am 28. Juli 1999
This is a most extraordinary novel, densely packed with dark and dire images, by turns brutal and tender. It is elegant, down and dirty, occasionally shocking and surprisingly funny. I don't know when I have read more beautiful prose describing more debased circumstances than in Suttree.
I was introduced to this novel by a close friend who was so slammed by the impact of the first page that she had to put it down for a week just to let it sink in. I have to admit, I re-read the first 3 pages about a dozen times throughout my reading of the novel. They do pack a wallop. Actually, there are several passages in the book that so floored me I had to go back and re-read them.
The language of this tale is incredible, carefully wrought, full of fantastic words (keep a dictionary close by.) At times laconic, at times incredibly detailed. And at times so unrelentingly down and out you just have to laugh. Harold Pinter once praised Samuel Beckett saying that he 'leaves no stone unturned, no maggot lonely.' I'd say the same for McCarthy in this novel. Who else could generate so much sympathy for a melon-humping hayseed dork like Gene Harrogate? Or any other of the motley assemblage with whom Suttree inexplicably chooses to fraternize.
I don't want to ruin any surprises, so I'll just assure you that Suttree's immersion in debauchery and desolation is not for its own sake. The book has a heart. The book has soul to burn. This is just the best damned novel I've read in years. Maybe ever. Relish it.
am 22. März 1999
I love C. McCarthy, but I was a little disappointed with this book. I've read the first two volumes of The Border Trilogy, and I feel that McCarthy's capacity for transcendent mythic prose is better suited to the stark landscape of Mexico and Texas, rather than this grimy Southern river life. In the border novels his lack of narrative structure works well as a picture of existential drift. His heroes need to be on the road someplace, rather than stranded in a town. I wanted Harrogate to be the hero, and I wanted him to steal a car and drive to Mexico.
am 20. Juni 1999
what an awe-inspiring work this novel is. if you were introduced to mr. mccarthy through the border trilogy, please explore "blood meridian" and especially this monumental book. it's akin to seeing El Capitan for the first time...mccarthy's use of our mother tongue is like no one else's. one man's struggle with very nasty, very real personal demons is no less epic than john grady cole's trek through mexico and history, or The Kid's loathsome adventures with bounty hunters. cormac mccarthy is often likened to faulkner and melville, but there are joycean voices here,too. i love this book.
am 18. Mai 2000
McCarthy's style of writing is difficult at first, because he is quite poetic and his vocabulary is freaking huge. And he often doesn't obey grammatical rules. I found it helped to read particularly difficult passages out loud -- they're worth understanding.
The novel is long, but good. It is an episodic tale of Cornelius Suttree, A fisherman/bum along the shores of some river in Knoxville, Tennessee. He has left a family of influence to live in this poverty, though that's not as important to the book as it sounds. While the book is rather episodic -- sometimes it's hard to connect one chapter to the next in any meaningful form -- the characters are vivid, and the episodes are imaginative and often funny -- or sad.
This book is powerfully written, and an enjoyable read. I can't wait to read more McCarthy -- or to read this one over again.
A writing sample:
"He woke with the undersides of his eyelids inflamed by the high sun's hammering, looked up to a bland and chinablue sky traversed by lightwires. A big lemoncolored cat watched him from the top of a woodstove. He turned his head to see it better and it elongated itself like hot taffy down the side of the stove and vanished headfirst in the earth without a sound. Suttree lay with his hands palm up at his sides in an attitude of frailty beheld and the stink that fouled the air was he himself. He closed his eyes and moaned. A hot breeze was coming across the barren waste of burnt weeds and rubble like a whiff of battlesmoke. Some starling had alighted on a wire overhaed in perfect progression like a peice of knotted string fallen slantwise. Crooning, hooked wings. Foul yellow mutes came squeezing from under their fanned tails. He sat up slowly, putting a hand over his eyes. The birds flew. His clothes cracked with a thin dry sound and shreds of baked vomit fell from him. He struggled to his knees, staring down at the packe balck earth between his palms with its bedded cinders and bits of crockery. Sweat rolled down his skull and dripped from his jaw. Oh God, he said. He lifted his swollen eyes to the desolation in which he knelt, the ironcolored nettles and sedge in the reeking fields like mock weeds made from wire, a raw landscape where half familiar shapes reared from the slagheaps of trash. Where backlots choked with weeds and glass and the old chalky turds of passing dogs tended away toward a dim shore of stonegray shacks and gutted auto hulks. He looked down at himself, caked in filth, his pockets turned out. He tried to swallow but his throat constricted in agony. tottering to his feet he stood reeling in that apocalyptic waste like some biblical relict in a world no one would have." (pg80-81)
am 18. Juli 1998
Cormac McCarthy treats the reader to a splendid tale of one man's search for meaning. Cornelius Suttree, a college-educated man recently released from prison, searches for meaning in an unforgiving and absurd world. The reader -- as well as characters in the book -- quickly realizes that Suttree is out of place among the people with whom he lives. His failure to break out is caused by his inability to find purpose or meaning in life, and it is this search which most fascinates me. McCarthy masterfully conveys the complicated struggle within Suttree's mind: a picaresque journey of indecision and enervation.
