He dreamed (Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree)

He dreamed of a race at the poles who rode on sleds of walrus hide and rucked up horn and ivory all drawn by dogs and bristling with lances and harpoon spears, the hunters shrouded in fur, slow caravans against the late noon winter sunset, against the rim of the world, whispering over the blue snow with their sledloads of piled meat and skins and viscera. Small bloodstained hunters drifting like spores above the frozen chlorine void, from flower to flower of bright vermilion gore across the vast boreal plain.

A feverdream from late in Cormac McCarthy’s novel Suttree. Finished the book again this afternoon, via an Michael Kramer’s audiobook—and lots of rereading. I’ve read the last 20 or so pages three times now, and have some thoughts that may coalesce into a riff around the book’s ending (Does Suttree die?).

Last time I wrote at length about Suttree, I focused on how McCarthy synthesizes so much of literature—particularly American lit—in this novel. The passage above is just one minute but shining detail in a baroque masterpiece bristling with such moments. And while it taps into a sort of primeval American past, it also seems to point outward—maybe to McCarthy’s next novel, Blood Meridian, but also to, I don’t know, William Vollmann’s novel The Rifles.

3 thoughts on “He dreamed (Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree)”

  1. I’m going to miss reading these extracts from Suttree. Thanks so much for posting them! Guess I’ll just have to re-read the novel.

    I must admit I’m always trying to find ways to connect one McCarthy novel to the next. It would be interesting to find some little hint at the end of Suttree (perhaps you already have with the above passage) that directly bridges the gap between it and Blood Meridian (my favourite book). That is, something that spoke to McCarthy’s transition from his preoccupations with his own East Tennessee Appalachian recollections and reveries, out onto the prairies and the bloodlands of the West. Perhaps there’s nothing so obvious in Suttree, but I always read this passage from the beginning of Blood Meridian, which is about the kid, as talking about McCarthy himself and a predestination of his own future:

    Only now is the child finally divested of all that he has been. His origins are become remote as is his destiny and not again in all the world’s turning will there be terrains so wild and barbarous to try whether the stuff of creation may be shaped to man’s will or whether his own heart is not another kind of clay.

    Looking forward to reading a possible riff on the end of Suttree!


    1. It’s such a great re-read…makes me want to go back to all the early ones. Although—I’m now into Blood Meridian again (the audiobook read by Richard Poe…again). I think there’s a lot of language in Suttree that points to Blood Meridian, including the passage you note—for sure!—but it’s ultimately such a pivot from those early novels, which I believe Suttree to be the acme of…


Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.