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SUTTREE by Cormac McCarthy


by Cormac McCarthy

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1978
ISBN: 0679736328
Publisher: Random House

Cornelius Buddy Suttree shares the three-fold plight of nearly all Cormac McCarthy heroes: he is an unregenerate loner-outsider, his unwavering isolation is never fully accounted for, and his present life and station are described with a poetic force that at once overwhelms and repels analysis. Suttree has left his well-to-do Knoxville family, has bought an old houseboat, and makes his living off the fiver as a fisherman (it is the early 1950s). We follow him for three years through layerings of experience that have very little effect on his character. Suttree lives among the most submerged folks ever born to crawl and die in fiction, "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--" as he is told while next to death from typhoid fever. His is a very long story with no plot, only episodes in the workhouse, fishing, spending the time of day with ragpickers, white trash, and bottom-dog blacks, drinking and puking, coming into money through an inheritance (only $300) or through a whore who falls for him but goes out Of her mind. Only one other character stands out: young Harrogate, a Snopesian hayseed arrested for intercourse with watermelons-- a splendid comic creation. McCarthy's idiosyncratic vocabulary and chronic verbal excesses will put off a lot of readers, but there is a cumulative power and occasional beauty in the relentless wretchedness that Suttree and his biographer wallow in.