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Books Read in 2023 (274)
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Five star books (526)
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“He lay down in his blankets. It was growing dark, long late mid-summer twilight in the woods. He wanted to go down to the river to bathe but he felt too bad. He turned over and looked at the small plot of ground in the crook of his arm. My life is ghastly, he told the grass.”
Set in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the early to mid-1950s, this book tells the story of six years in the life of “Bud” Suttree, a man who has left his wife and child to live on a houseboat on the edges of society. He ekes out a living as a fisherman.
It is a sprawling, fragmented narrative, filled with outcasts and misfits. A vast number of characters are mentioned, some for a single appearance, and others winding in and out, such as the goatman, the ragpicker, the street evangelist, and various prostitutes. There is no plot. It is about events and people in Suttree’s life. It is about time, life, and death. It explores the concepts of being and nothingness.
“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.”
It is expressively written in long elaborate sentences and short irreverent dialogue. It is occasionally difficult to understand the characters’ motivations – perhaps just they are just doing their best to survive. The tone is dark. Unfortunate things happen to people who are already down on their luck. It is a lengthy book, so after a while, a series of one unhappy event after another gets to be a little depressing, but the writing is superb.
“Suttree stood among the screaming leaves and called the lightning down. It cracked and boomed about and he pointed out the darkened heart within him and cried for light. If there be any art in the weathers of this earth. Or char these bones to coal. If you can, if you can. A blackened rag in the rain.”
Not since I first read Tom Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel have I encountered anyone who could write prose that rings so much like poetry or song lyric as Cormac McCarthy. If I were rating just the opening section of this book, it would get 5-stars, hands down. To say McCarthy conjures up other great writers is an understatement, for in addition to Wolfe, I immediately thought of Walt Whitman and the earthy descriptions in Song of Myself. Finally, as other readers have so often remarked, he channels Faulkner in many ways as well, in both style, content, and his understanding of what transpires beneath the skin of human beings.
That Cormac McCarthy awakens memories of other writers is certainly not to say he is a derivative of anyone else. Ah, no, he is uniquely himself and his writing, while perhaps informed by these great pens, stands separate and apart from them, admitting him to their ranks rather than adding him to their imitators. With a grit that is uniquely his own, he shuns the pretty and simple, and goes with fury for the sordid and complex.
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 doors no soul shall walk save you.
And there we are, alone in a street with the night people and prowling cats, with dirt and soot and all that is unsavory and smelly, sweaty with the steam the early morning water trucks have left behind, and we know this trip might be frightening but it is sure to be enlightening.
If you have ever walked a city street and turned your head to avoid looking at the homeless sleeping in a park, or if you have crinkled your nose because you have ventured into an area where people are as likely to piss on a street corner as seek a toilet, or if you have felt a little tingle of fear on your spine when traveling through a section of a city that you know is prone to drive-by shootings, you will recognize the Knoxville of this book. You may be afraid, but Cormac McCarthy is not afraid. He explores the thin line between the educated and privileged life and that of the uneducated and poverty-stricken and he never flinches even the tiniest bit. He finds the drunken slovenliness, but he also finds the humanity, kindness, and humor. He knocks down every stereotype and hands you a person.
I had a friend who was prone to say, when things went wrong, “life’s a bitch and then you die.” That might well describe the world of Suttree, but it would leave out all the living that is done between the bitchiness and the death, and those moments of friendship and concern might be what the living is really all about. Because in the midst of it all, there are moments of transcendence:
He looked at a world of incredible loveliness. Old distaff Celt’s blood in some back chamber of his brain moved him to discourse with the birches, with the oaks. A cool green fire kept breaking in the woods and he could hear the footsteps of the dead. Everything had fallen from him. He scarce could tell where his being ended or the world began nor did he care.
Ok, I'm adding my voice to the chorus of praise for McCarthy. He IS a great writer &, given that this bk was copywritten in 1979, it's astounding that I've never read anything by him until now. In fact, I'd never heard of him, as far as I can remember, until I joined GoodReads & kept running across mention of his "The Road".
I admit, at 1st I had a very vague notion of him as yet-another 'Suthern depravity, suh' novelist - someone who'd treat me to tales of inbreds committing brutal corncob rapes. I'd already read Faulkner & it didn't do much for me. Same for Flannery O'Connor. Having grown up in Baltimore was enuf of a bad taste of being in a post-slave state populated largely by debased vicious imbeciles to last me more than one lifetime. So, did I want to read more 'sutharn realism'? No.
But my neighbor & friend gave me a copy of this for my birthday after he learned that I'd never read any McCarthy.. - so I started reading it. The opening italicized preface was so thickly poetic that it was almost unbearable. Then came Harrogate fucking the melons, getting caught at it, etc.. That was pretty much what I expected. In other words, I wasn't really in any hurry to be once again reminded that humans are a hopelessly degenerate mess.
But, of course, McCarthy really IS a great writer. He has a sensitivity to character types that's rarely equaled. The description's fabulous. The general social palette extraordinary. A difficult subject brought to life fully. & the adventures of the protagonist follow a completely believable & simultaneously fantastic course - they're exciting & interesting & compelling. I wasn't sure that I cd ever get much out of the 'realist' novel anymore, wch to me is basically a dead form, but McCarthy has brought it fully back to life for me!
