Thursday, March 27, 2008

i heart cormac mccarthy

[I originally posted this on my design blog yesterday, but I thought I'd share it here, with some added thoughts]
Oh man, I love his books. I'm reading All The Pretty Horses right now and I can't put it down. It's a nice change of pace in my reading of his novels- not as dense as Suttree and not as bleak as The Road. He has made it into the top pantheon of writers in my mind, most of which are dead- so who knows how many more great book he'll write?

The New York Review of Books review of The Road made an interesting observation:

That book [Blood Meridian] is usually viewed... representing a kind of fulcrum, a borderland between the early quartet of Tennessee novels written in the 1960s and 1970s (The Orchard Keeper, Outer Dark, Child of God, and Suttree) that left McCarthy in obscurity and the Border Trilogy (All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain) that brought him fame. In Blood Meridian lushness of prose counterbalances aridity of setting; digression and indirection have not yet ceded the narrative to the dictates of the trilogy's archetypical western plots; and the Gothic impulse vies fiercely with the call to adventure. Setting aside the halfhearted No Country for Old Men, as charitably even the lover of McCarthy must, The Road seems to work its way back to the rich storytelling borderland of horror and the epic.

In short, we're entering the third stage of Cormac McCarthy's writing. Who's excited now?! For now, I'm plowing through his catalog of books- right now The Border Trilogy. 2008 seems destined to be the Year of Cormac.

Now that No Country for Old Men has gotten so much attention, many people are starting to get into McCarthy. But many Knoxvillians don't realize that McCarthy was once a Knoxvillian himself, and that his first four lesser-known books largely feature East Tennessee and Knoxville. Suttree, in particular, draws a vivid picture of mid-century Knoxville with descriptions of Market Square, the River, and all the old slums that used to hug the riverside. Click on "Searching for Suttree" on our sidebar and see if you recognize any places. Along with A Death in the Family, Suttree is THE classic Knoxville novel. There's no horses or bloody shoot outs-it's a complex character study in a complex context. Sorta like Hemingway. If you're living in Knoxville and like to read literature, Suttree is a must read.

I won't repeat what has been written down elsewhere about McCarthy. He's long gone from Knoxville, though he may visit it in his books- just as the father and son did in The Road. I'll end this with an aside: we're missing an opportunity here. By we, I mean Knoxville. Just as we haven't harnessed Bluegrass as part of our identity, the scruffy places that make Suttree so pithy are still here, but just barely. And we're neglecting them. Case in point: The Corner Lounge. A past favorite of McCarthy himself, this unique bar is currently closed after establishing itself as a center of music in Knoxville. Yesterday it was announced that Emory Place is getting new blood pumped into it. The Courtland Group is renovating just up the street. But let's make sure we don't gentrify out the scruffiness that is part of Knoxville's charm. Let's get the Corner Lounge back open in case McCarthy is back in town and needs a beer at a familiar place.

And a suggestion- we need a bar somewhere, on a back alley preferably, called Suttree's. It would be purposely a dive bar that could be a drinking shrine to one of Knoxville's most famous sons. A place that Sut would feel comfortable in, with fishbowls of beer. I think that would be more appropriate for McCarthy than the park was for Agee.


Mickey said...

Good post. I've actually never read McCarthy but have been meaning to start since moving to Knoxville.

stan said...

excellent suggestion. actually, i think we should just reopen the fishbowl place. right off of gay street. there should be a mandatory bar fight required once a week.

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