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31 Dec 2011


I just finished reading Cormac McCarthy's Suttree and what an incredible book it is. Considered by many to be McCarthy's finest work he tells his semi-autobiographical story of Cornelius Suttree who has turned his back on his former life of privilege to become a fisherman on the Tennessee River. He spends his days in the company of down-and-outs, prostitutes and often surreal and carnivalesque characters. 

The first thing you'll notice is how rich, and thick and languid the dialogue is. The whole book is a flowing, mucky poetry washing over you and leaving you covered in a dark greasy coating of pure brilliance:
He struggled to his knees, staring down at the packed black 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 iron coloured nettles and sedge in the reeking fields like mock weeds made from wire, a raw landscape where half familiar shapes reared from the slag heaps of trash. Where backlots choked with weeds and glass and the old chalky turds of passing dogs tended away toward a dim shore of stonegrey 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.
Suttree is a sad novel, but also humorous, dark and grotesquely entertaining. Some of the imagery will catch you off guard with how frightening and stark it is, whilst there are moments of genuine beauty, heartbreak and sincerity. Cornelius Suttree's journey sees him face tragedy, sorrow and transcendence in equal and overwhelmingly powerful measures whilst his relationships with burnt-out and similarly tragic figures along the way compliment the bleak backdrop and foul, violent and maggot ridden world they inhabit.

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