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Suttree Paperback – May 5, 1992

4.2 out of 5 stars 199 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in Knoxville, Tenn., in the 1950s, this novel tells the story of a man who has repudiated his well-to-do parents, deserted his wife and is now a river fisherman who consorts with robbers, ragmen and other outcasts. "McCarthy captures these people's lives and speech with a tough, lyric grace," PW commented.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Suttree contains a humour that is Faulknerian in its gentle wryness, and a freakish imaginative flair reminiscent of Flannery O'Connor.” —The Times Literary Supplement (London)

“All of McCarthy’s books present the reviewer with the same welcome difficulty. They are so good that one can hardly say how good they really are. . . . Suttree may be his magnum opus. Its protagonist, Cornelius Suttree, has forsaken his prominent family to live in a dilapidated houseboat among the inhabitants of the demimonde along the banks of the Tennessee River. His associates are mostly criminals of one sort or another, and Suttree is, to say the least, estranged from what might be called normal society. But he is so involved with life (and it with him) that when in the end he takes his leave, the reader’s heart goes with him. Suttree is probably the funniest and most unbearably sad of McCarthy’s books . . . which seem to me unsurpassed in American literature.” —Stanley Booth

From the Hardcover edition.

More from Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy is known for his profoundly dark fiction and masterful reflections on the nature of good and evil. Visit Amazon's Cormac McCarthy Page.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (May 5, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679736328
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679736325
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Cormac McCarthy was born in Rhode Island. He later went to Chicago, where he worked as an auto mechanic while writing his first novel, The Orchard Keeper. The Orchard Keeper was published by Random House in 1965; McCarthy's editor there was Albert Erskine, William Faulkner's long-time editor. Before publication, McCarthy received a traveling fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which he used to travel to Ireland. In 1966 he also received the Rockefeller Foundation Grant, with which he continued to tour Europe, settling on the island of Ibiza. Here, McCarthy completed revisions of his next novel, Outer Dark. In 1967, McCarthy returned to the United States, moving to Tennessee. Outer Dark was published by Random House in 1968, and McCarthy received the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Writing in 1969. His next novel, Child of God, was published in 1973. From 1974 to 1975, McCarthy worked on the screenplay for a PBS film called The Gardener's Son, which premiered in 1977. A revised version of the screenplay was later published by Ecco Press. In the late 1970s, McCarthy moved to Texas, and in 1979 published his fourth novel, Suttree, a book that had occupied his writing life on and off for twenty years. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1981, and published his fifth novel, Blood Meridian, in 1985. All the Pretty Horses, the first volume of The Border Trilogy, was published by Knopf in 1992. It won both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award and was later turned into a feature film. The Stonemason, a play that McCarthy had written in the mid-1970s and subsequently revised, was published by Ecco Press in 1994. Soon thereafter, Knopf released the second volume of The Border Trilogy, The Crossing; the third volume, Cities of the Plain, was published in 1998.McCarthy's next novel, No Country for Old Men was published in 2005. This was followed in 2006 by a novel in dramatic form, The Sunset Limited, originally performed by Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago and published in paperback by Vintage Books. McCarthy's most recent novel, The Road, was published in 2006 and won the Pulitzer Prize.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Prior to reading Cormac McCarthy's "SUTTREE" (1979), my only experience with the author was with his highly touted work, "BLOOD MERIDIAN" (1985). Although the latter work is a unique masterpiece ( utilizing a lightning pace and truly spectacular language ) the breadth and easy flow of "SUTTREE" is completely true to its own quirky nature. Oddly enough, given the stomach churning violence and ( apparent ) triumph of evil portrayed in "BLOOD MERIDIAN", McCarthy's earlier novel is actually the more profoundly sad ( and certainly more humorous ) of the two.
It is fair to speculate that this work was special to McCarthy since he was drawing a portrait of the town and era in which he grew up ( Knoxville, Tennessee in the 1950's ). Others, who are familiar with the work of William Faulkner ( as I am not ) will be better equipped to discuss whether this "southern" novel bears any major resemblance to the late master from Mississippi. My "take" on "SUTTREE" can only come ( as is natural ) from past literary experiences and, perhaps more importantly, a particular "world view". Although stronger and more learned readers will undoubtedly shed more light on the work, I hope nonetheless that the following thoughts will help others reflect on "SUTTREE" and decide for themselves what it's "all about".
After a short and soaring descriptive prelude ( a wasteland grotesquerie ), the novel's namesake Cornelius Suttree is introduced. Appropriately enough, this first glimpse takes place alongside the silent and abused Tennessee River, a Styx-like emblem of eternity running through the mid 20th century "Hades" of Knoxville, where Suttree lives on a rundown houseboat.
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Comment 156 of 171 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
ok...for a brief opinion, i think this is an absolutely amazing work of fiction that ranks up there with the best of faulkner...it ranks up there with the best books ive ever read...the prose really makes me reread passages out loud, just as previously posted by another reviewer...

