The most recent time I read those words, it was 10 o'clock at night in the rehab center. Dead quiet, in the dead of winter. My room chilly. I was holding the book while seated in a wheelchair by the side of my bed. The wheelchair tilted back to ease the pain of my shoulders, where flesh had been removed to try to patch the hole in my chin. I had a blanket wrapped around me, even covering my head and the back of my neck.
When I was drinking, I went to O'Rourke's on North Avenue, which was heated in the early days only by a wood-burning stove. Dress warmly and drink in a cool room, was my motto. Now in the hospital those cold, cold words of McCarthys' transported me. At a point beneath desire, I was there on Suttree's leaking houseboat in the hopeless dawn, sharing the ordeal of Suttree, the general, and Golgotha. It was an improvement. I was not trapped in a bed and a chair. I was not hooked up to anything. I was miserable, but I was alive, and McCarthy was still able to write that perfect terse dialogue. That is the thing about McCarthy. He is both the teller and the subject of Suttree. I do not mean anything so banal as that the book is autobiographical. It is the merciless record of a state of mind, the alcoholic state of mind, even when Suttree is not drinking but is white-knuckling it.
Monday, November 23, 2009
The horse named Golgotha hung between the trees
Unsurprisingly (or, perhaps surprisingly if you only remember him for his old TV shows and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), Roger Ebert is well read. Scroll way down for his reading of Cormac McCarthy's Suttree: