on 12 February 2006
I have loved all the Cormac McCarthy books I've read but this is my favourite.
Like all his books this is a bleak, lonesome tale that inhabits you. Despite its elegaic sadness there is humour and a core human warmth. I read this book almost two years ago and I still miss the key characters.
I urge you to read this book!
on 5 March 2001
Suttree is the name of the character who the book is about, a man who lives on a houseboat in Knoxville and makes a threadbare living as a fisherman. In it's own way it's one of McCarthy's best. The book is very much in the author's distinctive style but there are many more descriptions of suburban settings than some of his books, and he really goes to town! No-one brings out the wild poetry of such places as wastelots, riversides, shanties and city catacombs like him. Suttree meets various characters who live very much 'on the fringe' like him. The dialogue is exceptional and there are some excrutiatingly funny moments. There are also some slower bits but this is fortunate since it helps you not to finish the book too quickly! The themes of the book are similar to 'Tortilla Flat' by Steinbeck, which is also delightful, but this work is much denser and deeper. I can sense that the author is personally very close to this work. If you like Cormac McCarthy, you should do yourself a favour and get hold of this one.
on 27 March 2010
I have waited nearly a year to write this review. I have felt totally inadequate when trying to express an opinion of this book that potential readers might find useful. Previous reviewers have pretty much said it all. There was one particularly useful comment. It said, 'this book inhabits you'. It absolutely does.
The book isn't an easy holiday type read, I made extensive use of my new electronic dictonary. There were pages I read three times to try and better understand what I was reading. There is no real plot and it is not possibe to predict where things are going. The writing style takes getting used to as the author seems to make no consession to the reader. Sink or swim.
But, but, but do not let any of these things get in your way of purhasing this book now. Every ounce of effort you pour into this book will be rewarded in spades. It seeps down deep and touches your soul, it leaves its essence in your mind and heart and you will never, ever be released from its spell. There will be times when you will suddenly start and awake from your reading and wonder what magic was that, I was just there, I could see, smell, hear the sounds...
The book haunts my dreams, it stalks my daytime reveries. But oh, I do go on. Buy the book now, I do not doubt that you too will rage about the genius of this work.
on 28 June 2010
My daughter keeps asking me about my favourite things - be it colour, food, place - and I always have to tell her that I really can't choose. But when it comes to my favourite book, there is no hesitation: Suttree. Even more so than The Road (which I re-read annually), Outer Dark, or The Crossing, Suttree is the one book I would take with me if I had to abandon every material possession I own. Everything you need is in there, especially if you are a male of a certain age with a host of unanswered questions about the world. Many of the alleged classics of literature have bored me but this book never fails to surprise and challenge me, which is what all the great works of art that have endured must do. It will be read in 100 years time by the last remnants of humanity sat in the smouldering ashes, thumbing the charred pages and holding their copy with the reverence previously reserved for the Bible. Do not hesitate to order your copy now.
on 18 February 2004
People often ask what your favourite record is, or your top five movies, even your favourite food. I have always found it very difficult to answer these questions, and my answers will change from day to day depending on mood. Now Cormac McCarthy has brought a little certainty to my life. This is WITHOUT ANY SHADOW OF DOUBT my favourite book. It has everything from wry comedy to hideous tragedy, plot driven action to melancholy contemplation. Every adult male will recognise at least a part of himself in these destitute, stinky characters; and a very uncomfortable realization that can be. And to top it all off, the language employed by McCarthy is of the most beautiful expressive nature. I defy anyone to show me an author that can decribe a filthy riverbank, or a pickled vagrant with such obvious love of words. Go on, read it, and disagree if you dare. We are indeed 'whelmed in dark riot'.
on 18 December 2011
I failed in my first attempt at reading Suttree, I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was my own state of mind at the time - I found it depressing. But I'd read all of McCarthy's other work and I picked up Suttree again after a two-year break.