The author's accurate rendition of speech patterns and regionalisms animate characters like the ragman and Reese like few depictions I've ever read.
At times the book becomes too impressionistic, whole pages devoted to a dizzying stream of images that I found difficult to read. In addition, I recognized unusual words repeated throughout the book, but despi! te these few criticisms, Suttree is an unforgettable read!
am 1. September 1998
Rich, biblical prose. Set alongside big old river. All about bums. There's a hilarious wacky kid the hero tries to take care of sometimes. But the best thing about this book is the splo. The best descriptions of shine in literature. Oily, with floaters, with bums eyeing it and knowing what will happen once they get started. Also I've never seen trotlines in lit before. Check out the way people live off the land who live off the chart below any laughable poverty lines (it would be wealth to them). Juglines to haul in catfish for the market. Wacky schemes to get rich and finally beat the wolf away from the door for a change. Even though they all know it'll be gone in a week. Desparate family gives it one last shot before our hero leaves them for nowhere. Binges, hangovers and sweat. Best depiction of The Marginal, those who live between the cracks, I've seen. One guy lives in a junkyard who can't be bothered, who suffers to hear yet another wild idea, but gets sucked into it anyway....
am 11. Juli 2000
If we turn to our hymnals, (Suttree, p. 414):
"Of what would you repent? ... One thing. I spoke with bitterness about my life and I said that I would take my own part against the slander of oblivion and against the monstrous facelessness of it and that I would stand a stone in the very void where all would read my name. Of that vanity I recant all."
Forget the comparisons to Faulkner, Melville, and any other fashionable names, or themes that somehow make Suttree sound like he's on a Harry Potter journey. ("Suttree and the Magical Midnight Mellonhumper"?) Or existential searches for meaning. (Can one have an existential search for meaning? But I digress.) Cormac McCarthy has his own unique voice, and it is, well, feculently good in this novel about the self-delusions of one man, Cornelius Suttree, as he attempts to rectify life, having been brought into the world at the same time as his stillborn twin brother. It is a novel to be experienced. The dialogue is stunningly true and a joy to read, and in unique McCarthy fashion, he finds a way to make sublime psychological observations about his characters without resorting to reading their thoughts. Here is a novel that recounts those "living on the edge" without the sentimental romantic claptrap of the Beat writers or Rousseau-rustic rubes. Sure, some of the writing is overwrought -- he spent 20 years writing the thing -- but it's still purty, and it's still McCarthy. To put a label on it, I'd call it a classic in the Southern American anti-intellectual tradition. What that means is this: long after people have tired of reading David Foster Wallace make fun of midwesterners who shop at K mart, or Philip Roth rhapsodizing about his penis, people will be reading the likes of Faulkner, O'Conner and McCarthy for a deeper understanding of our culture, our longings and our mythos. (Sorry. Couldn't help myself. Apologies to Melville.)
am 20. Juli 1997
SUTTREE is an extraordinary book, certainly among Cormac McCarthy's best. McCarthy has a special talent for capturing exactly the right colloquial tone and cadence of dialogue to convince the reader that the story being told is as authentic as the evening news. For me that talent is especially apparent in SUTTREE.
Through a series of encounters with the best and worst of desperate people -- kindly, foolish, selfish, and mean, the reader gradually learns more of the events that shaped the life of the principal character- Suttree, along with the emotions that compel him and the values that sustain him. While the story begins and ends with Suttree, McCarthy treats the reader along the way to a highly entertaining tapestry of life set along the raw edge of a working river and rural Tennessee.
I found the book passionate, compassionate, laugh-out-loud funny, sobering, violent, and ultimately uplifting. SUTTREE is classic McCarthy and a wonderful read.
am 20. Juni 1997
The first thing any review of a novel by Cormac MacCarthy mentions is always the language. So to get it out of the way: Suttree is a dizzying verbal adventure. Even if the subject were dull as dirt, McCarthy's prose would make this novel worth reading. He's one of the finest American writers, with a diction somewhere between Faulkner and God. If you've read him, you know what I mean.
But the story of Suttree is also a damned fine one. McCarthy's eyes are wide open, and in this novel, his perceptions are focussed unblinkingly on a man, in all his failings, and a river, in all its crazed ugliness. At times, the novel is grotesque, at times startlingly lyrical. Usually, both.
Read this book. Then read _Blood Meridian_. You'll be glad you did. --Steve Marsden
am 29. Januar 1997
This book is a liberation. It is our insides turned out. It is vomit and it is cold and it is attempts and it is walking.
It is understanding the consequences of your actions through living - understanding truth through moving.
It is a story of a man living, and it is almost too painful to see it, but his life is not otherworldly, and reading this book, I felt as if I was walking the path of the man, and felt heartened at the end that my direction is my own.
This book, I believe, is the beginning of our mythos. It is a book for handing down to your children.