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Original Essays | August 21, 2014

Richard Bausch: IMG Why Literature Can Save Us



Our title is, of course, a problem. "Why Literature Can Save Us." And of course the problem is one of definition: what those words mean. What is... Continue »
  1. $18.87 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    Before, During, After

    Richard Bausch 9780307266262

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Customer Comments

dogd has commented on (1) product.

Suttree by Cormac Mccarthy
Suttree

dogd, February 11, 2009

I sense that how you arrive at a book, what you know of the author's other works or awards, distorts your reading of it. I came to Suttree from McCarthy's novel "The Road", which was given to me by a five foot tall, raven-haired heavy-metal singer who - besides her pale, pancake-makeup face, had almost every inch of the rest of her body covered with Ray Bradbury-like tattoos. I had no expectations. I expected perhaps, science fiction, or melodrama, something whatever other merits it might have, would be inconsequential. Instead, just days later, I found myself talking with strangers in line at the local Borders - telling them, yes, yes, I enthusiastically recommend The Road, but that I feel almost guilty in doing so because it is the most completely depressing, savage, unsparing book that I have ever read. Recommending The Road is like speaking fondly of a near death experience. So I came to Suttree from that unrelenting, yet paradoxically linear horrorshow - with its three characters (father, son, ravaged world), and felt as if I was Alice through the looking glass. Was this really the same author? Suttree seemed to me a far less confident work, with page after page of unnecessary description, an ill-defined main character, a 'hooting waxworks' of supporting characters, all of which insulated both Suttree and the reader from the despair that lies at the book's heart. I felt that McCarthy was - as the late Celtic announcer Johnny Most would say, 'fiddling and diddling'. I read the book eagerly, keeping a running list of the words I didn't know, and the words McCarthy made up, and compiling the names and occupations of the dozens of characters (and their occupations) that he tossed about with literary disdain. I think this book is well worth reading, but does not compare well to McCarthy's later works (except perhaps, to discuss the writer's development). I suppose that comparing McCarthy to McCarthy is unfair, except that it leads to the suggestion that someone interested in his work should begin at the beginning, lest he or she be disappointed.
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