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I did not enjoy this one. Not at all. Not one little bit. For more than a week. For me it is unsalvageable. So pared down as to barely constitute a novel at all. Plot has run amok and not in a good way. Suppose a director made a movie or a film, for those who care about such distinctions. Then suppose, for some unknowable reason, the director took those individual trailers, sequenced them end-to-end, then bookended them with mini-scenes involving two of the characters, who in no ways dominate the film as either protagonist or antagonist.
Voila, The Beetle Leg. Reading this has come too hot on the heels of bad experiences with The Master and Margarita and The Tetherballs of Bougainville. But the dirty realism strand of minimalism the two authors share is not inherited one from the other, rather what is used occasionally by the one McCarthy seems to be part and parcel of the other Hawkes , at least in TBL.
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Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published January 17th by New Directions first published January 1st More Details Original Title. Other Editions 5. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Beetle Leg , please sign up. What are the themes? See 1 question about The Beetle Leg…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of The Beetle Leg.
Nov 12, s. It is a lawless country. Like the formless beast in the corner, it is just that, the formlessness, which makes it so terrifying. To flip on the light and simply understand the features and shapes of which we fear shatters our dread. This is true as well in horror films where the most frightening moments are those when we know there is some terror just around the corner or behind the door, and to see the monster in full as opposed to just a quick flash of claw or demonic eye destroys the real horror that only the imagination can provide.
In effect, Beetle Leg is so surreal, shifting and elusive because it is not made up of the actual forms and features of life, but of the shadows that they cast. As with McCarthy, the world is a cruel place where the innocent are prey to the violence and venery of the damned, and natural causes are more frightening than any villain. It is often repeated that the only two deaths recorded in the Government City, made an official city due to the influx of workers settling there to work the dam project, are from natural causes.
There is the incident of the ground breaking way and swallowing Mulge Lampson during a work accident and Hattie Lampson simply giving up the ghost in her old age. The biggest crimes committed are acts of lust in shallow ditches alongside the road as if they were lowly animals without the knowledge of personal dignity that would keep them from fornicating in public. Those locked in the jail are so docile that they endure being kicked in the ribs by the deputy without even moving to protect themselves, while snakes strike at the heels of children.
Nature is described in vivid, figurative language of tight poetic scenery — some of the best lines are those describing the land, whereas the town and characters are given very little, if any, description beyond thin references to misshapen features. Like a proper western novel, the setting is as much a character as the people. If nature is a character, than it is surely the foe to the people, these people who are always struggling to keep it back by building up a dam, by cutting a city into it and using other forms of civilization to keep it back or controlled.
To try and pinpoint exact meanings to the swiftly flowing, black waters of plot is just as difficult as trying to merely follow where the flow is headed. To try and make sense of the ethereal scenes that pass through our minds, the reader must look into the emotions, tone and feelings that resonate from the prose instead of trying to comprehend the logic of the actual events.
The scenes appear grounded in reality, but transcend the real through highly symbolic features and surreal sense of things being slightly amiss by wrapping each action and description up in abstract, metaphorical poetry.
Leech also is described as missing one of his ribs, much like Adam from Genesis. The book of Genesis seems to play a very large role in the novel. There is enough evidence to argue that the rockslide that claimed Mulge was indicative of the casting out from Eden.
He did eat of the forbidden fruit, as he allegedly bedded the cook during his year of marriage, and for that was swallowed up by the earth. Or, perhaps, is this town truly representative of purgatory? The whole thread of the novels present occurs in one night, keeping everything bathed in a dark, shadowy gloom.
This also could account for the strange handling of past and present, as time ceases to have meaning when faced with eternity. Perhaps this is why they sit around drinking and joking the one day Mulge will crawl up through the dirt and walk the earth again, like Jesus back from the dead, signaling that they can move on and into heaven. Mulge does border on being a Christ figure at times, his death being a symbol of the townspeople and the nightly pilgrimages Ma takes to the place of his death.
To simply use the religious context of the novel however, would be to cheapen it and pigeonhole it into some corner of deconstruction and literary criticism and, ultimately, the Beetle Leg would be able to wiggle free from the straps holding it to that operating table and present itself as something much greater.
There are many pagan allusions as well, and a great deal of effort is put forth by the Sheriff in his insistence that the moon and astrological signs are what controls not only the crops but our own destinies as well. There are far more facets to this novel than can be addressed here, which is stunning for a novel of only pages. The dam project is most likely an outlet of the New Deal projects, and the damnation of the characters could be a reflection of their societal conditions that is only metaphored by the damnation of their souls.
This is clearly a novel that demands multiple readings, and I am excited for the discoveries I am sure to find on each repeat visit. This ideas of this book are ineffable, and can only, truly be done justice by simply reading this incredible novel.
The effort is more than outweighed by the sheer beauty of the writing and careful handling of such vague, yet sprawling ideas that march forth through a procession of the damned towards a dramatic, apocalyptic climax. View all 53 comments. Oct 31, Mike Puma rated it liked it Recommends it for: people I had it in for. Shelves: , ugh. I am an uncontrolled variable. The text, in this case The Beetle Leg , is the independent variable.
For they will surely die. He stopped reading and marked his place, and began to talk. Three stars, barely. View all 66 comments. Oct 26, Nathan "N. I continue to be perplexed by the early novels of John Hawkes. His books were introduced to me by John Barth, and nothing could be in starker contrast than the story-drunk Barth and the austerity of early Hawkes.
But story, narrative, and plot, just like character, live rich lives in Hawkes, even if one needs to read far far b I continue to be perplexed by the early novels of John Hawkes. But story, narrative, and plot, just like character, live rich lives in Hawkes, even if one needs to read far far below the text one is provided with.
There is a richness here which haunts the reader even weeks later, an aesthetic experience which few aside from Herr Gass can champion as pure bliss. There remains in my mind of experience something darker than light in these Hawkes novels; something much closer to experience which has always found itself less than fully illuminated. View all 13 comments.
Nov 25, knig rated it liked it Shelves: absolute-bollocks , , dream-like. Well, he is. I mean, he does. Plus, the guy was only 23 when he wrote it: its very possible he had nothing much to say to begin with: how many of us do at that age? He has a way with words, a lulling cadence which carries mesmerizingly and draws you in Ma married Mulge who absconded with Thanga who
All That Remains: On the Fiction of John Hawkes
Each of them succeeds in redeeming the ambitions of experimental fiction, while, together, they are as impressive a group of books as any written by a postwar writer. Instead, it explodes those assumptions, turning them back on the reader. This novel prominently portrays the interaction between innocence and corruption that will also animate the series of novels to follow. It focuses on an ordinary, bored English couple who become involved with gangsters planning to steal a prize-winning racehorse. By the end of the novel, two of the main characters have been murdered, including the wife, who is savagely beaten first. Hawkes does not merely incorporate these events as plot points advancing a crime narrative, however, but dwells on them, in effect slows down the narrative to render them more starkly. The beating of Margaret Banks is particularly discomfiting:.
John Hawkes (novelist)
After Barth, Pynchon and Barthelme, came W. Of the second wave, only Gass and Coover have remained on the literary landscape, though Hawkes had a strong critical following in France. After recently reading a novel by each Hawkes and Elkins, I would argue their semi-obscurity is undeserved. Both treat themes with narrative processes that are still quite relevant. Both possessed an immense amount of talent.