CHICAGO – Don't expect a lot of sunshine in Oprah Winfrey's latest book club pick. Publishing's leading hit-maker has chosen Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," a bleak, apocalyptic novel by an author who rarely talks to the media.
"It is so extraordinary," Winfrey said Wednesday. "I promise you, you'll be thinking about it long after you finish the final page."
McCarthy, 73, is known for novels such as "All the Pretty Horses" and "Blood Meridian," and has been widely cited as an heir to William Faulkner for his biblical prose and rural settings. Critic Harold Bloom, famous for his discerning taste, has called McCarthy one of the greatest living American writers, along with Don DeLillo, Philip Roth and Thomas Pynchon.
In coming weeks, the reclusive McCarthy, who did not appear on the show Wednesday and who lives in Santa Fe, N.M., will conduct his "first television interview ever," Winfrey said.
"Mr. McCarthy respects her work, admires what she has accomplished, has an awareness of her book club, and thought it would be interesting to participate in the conversation with Oprah," McCarthy's publicist Paul Bogaards of Alfred A. Knopf, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
"He knew who she was when she called," Bogaards added.
"The Road," published last September by Knopf, is a sparely written story of a father and son trying to survive as they wander through a burned and bare landscape. It was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle prize and is considered a leading contender for the Pulitzer Prize.
"It's unlike anything I've ever chosen as a book club selection before because it's post-apocalyptic. (It is) Very unusual for me to select this book, but it's fascinating," Winfrey said.
"The Road" is also one of McCarthy's most popular books, spending several weeks on numerous best seller lists. According to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 70 percent of industry sales, it has sold 138,000 copies in hardcover. Thanks to Winfrey, that total should increase by hundreds of thousands. A paperback was not planned until September, but Vintage Books, understandably, is publishing one now, with a massive first printing of 950,000 copies.
Winfrey's previous choice was "The Measure of a Man," a "spiritual" memoir by one of her personal heroes, Academy Award-winning actor Sidney Poitier. But she has also taken on harsher stories, such as Elie Wiesel's Holocaust classic, "Night," and, notoriously, James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces," a memoir of addiction and recovery that turned out to be largely fabricated.