I’ve salvaged not a word (Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree)

From all old seamy throats of elders, musty books, I’ve salvaged not a word. In a dream I walked with my grandfather by a dark lake and the old man’s talk was filled with incertitude. I saw how all things false fall from the dead. We spoke easily and I was humbly honored to walk with him deep in that world where he was a man like all men. From the small end of a corridor in the autumn woods he watched me go away to the world of the waking. If our dead kin are sainted we may rightly pray to them. Mother Church tells us so. She does not say that they’ll speak back, in dreams or out. Or in what tongue the stillborn might be spoken. More common visitor. Silent. The infant’s ossature, the thin and brindled bones along whose sulcate facets clove old shreds of flesh and cerements of tattered swaddle. Bones that would no more than fill a shoebox, a bulbous skull. On the right temple a mauve halfmoon.

I read Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree five years ago and still haven’t recovered.

I started listening to the audiobook of it this week as I returned to my fall work (school) commute—the language is marvelous in the reading—but I have to go back and dwell on passages, like the one above, which resonates strongly with so much of McCarthy’s work—the son or grandson communing with the dead father, out of dimness, opposite equals advancing. And damn, somehow I’d forgotten that Suttree had a stillborn twin brother. And that the novel begins with a suicide. More to come.

4 thoughts on “I’ve salvaged not a word (Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree)”

  1. So many passages to dwell upon in Suttree. Here’s one of my fav’s from when ol’ Sut leaves Knoxville and goes ‘into the wild’ for a time:

    In these silent sunless galleries he’d come to feel that another went before him and each glade he entered seemed just quit by a figure who’d been sitting there and risen and gone on. Some doublegoer, some othersuttree eluded him in these woods and he feared that should that figure fail to rise and steal away and were he therefore to come to himself in this obscure wood he’d be neither mended nor made whole but rather set mindless to dodder drooling with his ghostly clone from sun to sun across a hostile hemisphere forever.

    I hear McCarthy’s The Passenger is due out next year (and in two volumes!)

    Like

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