Suttree Suttree discussion


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Bianca I just finished labouring through this book, I forced myself to finish it, seeing as it was supposed to be one of McCarthys most critically acclaimed books. And i genuinly hated every adjective-filled page! What did I miss?
I have given it 1 star, while it's gotten an average of 4? For me, it was over descriptive, to the point where it completely lost my attention. It was repetitive and at times hard to keep up with, with all the random characters. I didn't find that Suttree himself had a lot of redeeming features at all, and the book had basically no point in the end. What did everyone else think?


Zach Irvin It's amazing. Not easy, but amazing.


Steven Have you read anything else by McCarthy? Maybe try The Road, I found it a lot more accessible.

Suttree blew my mind, made me cry and laugh. It is an amazing book.


Bianca No, I haven't read the road yet, but I do have a copy waiting for me to pick up....I figured I needed a McCarthy break for a couple of books first!

What did you specifically like about Suttree? I am confused about how my opinion varies so much to the general commmunity. I found every page virtually the same scene painted over and over again in different words. And sure, they were impressive words and it was well written. But every page was a struggle to keep my attention, I was virtually reading it a page at a time in some spots. I found it mildly interesting, the parts of the book that delved into his relationships with women. But it was also very frustrating, the way it was mentioned with such ambivalence that his son died, and then the topic was quickly changed, never to be spoken about again.

I'm not sure if I was supposed to, but I actually didn't like his character at all.

Basically, I got nothing out of this book, what did you get out of it?


Steven I had to think for a while before replying, so sorry. I'm afraid that I'm not nearly well spoken or proficient enough with the English language to adequately express my feelings for this book. The thing that stood out most where the characters, so divers, so alive. It also occurred to me that his writing style really say a lot about the character Suttree as well, like the way he spends pages about the way he decorates a room, compared to only a few sentences about the death of his friend or even his son. It reflects the way he thinks about those events and how they affect him.

Then again, you might want to check out some of the reviews people have written for this book, some of them explain my feelings way better than I can.


message 6: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Jannotti I think you did a pretty good job of explaining things, Steven.

Bianca, it's possible that this novel just doesn't work for you. But I'd like to throw something out there and see what you think.

Suttree is a very complicated character. On the one hand, he seems not to care about the people who seemingly should mean the most to him: family and relations. It's clear that he did love his son because he risks a lot to be present back home for his sake. Think not only about what happens to him while he's there, but also as he heads home, as that is part of the journey. Aside from his son, most others in his family are paid scant narrative attention. As Steven suggested, I think this is part of McCarthy's style in this novel.

On the other hand, Suttree treats the least, last and lost of the world (true, he is one of their number, but only by choice) with uncommon grace and compassion. For example, look at the many things he does for Harrogate, who is the bottommost bottom dweller in the book. Gene is one on whom everyone has given up. Except Suttree, who literally redeems him from the depths of the earth.

Suttree's last act in the book comes only after Harrogate is no longer a factor. In essence, it's almost as if Suttree says, "My work here is done."

This short summary of one aspect of "Suttree" doesn't even constitute a beginning of an analysis of the work as a whole. It is a tapestry of many, many textures.

The Road or No Country for Old Men might be more to your liking, however, many readers have come away from those books feeling like they were unrelentingly bleak. While I might agree with that assessment of No Country, I think The Road is quite a hopeful book, the problem is that such hope only appears fleetingly and is hard to notice.


Extra Mustard I think McCarthy's books require a certain maturity to appreciate. These books aren't on the level say of "Twilight". Perhaps you can come back later and reread "Suttree" when you have "matured" a little. I dare say you would ever make it through "Blood Meridan" if you didn't like "Suttree". Not to be insulting let me explain myself. I have heard of people that tried to read, let's say, Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" for example, only to be put off by it's size and content and let it sit on the shelf and years later picked it up again and read it cover to cover. As I said I'm not being insulting, but some times a little maturity is needed and life lived a little more in order to understand what some authors have to say and for you to appreciate the content.

