to social media. All creative conditions are transient and the only constant is that artists are forever waiting for favorable winds to arrive.