I just finished this book and wow.
Okay first thing is I’m already pretty into McCarthy’s work. Blood Meridian is one of my favorite book. We know I like it dark and grim and he does it.
I think Suttree might now be my favorite McCarthy book. Read the synopsis here.
The thing about this book that I love is how well McCarthy captures the casual racism of 1950’s Knoxville and also captures that singular usage of racial slurs that are not backed by implicit hate. They are there, a lot but not overdone and not as some authors make the mistake of doing always used in a very hateful context.
The Black folks in this book behaved appropriately. In their own neighborhood and establishments while they were a bit deferential, they weren’t shuck and jive negroes that populate other books.
There is something very specific about that time period and how Black and white people who are within the same socioeconomic (or close) class interact that was captured so well. It wasn’t the bucolic oh look they could ALL get along, but it wasn’t abject fear and horror.
I LOVE the language and usage in this book. McCarthy is a master with language and this book is no exception. The finesse of using the vernacular of the time, of the Black folks of the time, of the poor uneducated southerners and then every now and then slipping in this beautifully used 7$ vocabulary gave me chills. I am an absolute fool for the ability to manipulate language that way and this book, god damn it.
Even the language around how Suttree interacts with a black queer man up through the end of the book is palpably both loving and a little grossed out.
The whole book has that magic in it, the rhythm of the plot is meandering and at moments turns very sharp but never in a way that takes the reader out of the story. Shit happens and like most of McCarthy’s work there is a lot of darkness in this book and the darkness makes the beautiful moments glitter.
Often when I read books during this time period a few things happen. Often they are all White utopia’s where your average White dude spent a lot of time not saying nigger or worrying about race relations, the conflicts of the time are ignored, or it is Black folks pain porn in one form or another. Or it is LOOK THEY WERE FRIENDS AND LIVED PEACEFULLY TOGETHER IN THE SUPER DEEP SOUTH AND POWER POLITICS DIDN’T PLAY INTO IT AT ALL…*ahem the help*.
I am not old enough to have lived at the time but, I was very blessed to have had access to Black people who did. Some I was related to some not.
There is a lot of nuance in race relations during that time especially in the deep South. Beyond that there are shades of racism and realities that to write that time period successfully while including interaction between White and Black people, it’s just difficult.
This book will be difficult reading for some. The racism, the poverty, the grim winter and general darkness. For those who aren’t deterred, if you’re going to read McCarthy read this one.
It meanders beautifully. Some have said it is overlong but I don’t agree. The language is so beautifully done, it could have gone on more and I would have been happy. The POV shifts are done masterfully and smoothly.
This book reminds me of the blues, roots, bluegrass etc music I like. Some of it is so damn sad and terrible you want to lay down and cry. But it’s done so beautifully you want the pain.
So to wrap up.
Read this fuckin book.
I’ll be back with some craft notes maybe tomorrow and next week I’ll be back in Yeah Write with more flash.
I also want to mention that my dear friend Dena Rash Guzman talked about some recent lit world nonsense and said some nice stuff about my work. Get it at Luna Luna.
I feel like I might talk about subversion again. And the general lack of it in the lit world right now. I also probably want to talk about my poetry. I have some feels and whatnot.
AND (shit I have a lot to do, I’ve been sick for weeks and am way off my game) I really want to discuss some important feeling decisions I’ve made of late in regard to my writing.
So yeah LOTS to talk about.
Right now I’m gonna go try to write my first op-ed type thing and chug some mighty fine ass coffee.