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Suttree by Cormac McCarthy
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Suttree (original 1979; edition 1992)

by Cormac McCarthy

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1,909383,589 (4.22)1 / 217
Member:Litfit
Title:Suttree
Authors:Cormac McCarthy
Info:Vintage (1992), Paperback, 480 pages
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Suttree by Cormac McCarthy (1979)

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English (35)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  All languages (37)
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
It's longer than I'm used to from McCarthy and maybe longer than it ought to be, because he's more indulgent in this book than he usually is. But when he gets it right there's no one better and when he slips he's still better than most. And comedy though this is supposed to be it's plenty dark and depraved for my tastes, which is good. Well worth the time I spent with it. ( )
  Snoek-Brown | Feb 7, 2016 |
Wonderful language and characters, another McCarthy page-turner. Made me want to visit Louisiana. ( )
  KathyGilbert | Jan 29, 2016 |
Flotsam, beautiful but barnacled, floating and crashing down the river. ( )
  Michael.Xolotl | Nov 11, 2015 |
I am not quite sure what to make of this book.

In between layers of confusing prose, there are bits and pieces of brilliant writing. I suppose if you have the energy to keep a thesaurus or dictionary by your side to look up the meaning of all the words McCarthy uses, you'll do all right and maybe even love the story. Considering it has a rating of 4.2, some do love it.

Me? I did not love it. I don't like struggling to understand what an author is trying to say. When I read I want to be entertained and I usually read to relax. Often I felt frustrated more than anything, although there were moments when I laughed at the antics of one of the more lively characters, Gene Harrogate, a.k.a City Mouse or City Rat - it seemed interchangeable.

I tackled SUTTREE because I read CHILD OF GOD, and despite the need to get "used to" McCarthy's style of writing, and the subject matter, I loved CHILD. I suppose the first sentence of SUTTREE should have been a warning. Others have quoted it, but just in case you missed it:

"Dear friend now in the dusty clockless hours of the town when the streets lie black and steaming in the wake of the watertrucks and now when the drunk and the homeless have washed up in the lee of walls in alleys or abandoned lots and cats go forth highshouldered and lean in the grim perimeters about, now in these sootblacked brick or cobbled corridors where lightwire shadows make a gothic harp of cellar doors no soul shall walk save you."

So, I get it. He (Suttree) is walking the city streets alone, early morning. He sees a cat. He sees homeless people here and there. Fine. But, that gives you a good idea, as the first sentence in the Prologue, of just what you're in for if you decide to read on.

Let's move on to the first sentence of what we can consider Chapter One (no Chapters are identified) as the book begins:

"Peering down into the water where the morning sun fashioned wheels of light, coronets fanwise in which lay trapped each twig, each grain of sediment, long flakes and blade of light in the dusty water sliding away like optic strobes, where motes sifted and spun."

That begins the story of Cornelius Suttree, bum/alcoholic extraordinaire. From the back of the book we understand he's shunned his rich upbringing to live among the rabble rousers of Knoxville Tennessee, and ekes out a living running his little trot lines, making just enough selling carp and catfish to hear the jingle of coins in his pockets and keep from starving. If it hadn't been for this brief explanation of what the story was about, I think I'd have been more lost than him.

Aside from McCarthy's EXTENSIVE knowledge of words - some I've never laid eyes on, he also breaks rules a lesser writer like me must use. No quotations when people speak. (in an interview he said they weren't necessary. I beg to differ - at least in this book) Very little comma usage, etc. Ho boy.

He also has a tendency to take common, everyday words and run them together, so at first glance it makes you back up, only to realize it's just two basic words strung together. Some are in the quoted sentences above.

More examples:
ragestrangled
sealedbeam
churchclothes
graylooking

And on and on.

The book is filled with nicknames for the other characters, like Oceanfrog, Trippin Through The Dew, Gatemouth, Jabbo, J Bone, Bucket, Boneyard, to name a few.

There were parts where I felt physically ill at his descriptions of Suttree being sick from too much alcohol, being urinated on, and the illnesses he contracted, like typhoid fever.

I happily made it to the end. The book delivered on it's ability to confuse me right on up to the last page. Here is the last sentence - which, trust me, contains no spoiler:

"I have seen them in a dream, slaverous and wild and their eyes crazed with ravening for souls in this world. Fly them."

