©1979 Cormac McCarthy (P)2012 Recorded Books
“Suttree contains a humor that is Faulknerian … and a freakish imaginative flair reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor.” (Times Literary Supplement, London)
This book makes The Grapes of Wrath look like a giggle and a skip in the park. It's unrelenting hopelessness and vomit inducing descriptions of a homeless, drunk's life is anything but uplifting. I recommend you steer clear if you don't enjoy being depressed.
Poe's narration is staggeringly good.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ‘conversation’ between Cormac McCarthy and Don DeLillo, two of the great writers we still have. DeLillo, it seems to me reflects on the ways in which we, as contemporary Americans, find ourselves trapped inside our culture. We understand ourselves as in a bubble of our own collective creation, and our implicit sadness (a sadness that rises to tragedy in Underworld) is that we realize we cannot escape it.
As a result, DeLillo’s work is at its best when the culture – more specifically the art – at its heart is at its best. Mao II is great because Bill Gray (whose work we never read) feels like a great novelist, a great silenced novelist. White Noise fails for me because the “art” at its center – the parody of academia he calls Hitler Studies – is flimsy and forgettable.
I say that because I see McCarthy arriving at a similar frustration from the other end. He dismisses art and culture almost out of hand. Instead, he calls us to remember that, no matter our accomplishments as a culture, we remain “primates” as much at the mercy of the greater heavens as when we huddled in caves 15 millenia ago. He presents his thesis in every sentence he writes. No matter the story, his subject stays the same. He’s like an Old Testament prophet in the clarity of his warning: we are not special in the eyes of creation.
As a consequence, I’m not sure it matters which McCarthy you read. Everything he does has an almost equal excellence. There might as well be a McCarthy Reader, a collection of his greatest sentences and set-scenes. (And it would be a very long collection.)
That’s all prologue to saying that Suttree is just as great as virtually everything else I’ve read by McCarthy (and that’s everything he’s written in the last 30 years). Very little happens in this portrait of a determined loner, a man who’s turned his back on what privilege he has and determines to live by his means, but so what. Very little happens in Seinfeld and very little happens in Flaubert’s Un Coeur Simple. And that was the point of each. If you have a gift for exploring tone and the character of a person who is interesting even at rest, then you have all you need.
There are brilliant scenes here, too. In the opening, Suttree is fishing and he reflects on the idea of St. Peter as a “fisher of men.” Then, not much later, he sees a police barge that has just dredged up a suicide. He sees the body, a hook lodged through its check, and the metaphor becomes real…and staggering. You can’t help asking, “What are we?” What kind of creatures are we if we can die in such a tawdry and undignified way? And the answer is one we simply don’t want to hear.
Another brilliant passage comes when he is looking at an album of old photos with his aunt. He looks at the once beautiful faces of people he knows in their old age, and he gets off a passage (I can’t find the exact words just now) so staggering that it made my jaw drop, asking what sort of a god would choose flesh like ours as the site of a presumed individuality.
It’s blunt, brutal and deeply theological – theological in the oldest sense of the term, in the sense of a lost and dazed creature looking to the sky to make sense of suffering. It’s flat-out awe-inspiring work. To take just one example, “I always figured there was a god,” says an old man who has extracted from Suttree a promise to burn his body after he dies. “I just never did like him much.”
That said, I find myself thinking that part of McCarthy’s project is to explore genre with his powerful voice and focused imagination. He came to fame as a writer of “Westerns,” in Blood Meridian and the Border Trilogy. That’s four novels and 20 years, but it’s also only two projects. Since then he has clearly been playing in other genres; The Road is a post-apocalyptic book, and No Country for Old Men is, by narrative structure, a hardboiled noir thriller.
As such, at least in retrospect, I see Suttree as a kind of Southern-flavored Beat novel. Like On the Road, it has no real structure, and it’s driven by a perpetual hunger for experience. What’s more, that experience sits in opposition to – is subject to the disapproval of – law-abiding and conventional society.