in response to those that deem the work short on plot, i just wanted to mention this....i could be remembering wrong but i am pretty sure that this is a somewhat autobiographical work that focuses on mccarthy quitting the drink and leaving tennessee for texas...so this is not necessarily the same kind of work that the border trilogy or blood meridian are.

something interesting for me in reading these reviews is that faulkner suffered from the same kind of criticisms, especially while he was alive...lack of structure and coherent plot...

i do believe that he is the greatest living american author...if not, i would love to find the person that beats him.
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Format: Paperback
I have never used this term in a review, but this is a work of genius. McCarthy's Blood Meridian may have a more taut artistic virtuousity to it, but Suttree rings sprawlingly true to life and love while at the same time delivering the poetic lyricism of the arabesques and grotesqueries of life that stamp McCarthy as the greatest and most visionary writer of our time. Here is the pathos, bitterweetness, and comedy (Can anyone forget Harrogate and the bats, much less his getting off the charge of bestiality because "A mellon ain't no beast"?!?) of being human.-All this delivered in the most magnificent sweeping prose since Lowry (A writer I'd recommend to McCarthy fans) and Faulkner.
But down to some philosophical nuts and bolts: This is a dark novel displaying a visionary medieval mindset, much like Lowry's Under The Volcano (To my mind, the only other novelist of pure genius of this century..). It is the seemingly effortless interweaving of the visionary with the mundane that make this novel so astounding. We are witnesses to page upon page of brilliant poetic lightenings upon a tableau of "a terrestrial hell" as Suttree puts it, a place which not only he, but we all inhabit.
To quote at length: "What deity in the realms of dementia, what rabid god decocted out of the smoking lobes of hydrophobia could have devised a keeping place for souls so poor as this flesh. This mawky wormbent tabernacle."

This is the question this brilliant work thrusts before the reader in page upon glowing page.
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Format: Hardcover
Absolutely exquisite. Perhaps that adjective gets overused nowadays, but here it is appropriate - perhaps even not strong enough of a term. "Suttree" is a must must must-read. It is such a profound indictment of the human race that it could be used as evidence against us if we are ever sued by space aliens. When viewed in terms of "Blood Meridian" and all of C McC's pre-Natl Book Award works, his range as an author is revealed and is humbling. The man is our greatest living novelist. I am grateful to him for having offered this work to the world.
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By A Customer on July 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a most extraordinary novel, densely packed with dark and dire images, by turns brutal and tender. It is elegant, down and dirty, occasionally shocking and surprisingly funny. I don't know when I have read more beautiful prose describing more debased circumstances than in Suttree.
I was introduced to this novel by a close friend who was so slammed by the impact of the first page that she had to put it down for a week just to let it sink in. I have to admit, I re-read the first 3 pages about a dozen times throughout my reading of the novel. They do pack a wallop. Actually, there are several passages in the book that so floored me I had to go back and re-read them.
The language of this tale is incredible, carefully wrought, full of fantastic words (keep a dictionary close by.) At times laconic, at times incredibly detailed. And at times so unrelentingly down and out you just have to laugh. Harold Pinter once praised Samuel Beckett saying that he 'leaves no stone unturned, no maggot lonely.' I'd say the same for McCarthy in this novel. Who else could generate so much sympathy for a melon-humping hayseed dork like Gene Harrogate? Or any other of the motley assemblage with whom Suttree inexplicably chooses to fraternize.
I don't want to ruin any surprises, so I'll just assure you that Suttree's immersion in debauchery and desolation is not for its own sake. The book has a heart. The book has soul to burn. This is just the best damned novel I've read in years. Maybe ever. Relish it.
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