Mailcandler in Cormac McCarthy

Written on August 10, 2023

In my review of Cormac McCarthy’s The Passenger, I quoted the passage below that contains the word “mailcandler” and noted that McCarthy’s prose may require a dictionary, or may not appear in one at all. Checking traffic to this blog a couple days ago, I was surprised to find that the most common organic search term leading to a session was “mailcandler,” presumably from McCarthy readers looking for a definition. But I did not provide one in my original post, and neither does any dictionary, so I hope to rectify that here.

The passage is: “The man’s a seducer of prelates and a suborner of the judiciary. He’s an habitual mailcandler and a practicing gelignitionary, a mathematical platonist and a molester of domestic yardfowl. Principally of the dominecker persuasion. A chickenfucker, not to put too fine a point on it.”

Here’s an attempted definition of “mailcandler” (noun): someone who attempts to read other people’s sealed mail by holding a candle under the envelope. The image is meant to conjure up the era before electric light (alongside other terms in the passage with historical connotation, like “prelate.”)

Note: As of the writing of this post, ChatGPT strikes out when asked for a definition of “mailcandler,” so we humans are better readers of McCarthy yet.