At one of the bookstores I used to work for I helped to sell more than 500 copies of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian by writing on a little review card in big block letters, DROP EVERYTHING AND READ THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW. Suttree was a harder sell. The only line I remember from that particular shelf review card is, Life can be cruel and McCarthy's novels crueler, but redemption comes through self-knowledge. Basically the novel is about a man who lives under a bridge. There's also a good scene with some pumpkin fucking in it. The day I looked over at the fiction shelf and saw Cormac McCarthy himself wearing little half glasses and squinting at what I'd written about his work was the day I vowed to relentlessly pursue a career in astrophysics. Or at least a career in writing limericks about astrophysics and reading Suttree over and over again.

I choose Suttree to take with me to a desert island only if I can bring an O.E.D. along too, because McCarthy uses words you haven't seen unless you have a graduate degree in spelling. If I'm not allowed the O.E.D., my runner-up novel is Lolita, but I'll still need a pocket dictionary because there's nothing like an ESL student to make you wish you'd paid more attention in that graduate spelling class. If still no dictionary is allowed, I'll take either Liar's Club (funny, profane, beer drinking) or The Last Good Kiss (funny, profane, beer drinking dogs).