Aside from all that, this is my fourth McCarthy title, having read "Blood Meridan, "The Road" and "All the Pretty Horses" prior to this book and I am looking forward to reading the rest of McCarthy's titles.

Suttree was an incredible read from start to finish. I took it everywhere with me and read a few pages when I could and more pages when time wasn't an issue. I finished this book yesterday and I am still thinking about the characters and the interaction each one had on Suttree and the sadness and unrelenting struggle to survive against all odds. Hella book.


message 8: by Bianca (last edited Sep 01, 2012 05:50AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Bianca Thank you for taking the time Jim and Steven for sharing your perspectives, I appreciate it. I do almost feel compelled to pick up this book again..one day, just to see if I can get the same value out of it that you have.

I do wonder if it could be a book that men enjoy more than women, it appears that a lot of the good reviews are coming from men? I had no respect or sensitivity, or just plain understanding of why Suttree treated different people the way he did, or why he seemed to place more importance on certain things than others. Maybe there is a gender gap here, in the way in which men and women think? (which mystifies me at the best of times) Maybe not, maybe it's purely a personaility thing, and as you say Jim, this novel just didn't work for me.

As for your comments Extra...I appreciate what you are saying, and I'm sure that there could be elements of fact in there. I have however, not read twilight. Perhaps your comment would have been taken a little less as insulting and a little more constructively without reference to that. Not sure what point you were trying to prove there.


message 9: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Jannotti Bianca,

Interesting point about men vs. women. I hadn't noted that and you may be right. In any event, I think you should read what you like and if Suttree isn't such a novel, then let it go.

There are so many good books in the world; it's not worth it to burden yourself with the task of sticking with one you don't like.


message 10: by Steven (last edited Sep 01, 2012 07:17AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Steven I had to power my way through Suttree as well, and I'm a huge McCarthy fan. I loved The Road and Blood Meridian, and I have read formidable books like Atlas Shrugged and House of Leaves, but something about Suttree was unreadable for me. I found the character of Suttree to be altogether unlikable, I guess. Perhaps I do need to give Suttree another chance. But until then, you are not alone, Bianca.


message 11: by Sean (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sean I felt like Cormac was leading the whole book up to the last two words he wrote. "Fly them". Get out, start anew, escape what can be escaped. Have the courage and understading to realize that you have the stuff to escape.
Even with all of its squalor and moroseness and degradation, Cormac allowed Sut to fly. Don't let its mood and setting deter you from the point he was trying to get across. Suttree was a success story. It was inspiring.
-Sean


message 12: by Vincent (new) - added it

Vincent Odhiambo I have just dipped my toes into the book, fifty pages or so, and I absolutely love it. Having read All The Pretty Horses and The Road, this might turn out my best book by Cormac. I love the prose, the slow burn of his plot, Suttree's character... It is bleak, but I believe it pays off to keep at it.


Molly Ison While I ended up loving the book, I can see where there might be a gender gap, since McCarthy writes almost exclusively about straight male experiences - being in a prison with male inmates, having sexual experiences with women, being an absent father... and to a large extent, the character of Suttree could not be replaced by a woman and have the same experiences, because so much of the book is about the way other people relate to him. Whether or not you think it's right that a woman would have been treated differently in those situations, there's no question a female ex-inmate who was a drifter and absent mother would have had people relate to her differently.

I found the first chapters difficult to get into, but when Suttree meets Harrogate, I found it so funny that it was my hook into the rest of the book.


Robert Jacoby I think I gave it 3 stars. The style of his writing did not work for me at all in the novel's setting. And I'm a big fan of McCarthy in The Road, No Country for Old Men, and Blood Meridian (one of my favorite novels, ever). But in Suttree it just doesn't work for me. It's overdone and out of place. Also, I never know what is motivating Suttree. I was always waiting for some revelation of what is driving the man. I never did get it. Beautiful prose in this book, but not much else.