In this novel, more than any of his others, McCarthy seems to work in the way a music composer does. McCarthy's hook, his chorus, is the Tennessee River. Again and again he describes it in all its seasons and moods to the extent I found it to be the main character - bewitching Suttree too, I think. He seems always drawn back to the river's indiscriminate flow as though it is the thread of life itself. Sometimes it provides him with a living, other times it threatens, impersonally, to freeze him to death or suck him under. The river delivers him friends and enemies then moves remorselessly on.
Suttree prefers the daily uncertainty of not knowing whether he will eat, freeze, fry, sink, be attacked, seduced, befriended or bereaved to the standard 'security' most of us recognise. We call it our life though, ironically, Suttree, who never existed, knows better than any what it means to live.
on 4 October 2009
Believe me, this is Cormac's best novel. Better than Blood Meridian; better than The Road; better than No Country, etc. etc. Why do I say this? Well, this has a density that his other books don't have. And they're wonderful works, wonderfully written and with Something To Say. But this is special. His masterpiece. It seems it took him something like 30 years to write it. It shows. It's a prose poem, it's devastatingly funny at moments, it's often devastatingly tragic, and it has moments of pure poetry. The setting is perfectly captured; you're there, you can smell the Tennessee river and see colors and feel the heat or the cold of the days that Cornelius Suttree spends in McAnally Flats with the other misfits who manage to survive (not always) in the most destitute part of Knoxville. But it is not just a belated realistc book; it's a book that manages to tell a story by omitting a lot, and it's also another version of a very old myth, that of the Fisher King. And yeah, it's full of Eliot's Waste Land.
on 25 February 2011
This big book reveals itself gradually. At first it is easy to assume that it is a McCarthy version of Tortilla Flat - a funny, tragic tale of down and out folk on the margins of society. But gradually it becomes apparent that the central character, Suttree, has a 'past' and is not the sort of person you expect to find on skid row. The assumption then is that the remainder of the book will gradually reveal more clues about the identity of Suttree and how he got to be there. But this is McCarthy and what you expect rarely happens. As usual by the end of the book there are more questions and puzzles hanging in the air than answers. You are left to draw your own conclusions. Another unique, haunting book from a remarkable writer.
At the beginning of the book I was surprised to find that the introductory scene-setting piece appeared to be heavily borrowed from the opening to 'Under Milk Wood' by Dylan Thomas.
on 11 December 2009
Let me start by saying that I love this book. I just finished reading it about a month ago and can safely say that it is one of the best books I have read. However it wasn't always this way.
I initially bought the book on the strength of the reviews on Amazon. I was already a fan of McCarthy after having read The Road, Outer Dark, and No Country for Old Men, however on first reading of this book I found it impossibly verbose and over the top with its florid prose. I promptly left the book for about 6 months only to pick it back up during a dry period when I had nothing else to read. It was then that I actually gave the book a chance.
I do not think that any Cormac McCarthy book can be reviewed properly by most anyone. A reviewer will always pick up on the parts that make it up - so for instance the language used and the structure etc - however all attempts to focus on these individual bit loses sight of the overall effect, feeling and sentiment that McCarthy always succesfully conveys through his work. Suttree is a book that I feel doesn't dffer here.
On the surface its about the eponymous characters life on the side of the river in Knoxville and to be fair not a lot happens. He goes to town, meets people, fishes etc. However this once again, as mentioned earlier, fails to capture the dark and mythic way in which McCarthy can describe the most mundane things. In fact it is these innocuous and ostensibly boring things that make this book magic.
If you have readanything else by McCarthy I would certainly suggest reading this. You get a sense that this is a more personal book than others by him andthat there is something special about it. I think if you have already read McCarthy then you will know how he is and therefore not be too supprised by what you find in this book, however newcomers may find that it laack pace at points and may be generally shocked by his weird style of writting (no "speech marks" etc)
All in all I dont think I have read a book about moulding decaying driftwood, scum filled water and life at the bottom of the ladder that I could enjoy more.
Entropy is the lord of all
on 15 February 2010
This is his most difficult, dense and engaging novel. I read it with a dictionary by my side, and a notebook for his neologisms. It's beautiful. Filled with hardness and warmth, meandering and allegorical, my heart stopped as it concluded.