“Somewhere in the gray wood by the river is the huntsman and in the brooming corn and in the castellated press of cities. His work lies all wheres and his hounds tire not. I have seen them in a dream, slaverous and wild and their eyes crazed with ravening for souls in this world. Fly them.” –Suttree, C.M.
The story of an underachieving southerner, set upon the Tennessee River in Knoxville , Suttree is absolutely packed with the poetically descriptive style that McCarthy fans are so familiar with. The novel takes place on a street level amongst the shanties, speakeasies and flophouses of skid row that will remind some of Bukowski. The man, Suttree, lives in a world of his own rendering, befriended by tramps and hustlers, prostitutes and swindlers that paint a stark portrait of a Post-war urban Midsouth. Suttree the character may not carry around the same fire in his gut as a Henry Chinanski, but they are both stalked by demons and both give the sense of men outside of their surroundings, larger than their predicaments.
Although considered a dark comedy of sorts, the archetypal gore and violent imagery that is part of what defines McCarthy is present, even if in less quantity than his other novels, and the minor characters coalesce from dark and polluted depths to become defined by a sense of familiarity that leaves you knowing them and suspicious of cruel intentions.
His first major novel to be published, it is thick and deep with literary prowess. In fact, at times it seems that Mr. McCarthy’s first opportunity to flex his prosaic muscle leaves the reader almost cluttered in an artist’s pent thoughts. So keep a college level, or above, dictionary handy when you read this one. Seriously, the guy plays with words like a puppy plays with slippers. He chews them up and spits them out in new self-construed forms and conjugates them to satisfy his will alone.
McCarthy’s is a world of giants and trolls, a haunting echo of ours, hidden under bridges and in dank holes where monsters of the soul do roam and slaverous hounds do pester. Learn them.