Musician Jim White on Knoxville, and how Cormac McCarthy saved his life:
"In my left coat pocket is a dog-eared copy of Cormac McCarthy’s novel Suttree, which happens to be set here in Knoxville way back in the ’50s. I’m not much of a planner, so to some extent or another (depending on your take on the mechanics of serendipity) it’s sheer coincidence that it ended up in my suitcase as I packed for this tour. Likewise I’m no great bibliophile, certainly not one of those types who might find it exhilarating to locate and use, say, the exact toilet that Jack Kerouac took a shit in while writing On the Road. That said, I’m happy it ended up with me here in Knoxville, as the city itself is practically a character in the novel. Gay and Central Streets, where Walter’s barbershop is, are mentioned frequently, so it’s interesting to be in the physical locale where the action takes place. I’m about halfway through Suttree this time around. I’ve read it front to back many times, usually when events in my life have gone spiraling out of control and that black cloud of depression that’s dogged me off and on for much of my adult years descends."
PUBLISHED: June 12, 2012
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4987 words)
The writer becomes pen pals with an ornery old poet, Hayden Carruth:
"For most of his life, the beard was cropped and average — it was an unserious beard. But by the time I met him in 2003, it was the broad, white beard of a poet in exile, grown out in his desolate corner of America, a nothing-town near Syracuse called Munnsville. 'The kids call it Funs-ville,' he told me. Walking into his rickety red house, I said something like, 'What a nice house' — to be polite. 'Hayden tried to commit suicide in this house,' his wife, Joe-Anne, shot out reflexively.
"'No, I didn’t,' Hayden said, barely turning his head from the picture window. 'Yes, you did,' Joe-Anne shouted. She nagged him. They bickered a while. Then he raised his voice, interrupted her and settled it: 'The pills were in the house,' Hayden said, 'but I did it in the car.'"
PUBLISHED: May 31, 2012
LENGTH: 6 minutes (1584 words)