David Schmalz I agree with most everything written above, and especially like Sean's take. I don't think Suttree is motivated by much, he's just trying to find a peaceful way to live in a dark place, with limited success. It's also interesting to consider how much of McCarthy is in Suttree, as it is set in the Knoxville of his youth, and it was a book he worked on, in spurts, for 20 years.
I also agree that the rhythm of Suttree, like most of McCarthy's work, is far more attuned to a man's way of seeing the world. I struggle to think of a single woman I'd recommend tis book to.


Shimmy Boyle I agree that this is by no means an easy book, but I think McCarthy did a pretty masterful job of capturing the bleakness of life for this cast of characters who, by choice or not, are basically drop-outs from normal society.

Also, as David said, it was written over the course of many, many years, which I think probably contributes to its inaccessibility, making it far more disjointed than it might have been if written in a shorter time.

For my money, Gene Harrogate makes this book worthwhile. The humor and levity of Harrogate as a character not only counterbalance the bleakness, with a number of laugh-out-loud moments, but his constant innocence and naiveté in the face of total poverty also make the whole thing so much more heartbreaking.

I also agree with what Sean said. The last paragraph of the book is just absolutely killer.

I think this is my favorite McCarthy novel. That being said, I definitely don't think this book is for everyone.


Robert Jacoby Of the McCarthy books I've read--No Country for Old Men, The Road, Suttree, and Blood Meridian--Suttree is the one that works least for me. The thick prose is what literally kills it. That and the complete lack of tension. As I writer, I can appreciate the beauty of the thick walls of text McCarthy has built up here, especially, for example, near the end where Suttree is fevered and hallucinating for -- what? -- 4 or 5 pages? I was hallucinating by the end of that! But the style of the writing never worked for me.

Now, Blood Meridian. That's one of my favorite novels, ever.


message 18: by Molly (last edited Apr 08, 2013 09:49PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Molly Ison I had a problem with the thick prose in some of the earlier books - it felt inappropriate for the Appalachian settings and a little ridiculous when combined with the more stripped down characters. I noticed that McCarthy faded in and out of it with Suttree. The first few pages are extremely thick, but once some of the dialog gets going, a lot of the verbosity goes away. By the time that Harrogate is introduced, the prose style is a lot different. I see the beginning as well as some scattered wordy interludes as a warmup for Blood Meridian. He uses some of the same or very similar words - alluvial, ossature, penumbra, auguries... "Even a false adumbration of the world of the spirit is better than none at all" feels like it would fit into Blood Meridian.

But on the other hand, the first few pages of Blood Meridian start in a much simpler style (See the child. He is pale and thin...) and builds up toward the thicker prose style that Suttree starts with. I find it much more suited to the extreme landscape of Blood Meridian than the damper, greener, populated atmosphere of Suttree.


Robert Jacoby That's how I saw the writing in Suttree, too, Molly.

And the opening line of Blood Meridian (See the child.) somehow reminded me of Moby-Dick (Call me Ishmael.).


Robert Jacoby Had to be, Quintin, had to be. Moby-Dick is epic to 19th -century American literature as I think Blood Meridian is to 20th-century American literature.


Jennifer I did not like Suttree either. It is hard to really like the book when you just don't like the main character.

I really did like The Road and The Crossing. They were worth the difficulty of the adjective-filled pages.


message 22: by John (new)

John Gunter I've read every book McCarthy has published and Suttree is my favorite with Blood Meridian being a close second. I'm not sure if I can adequately articulate why I enjoyed this book so much. I've read it a few times and occasionally just pick it up to revisit some of my old friend.


message 23: by Hadler Oliveira (new)

Hadler Oliveira Wow, a 9 year old thread. Well, here is my take on it anyways. Suttree is indeed, objectively speaking, an overly descriptive book. And it can only be compared to Ulysses (as has been said) in the sense that you can shave off 200 pages and not miss a thing. The best part of the book are the dialogues. Incredibly well created characters and very flowing dialogues. All that is tainted by so much description and so many obscure terms. It is clear that McCarthy was not as polished (and arguably not as good a writer) when he wrote this as he is in his later books. So, no, Bianca, you are absolutely right in your assessment. It just ain't a pleasant read.


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