And there you have it. I guess this would be one of those times when you either love it or hate it. I can't say I hated it..., but I'm glad I've finished it. ( )
  DonnaEverhart | Oct 27, 2015 |
28. Suttree by Cormac McCarthy (1979, 471 page trade paperback, read Mar 23 - May 7)

I have been dreading trying to review this. I just don't think I can capture it or do it justice. In very simple terms this is a fictionalized biography of McCarthy's life when living in a dingy houseboat in Knoxville, TN and interacting intimately with the lowest of low lives in the city. This is 1951 Knoxville. Cornelius Suttree (McCarthy) is 18, a divorced father just out of prison, and, having spurned his family, he's happily poor and independent. His meager income comes from fishing lines set on the Tennessee River, which nets him maybe $2 on a good day. But then a dime will get him a grilled cheese sandwich and coffee.

While timelines are skewed, many of the characters here were real and their violent deaths were real too. These are hermits who live under bridges, alcoholics, beggars, junkyard men, young men who ooze violence and camaraderie, going in and out of prison, prostitutes, social outcasts, especially the black and native Americans, and a black witch practicing voodoo with an assortment of gory implements. And Suttree wanders through this all, differentiated by his better education and more privileged upbringing, but welcomed in and nonjudgmental. In this world of hopeless outcasts, he encounters a striking continual rough sort of kindness. A type that happens to be striking throughout his fictional work, although it is never appreciated there.

It's the atmosphere that is so hard to capture. When the language gets out there, it sounds either like an apocalyptic description of the underside of urban life (especially the first several pages) or drug induced with vivid confused mythological hallucination. He can be very hard to follow. But mostly the story line is uncomplicated, it just has his unique stamp of using archaic, obscure, and technically specific words to capture the atmosphere more in words than in revelation, mixed with the lingo of the place and era.

What's lacking is any obvious fictional complexity. It's a very straightforward, dependent entirely on it's charm, as, say, Huck Fin is. Which makes wonder why it's raved about so much, called by some his best work. It's not. It's a one off. Different from everything else he has written. In a sense, it incomparable in its honest charm. His fiction tends to lay it on thick. Here, the same words and language sit aside passively as he experiences this and that, taking it day-to-day. Where his narrators always know more than you and therefore are in control, Suttree is riding along come things as they may.

So, what is the point of this. I mean other than that of all memoirs, which try to recapture times and places and people that are otherwise lost. I can't really answer that, but it seems clear that McCarthy feels a discomfort with the mixtures of technology and humanity. He seems worked up on the inhumanity of modern life, and then, in contraction, in the various chaff of real humanity that gets lost in this. It's maybe something that drives him and leads to his apocalyptic feeling fiction. ( )
5 vote dchaikin | Jun 13, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
"Suttree" is a fat one, a book with rude, startling power and a flood of talk. Much of it takes place on the Tennessee River, and Cormac McCarthy, who has written "The Orchard Keeper" and other novels, gives us a sense of river life that reads like a doomed "Huckleberry Finn."
added by eereed | editNew York Times, Jerome Charyn (Feb 18, 1979)
 
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The author wishes to express his gratitude to The American Academy of Arts and Letters, The Rockefeller Foundation, and The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
First words
Dear friend now in the dusty clockless hours of the town when the streets lie black and steaming in the wake of he watertrucks and now when the drunk and the homeless have washed up in the lee of walls in alleys or abadoned lots and cats go forth highshouldered and lean in the grim perimeters about, now in these soothblacked brick or cobbled corridors where lightwire shadows make a gothic harp of cellar doors no soul shall walk save you.
Quotations
They are not rooks in those obsidian winter trees, but stranger fowl, pale, lean and salamandrine birds that move by night unburnt through the moon's blue crucible.
How surely are the dead beyond death. Death is what the living carry with them. A state of dread, like some uncanny foretaste of a bitter memory. But the dead do not remember and nothingness is not a curse. Far from it.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679736328, Paperback)

By the author of Blood Meridian and All the Pretty Horses, Suttree is the story of Cornelius Suttree, who has forsaken a life of privilege with his prominent family to live in a dilapidated houseboat on the Tennessee River near Knoxville.  Remaining on the margins of the outcast community there--a brilliantly imagined collection of eccentrics, criminals, and squatters--he rises above the physical and human squalor with detachment, humor, and dignity.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:03 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The story or Cornelius Suttree, who has forsaken a life of privilege with his prominent family to live in a dilapidated houseboat on the Tennessee River near Knoxville. Remaining on the margins of the outcast community there - a brilliantly imagined collection of eccentrics, criminals, and squatters - he rises above the physical and human squalor with detachment, humor, and dignity.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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