Monday, May 20, 2013

Suttree by Cormac McCarthy

I hardly know how to give this book the kind of review or credit it deserves. I fell in love with Cormac McCarthy's writing when I read The Road  a few years ago, and went on from there to read and love his Border Trilogy: All The Pretty Horses; The Crossing; and Cities of The Plain. He writes in a stark and fragmented way with little or no punctuation and often only comes around to the point of the scene or chapter when the reader is starting to wonder who is doing the talking or what is even going on. If it sounds challenging, it is. But it's challenging in a way that is invigorating and heady and keeps me reading long into the night. His books are often criticized for being dark and violent and yes, at times they are. But it is through this darkness that the positive image takes shape. It reminds me of an artist who can create a visual image on canvas by filling in the shadows first.

McCarthy's stories are often peopled with flawed, reclusive characters on a journey in search of what isn't always clear. Humanity? Understanding? Universal connection? There's always an element of mystery surrounding these characters, which McCarthy mercifully does not overcompensate for with endless backstory in an attempt to bring us up to speed. He does occasionally go on some brief tangents, or his characters might reminisce about a past experience, but it's never a jarring remove from the flow of the story. People are who they are; he asks us to accept them at face value and to trust that he will take us through the story with all we will need to know. And it works. He certainly isn't one to spoon-feed his readers; there is an author/reader symbiosis going on here that I've grown to admire, appreciate and relish.

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, humour, and dignity. (back cover)


Harvee said...

I have not read McCarty but everyone raves about him. I think I have to be in a more serious mood to read one of his excellent books.

Trish said...

If you get a chance to give him a try, All The Pretty Horses is a good one to start with.

laughingwolf said...

have a bud who just moved to knoxville, some 3-4 months ago - he'd love to read this, i'm sure :)