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The Blood Oranges: A Novel (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – April 17, 1972

Book 1 of 3 in the Sex Trilogy Series

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“The sixth and most accessible novel by, feasibly, our best writer. . . The book's principal attribute is its relentless originality.” (Thomas McGuane - The New York Times Book Review)

“John Hawkes here has written the mature work of a great artist. An artist finally accessible, whose language, images, and sounds present an astonishing vision.” (Jacques Cabau - L’Express (Paris))

About the Author

John Hawkes (1925–1998) was one of the most innovative and widely regarded novelists of the twentieth century. Born in Stamford, Connecticut, and educated at Harvard University, Hawkes taught at Brown University for thirty years. Praised by Leslie Fiedler, Flannery O’Connor, and William H. Gass, who wrote, “when it comes to the engravement of the sentence . . . no one can match him,” Hawkes was the author of numerous acclaimed novels, including The Lime Twig, The Beetle Leg, Second Skin, Adventures in the Alaskan Skin Trade and The Passion Artist.
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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Paperbook
  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; New edition edition (April 17, 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811200612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811200615
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,210,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Robert Bezimienny on August 25, 2001
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John Hawkes has created some of the most beautiful prose ever penned; the word surface in this book is as memorable and enjoyable as any I've read, at turns surprising, sensual, poetic, and often all of this and more. As an extended flight of the imagination 'The Blood Oranges' explores regions of desire, fidelity, and repression that many have gestured towards or illuminated in passing, but that few have mapped extensively. For me, it stands as tremendously courageous writing, and writing elevated by a pervasive and exciting humour. It's very funny, in the way that Beckett's or Kafka's prose can be - and Hawkes' deserves to be considered as a writer of their stature. I only wish I'd been exposed to his writing sooner. He's a genius.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By RLR on July 11, 1999
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I found this book lyrical and somewhat surreal. It evoked memories of John Barth's End of the Road. The book was original, uninhibited, and rather melancholy. It presented an image of the idle rich who are hedonistic yet emotional. Jealousy plays a half-veiled and sinister role. I highly recommend this book to lovers of poetic prose (a la Barth or Toni Morrison).
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Carper on January 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a complicated and mysterious book by a writer with an amazing command of his prose. The tragic story is doled out in tiny slivers along with a vivid description of the imagined Mediteraenan location where the events unfold. The narrator is a self-proclaimed "love singer" who is desperately proud of his marriage and of the many, many women he has loved during his marriage. It's hard at least for this reader to be sure how ironically we are to view the protagonists advocacy of totally free love. The narrator clearly blames the stories tragic outcome on the small-mindedness of his rival in love--I at least am left wondering whether the author means us to blame the victim or the protagonist. The story can be oppressive at times with its pervasive melancholy--but it certainly makes you think. Hawkes is a terrific writer and this is a challenging, difficult and definitely uncomfortable work of genius.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Certain Bibliophile on April 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
I finished this book over a week ago, mostly in an effort to write a review that would give it the justice it deserves, but I feel that time might have been spent it in vain. This is a strange, lyrical book - an idyll, really - that takes place on a Mediterranean island named "Illyria." The name is obviously meant to evoke Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" and its paradisiacal setting, but Hawkes plants something haunting and evil here that never lets the reader get too comfortable.

The plot is as unencumbered with passé concerns like pacing or character development as its characters are fascinated by their own sexual lives. Fiona is married to Cyril, and Catherine is married to Hugh. The novel traces the whole range of their interactions, from mundane conversations, but mostly is concerned with their complicated sexual entanglements. Everything is told through flashbacks, and opens with Cyril trying to console Catherine for some reason the reader has yet to ascertain. Hawkes bounces back and forth in time, telling how the two couples met (Fiona and Cyril look on as Catherine and Hugh are rescued from a bus that has fallen into a nearby waterway) to the whittling away of endless hours on the beach with Hugh and Catherine's children in the background.

Most of the action, such as it is, revolves around the eventual untangling of the formerly monogamous relationships of the two couples. Catherine initially stammers and hedges in her attraction toward Cyril, but Fiona is more open-minded and adventurous with Hugh. Hugh, on the other hand, tends to be slightly more cautious, and on several occasions voices his reservations to Cyril, only to be reassured that Fiona is perfectly okay with the arrangement.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dana Garrett on February 15, 2005
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Beauty becomes denial in this aesthetically rendered tale of a life brought to ruin by a galloping sexuality. The narrator's gorgeous account creates an irreality that both disturbs and compells.

The books dissonances are reminiscent of Nabokov's Lolita and Gide's The Egoist. If you like stylistic fiction, this book is for you.
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