Posts Tagged ‘Suttree’

The Olivetti – Cormac McCarthy’s Original Laptop

December 1, 2009

i’m part of the last generation that might still remember the typewriter in any form. My mom owned both kinds in my life time, manual and electric, and helped type the majority of my school reports right up through high school on them – I would write them out long hand and then she would type them.  The click/clack of the keys on the manuals and the weird little hum of the electric is something that has a strange fondness for me. And, apparently, for Cormac McCarthy, too.

The NYT has a little story about McCarthy putting his portable Olivetti typewriter up for auction. The author of The Road, Suttree and other novels says the machine has probably seen upwards of five million words fall out of his finger tips and onto the page through the metal levers and letters of the mechanisms of the machine.

Thinking of writers of yesteryear, it seems the implements they used to hone and carry out their craft were as special and singular as their prose. I’m not a great historian of such matters. Other than McCarthy’s use of a portable Olivetti, I know Kerouac used an Underwood and it pretty much stops there for what I remember. But I do know I’ve heard more than a few stories of writers and their pens, their typewriters, their memo pads and everything else. It seems as if once these writers found a method for moving their thoughts from their head to the page that they never or rarely wandered from their ritual (McCarthy only agreed to give up his Olivetti when a friend of his found and bound a matching model in far better condition).

It makes me think of modern writers and our use of the computer. We might stick to a particular word processor program but we probably burn through four, five, six, or more computers over our life times and will probably bounce all over the map with who we buy them from. McCarthy mentions how young people don’t have any idea what a typewriter even is any more as a general comment about how society has moved on in the past ten years or so. But it’s also a sharper comment on the changing face of the author.

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Suttree – Review

August 27, 2009

I’m not good at catching the humor so many critics laud this book for having. This isn’t to say the novel isn’t funny -it is- or that it isn’t good -it is- but that maybe my personal experience robs the novel of some of the humor and tilts it more towards the side of sadness that Stanley Booth saw within it.

I don’t doubt that much of the humor people see in it stems from the outlandishly country, poor, uneducated and simple people who populate the novel as the people Suttree calls friends and acquaintances. Are they outlandish? Yes. Are they humorous? To a degree. But these are also people that, for me, had an air of genuineness.

Which may be more of a reflection of my own rural upbringing than anything else.  Stories of people doing crazy things, being around people doing ill-advised things, people living relatively modest and simple lives are things I’m accostomed to. They are familiar. And from how Suttree has been described as semi-autobiographical, I have a feeling that McCarthy may share similar feelings.

So while I can smile at the misadventures, I don’t see them as starkly comedic that seems to be implied by the majority of reviews that I have read. This is not Cormac McCarthy doing Catch-22 or Breakfast of Champions. This is Cormac McCarthy stepping a bit outside of his norm and excelling with it.

The Faulkner comparisons are apt. Suttree reads like a Faulkner novel, though more entertainingly. Time and voice shifts throughout, characters drift to and from the action, as you read the novel nearly has the feeling of a kaleidoscope. Though it’s not the rough edged jumble of a William S. Burroughs novel, this kaleidoscope does seem to have the hand of a higher power at work, gently nudging it along to places it was destined to go at times it was destined to be there.

Suttree at Amazon