Pretty good. I didn't enjoy it as much Blood Meridian, especially the ending which didn't have the ecstatic and supremely satisfying conclusion that Blood Meridian did, but McCarthy again weaves an enthralling epic filled with shadows and misery and wise bits about a god who hates us. I wish he wrote poetry, because I find myself reading passages that simply stunned me and I want to remember them and return to them, but I feel like I'd have to read the whole book through again to get at 'em.
"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."
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Wikipedia på engelsk (2)
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.nbsp;nbsp;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.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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Suttree is the gloomy story of Cornelius Suttree, a man who renounced his well-off past to live the life of a drunken destitute, primarily making his meager living fishing along the Tennessee River running through Knoxville, Tennessee. I really like that description of this book being a “doomed Huckleberry Finn.”
This book was very fun to read. McCarthy is among the greatest poets of English prose writing, probably #1 among Americans. Seriously, try reading this stuff out loud, it’s beautiful: lyrical, full of potent imagery, alliteration, allusion. He is the veritable king of mot juste. I truly do not understand whence this man’s vocabulary has been built; it is astounding. It can be a little bit distracting at times to look up so many words, but that distraction should best be understood as fun, an opportunity to expand one’s own vocabulary, rather than an ongoing frustration. There is so much depth to this language we do not know.
This is not a full fledged review by my standards because I am a few days past finishing the book and didn’t keep good notes while reading, but oh well, all the more reason to reread it later.
I will end with some of my favorite quotes from the novel. They are split about 50/50 between prose pyrotechnics and thematic brilliance.
- Sot’s skull subsiding, sweet nothingness betide me. (p. 79)
- [About photographs of the dead] Blind moil in the earth’s nap cast up in an eyeblink between becoming and done. I am, I am. An artifact of prior races. (p. 129)
- How surely are the dead beyond death. Death is what the living carry with them. A taste 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. (p. 153)
- But there are no absolutes in human misery and things can always get worse. (p. 372)
- Tilting back in his chair he framed questions for the quaking avoid of lamp light on the ceiling to post to him:
> Supposing there be any soul to listen and you died tonight?
> They’d listen to my death.
> No final word?
> Last words are only words.
> You can tell me, paradigm of your own sinister genesis construed by a flame in a glass bell.
> I’d say I was not unhappy.
> You have nothing.
> It may be the last shall be first.
> Do you believe that?
> No. What do you believe?
> I believe that the last and the first suffer equally. Pari passu.
> It is not alone in the dark of death that all souls are one soul.
> 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. (p. 414)
- In the toils of orgasm—she said, she said—she’d be whelmed in a warm green sea through which, dulled by the murk of it, pass a series of small suns like the footlights of a revolving stage, an electric carousel wheeling in a green ether. Envy‘s color is the color of her pleasuring, and what is the color of grief? Is it black as they say? And anger always read? The color of that sad shade of ennui called blue is blue but blue unlike the sky or sea, a bitter blue, rue-tinged, discolored at the edges. The color of a blind man’s noon is white, and is his nighttime too? And does he feel it with his skin like a fish? Does he have blues, are they bridal and serene, or yellows, sunlike or urionous, does he remember? Neural colors like the fleeting tones of dreams. The color of this life is water. (p. 415)
- Mr Suttree it is our understanding that at curfew rightly decreed by law and in that hour wherein night draws to its proper close and the new day commences and contrary to conduct befitting a person of your station you betook yourself to various low places within the shire of McAnally and there did squander several ensuing years in the company of thieves, derelicts, miscreants, pariahs, poltroons, spalpeens, curmudgeons, clotpolls, murderers, gamblers, bawds, whores, trulls, brigands, topers, tosspots, sots and archsots, lobcocks, smellsmocks, runagates, rakes, and other assorted and felonious debauchees.
> I was drunk, cried Suttree. (p. 457)
- Seized in a vision of the archetypal patriarch himself unlocking with enormous keys the gates of Hades. A floodtide of screaming fiends and assassins and thieves and hirsute buggers pours forth into the universe, tipping it slightly on its galactic axes. The stars go rolling down the void like redhot marbles. These simmering sinners with their cloaks smoking carry the Logos itself from the tabernacle and bear it through the streets while the absolute prebarbaric mathematick of the western world howls them down and shrouds their ragged biblical forms in oblivion. (pp. 457-458)
- I know all souls are one and all souls
lonely. (p. 459)
- Some eastern sea that lay heavily in the dawn. There stood on its farther rim a spire of smoke attended and crowned by a plutonic light where the waters have broke open. Erupting hot gouts of lava and great upended slabs of earth and a rain of small stones that hissed for miles in the sea. As we watched there reared out of the smoking brine a city of old bone coughed up from the sea's floor, pale attic bone delicate as shell and half melting, a chalken shambles coralgrown that slewed into shape of temple, column, plinth and cornice, and across the whole a frieze of archer and warrior and marblebreasted maid all listing west and moving slowly their stone limbs. As these figures began to cool and take on life Suttree among the watchers said that this time there are witnesses, for life does not come slowly. It rises in one massive mutation and all is changed utterly and forever. We have witnessed this thing today which prefigures for all time the way in which historic orders proceed. (p. 459) ( )