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Snaketown Paperback – April 6, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

Review

Kathleen Wakefield's imagination constructed a minefield of malady when she wrote Snaketown. Snaketown's soil has been raped by the mining industry and infected by a contagious soul sickness, which has spread to its inbred and insular community. Here is a morality tale of darkness and decline told in brilliant lyrical detail, biblically enchanting. --Martine Bellen, author of 2X2 and The Vulnerability of Order

Snaketown is a shocking achievement. It's a vision carved in jagged, searing, native prose from the bleak landscape of the American psyche. This story of a crumbling community clinging to a rock, its people flawed and haunted and kin to us all, is an experience so vivid, so terrifying, and so compelling that I fear part of me will be stuck there forever. A work of rare beauty, it's art and storytelling of the highest order. --Steve Lattimore, author of Circumnavigation

In venomous lyricism, Kathleen Wakefield captures the sweltering emptiness at the rim of the high desert in another, woebegone time, where the rustling behind you may be angels' wings or diamondback scales. This scathing novella will remain with you long after you have put it away. A searing triumph. You must read this book! --Rita Williams, author of If The Creek Don't Rise

About the Author

Kathleen Wakefield is a lyricist who began her songwriting career at Motown Records. She has worked in film and television with composers that include Academy Award winners Michel Colombier, Vangelis, and Gabriel Yared. Her stories have appeared in such journals as The Alaska Quarterly, Black River Review, The New Press, Salmagundi, Tabula Rasa, and West Branch. She lives in Los Angeles and the Pacific Northwest, where she is working on another novella, and a play in two acts.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 159 pages
  • Publisher: Cleveland State U Poetry Center (April 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1880834855
  • ISBN-13: 978-1880834855
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,819,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hans Ostrom on May 19, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I just finished reading SNAKETOWN (2010) by Kathleen Wakefield, and it's one of the best contemporary American novels I've read in a long time. As fresh as its language and structure is, the book has qualities of medieval literature inasmuch as it confronts questions of evil, character, fate, and redemption unabashedly.

Set in a Southwestern mining town, the novel re-imagines the region with language and images that are at once lyrical and primal, mythic and immediate. The mountains, the mine, the valley, the town, and the key family never become fantastical, but they take on an aura that's just surreal enough to lift the regional to the universal, as happens in the work of Morrison, Marquez, and Faulkner. Indeed, the hard-scrabble, insulated Sibel family sometimes seems distantly related to Faulkner's Snopes clan but is more wretched. The novel opens with a note of doom and builds toward a dark symphony.

SNAKETOWN is an ambitious but unpretentious meditation on evil--how it arises, is cultivated, and overwhelms. Wakefield renders the tale in brief, carefully sculpted chapters. The character Orin Sibel, among others, is unforgettable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. A. Schneider on May 18, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gorgeous. Creepy. Fecund. Grim. Haunting. Transcendent. Each sentence has been meticulously carved, then recarved, then polished, then maybe carved and polished again. Snaketown is a rare and remarkable accomplishment and Ms. Wakefield a rare and remarkable craftsman. Read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gloria E. Garvin on May 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
Just finished reading Snaketown - Wow!
For someone like me, it's hard to imagine what is going through the head of a man who commits a heinous crime. Hard to imagine what bizarre and twisted forces have been at work on the person's psyche to have brought him to such a point of horror. What strange genetic mix, what convoluted relationship with parents, what hideous merging of God and Satan, what confusion of love, sexuality, hunger, violence, and death had occurred in the person's life to bring him to do the unspeakable.
In Snaketown, Kathleen Wakefield was able to enter into at least one possible alternative reality in which the answers to these questions gradually unfold - in a land that's foreign, yet strangely familiar, she tells the story of people who are dark, disturbed, ignorant and distasteful in every way. There is very little that's light in Snaketown - and the one little "sunbeam" who still dreams innocent dreams is relentlessly and unmercifully stalked on every page. It is a hard book to read. I didn't want to know these wretched people in this dry and desolate no-man's-land - and yet the way she tells the story, it is haunting and compelling - so much so that I couldn't put the book down. A small masterpiece.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Red Swing on April 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
Snaketown is filled with characters drawn from the depths of human darkness and despair. I dare say that you may find yourself identifying with one or more of these characters along the way. The author masterfully tells the story of an eroding town and its inhabitants that has been ravaged by the mining industry. I found the detailed descriptions of the characters and their jagged moral flaws to be both insightful and honest. The entire book is written in razor sharp beauty. Storytelling and vivid mental imagery is not dead. It's alive and well in Snaketown.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Bellen on May 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
As a compelling lyrical narrative, Wakefield airs the darkest, dirtiest secrets of a small-town country family, the Sibels, caught in the shadows and among the ghosts of a dead mining town. The mesmerizing Tortilla sisters and innocent Caytas counterpoint the complexities of Orin and Willard. I won't give away which side of this polyphonic symphony wins--its lightness or heavy hue. The battle is resonant--clear toned and always chilling. A must read.
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Format: Paperback
Snaketown begins with the disappearance of Caytas Buck, the youngest child of the Sibel clan, an allegedly inbred family scraping by on government handouts and odd jobs in their own little closed-in corner of the universe. Yet even the disappearance of Caytas does little to bring the family out of their isolation as a mix of destitution, alcoholism, religion, and (curiously) pride keeps them from interacting with the outside world. Indeed, one thing that makes Snaketown so enchanting is Wakefield's uncanny ability to move seamlessly from the perspective of the Sibels to that of outsiders, thus giving her readers a complex, layered vision of the family and its tragic relationship with the world at large. Yet while the first two-thirds of the book linger largely (and poetically) on the Sibels and their history in relation to Snaketown, the last third of the book sees the narrative morph into something of a page-turner, with the Sibels and the local sheriff racing against the clock and each other to discover what really happened to the missing Caytas. Blending hints of John Steinbeck and Deliverance, Snaketown is that rare gem of a book that is both poetic and gripping -- not necessarily a "fun" read, but certainly thought-provoking, heart-felt, and compelling.
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Format: Paperback
Snaketown is a revealing and affecting book. The maintenance of tension, even though I knew the narrative outcome, is remarkable to me. The sense of learning from a dream, a deep confounding sense, keeps surfacing. The dream world includes guitars, heat, drink, Mother and the devil. It is disturbing personally, not just because of the death of goodness and innocence but because I'm learning from a dream that includes the man named Orin. There is a psychological mechanism by which a person with unholy urges continually deludes themselves into sanctification. Kathleen Wakefield provides a rare window into the strength and cycling of the mechanism. The field of play for this dynamic is filled with flowers, snakes, insect skeletons, Sunday school, and nightmares. The author's triumph is the most frightening thing. I found myself asking, could that be me? What is the difference between good and evil? I look at things differently now than I did. It seems permanent.
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