The Wrong Side of the Tracks
This is a city of “reeking clapboard warrens where children cried and craven halfbald watchdogs yapped and slank.” In Knoxville, “every other face is goitered, twisted, tubered with some excrescence.” Here there is a horse named Golgotha and there are “wild street preachers haranguing a lost world with a vigor unknown to the sane.”
Sometimes it is a picture of hell, bloated and strained, only accessible through thick, gassy language, as when “troops of ghost cavalry clashed in an outraged sky, old spectral revenants armed with rusted tools of war colliding parallactically upon each other like figures from a mass grave shorn up and girdled and cast with dread import across the clanging night and down remoter slopes between the dark and darkness yet to come.”
But, like a Summer storm, always roiling on the horizon, the bombast disappears as quickly as it arrives, in images and feelings with the force of a knuckle on the head. Our protagonist reflects on the subject of these images: ”Remember her curves in the morning before they were shined, red, rampant, savage with loveliness. As if she slept in perpetual storm.”
I am, of course, stealing unabashedly from Cormac McCarthy’s dark and merciless semi-autobiographical river novel Suttree. Just out of frame in some of these pictures is a high-gravity beer tavern that is cynically eponymous. Though the vicious tale describes the city as it was over 60 years ago, much of it rings true. The tracks have always drawn the lost, the desperate, the reprobate. However, as Suttree makes clear, this node for the degenerate can also yield savage and merciless—but true and therefore beautiful—reflections of the city and her denizens.
I think Domino fits into McCarthy’s image of the city perfectly. He is dead; his childhood home is burned to the ground, but the savagery and grit about which he wrote so beautifully persists, and I take comfort in that.