I’m not saying it’s merely a Beat novel; it’s infused with all of McCarthy’s meditations on the primal power of the world and with his exploration of inherited religion to explain it. Still, as I wrap this one up, it seems to me interesting to think of this novel confirming the extent to which McCarthy – with that mythic voice and prophetic focus – needs the structure of genre to tell his take in its entirety.
I would listen to more from this Author, the most entertaining human interest story I have ever listened to whether it be fact or fiction, the story is absolutely believable, however the Author does use a lot of descriptive wording, however, I feel it ads to the story.
I can not tag a favorite character in this book, all the characters brought something different and interesting to the story.
Richard Poe is an excellent narrator who changes from Character to Character without missing a beat. I actually thought a few times that there must be more than one narrator, however it was all Richard Poe, there are a couple of errors near the end of the book but they were not misleading. His voice is pleasant to listen to with no outrageous "Over acting".
"The Bum" enter the underworld of the indigent and how they really live (or) If it can go wrong, it will.
Warning: Story takes place in "Old (south) Tennessee, if you are sensitive to certain references you should listen with caution.
too long. no character worthy of empathy. vulgar without art or justification. I couldn't wait for it to end. oh yeah, the naration was fine. professional job, but who cares. don't waste a credit on this title.
I enjoyed this book to a degree. He has fascinating characters but blurs them with his deliberately hard-to-read style. He seems to be saying, "look how good I am with words!" It strikes me as cheap. A successful writer like McCarthy can get work published that would never pass muster if he were a beginner. He seems to be relying too heavily on his descriptive powers, which have a poetic ring even if he is spouting nonsense. You can put a silk scarf on a pig. It will still be a pig, but hey, if you really like silk scarves who cares. I see this as a poor use of his talent. In most cases using obscure words is an attempt to dazzle when the idea being communicated will not fly in common lingo. The reader remembers not because the concept struck him, but because he got to learn a new word. The English lexicon--the largest in the world by a wide margin--is stuffed to the gills with words so rarely used that the language would be better off without them. Truly great writers do not burden readers unnecessarily. If plain language cannot convey a thought, the writer is not working hard enough. McCarthy could have done better.
I plan on listening to this book again, the vocabulary used by the author is so exceptional at painting visuals in your mind, like no other author I've read.
Like many of the characters written by this author, you feel such empathy and wish good things to happen for them. Each time Suttree seems to find joy, you feel it with him.
Richard Poe brings a talented voice to each character, it adds a dimension to them that accentuates the story. Phenomenal voice work.
Beyond Suttree himself, Gene Harrowgate was my personal favorite. His blundering schemes and shock at his failures had me truly laughing out loud. His was such a naive yet endearing character, you hoped for him to succeed in his madness.
One of the best stories I've listened to in a long, long time. I love Cormac McCarthy, The Road was my introduction to him. The language and range of his vocabulary used in telling his stories are excellent and used so effectively to paint such vivid imagery for the listener that you find yourself immersed so deeply it's as though you're bystander in each scene. I found myself feeling true emotions for the well-being of each character and rejoicing in their successes and mourning their hardships. That to me is the sign of a truly well crafted story.
One master-passion in the br east, like Aaron's serpent, swallows all the rest. A. Pope
Haled by the literati and cognoscenti, SUTTREE is the tale of the travails of Cornelius Suttree, a wayward, educated and privileged itinerant's trudge through and life in the backwoods and on the streams of the Smokies, his acquaintances with society's bums, misfits and miscreants, his typhoid fever and lengthy hallucination, and his rotten and, once, tragic relationships with women.
My view of the novel as merely middling may be colored by my failure to pay close enough attention, but that brings up a valid point: the novel was, as all McCarthy novels, skillful and highly literate, and at times so erudite as to be incomprehensible (only adjectives that are either more than 10 letters or obscure suffice, though I don't mind the frequent pit stops for the dictionary), but the book's biggest defect was being, ultimately, forgettable.
Another beautifully written McCarthy novel. A novel in which everything happens while nothing is happening, in a way only this author can pull off. Narration was very good.
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