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A Feast of Snakes: A Novel Paperback – January 7, 1998
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As the crowds for the Roundup start to overfill the camping area, Joe Lon feels on the inside like a barrel of snakes: "a writhing of the darkness, an incessant boiling of something thick and slow-moving." As he and his good ol' buddy get ready to wander around and check out the scene, Joe Lon says, "Just a bunch of crazy people cranking up to git crazier. But that's all right. Feel on the edge of doing something outstanding myself."
A Feast of Snakes is probably the most skillfully crafted and entertaining novel ever written in which a fed up person goes violently berserk. But Harry Crews belongs to the tradition of great Southern weird writers such as Flannery O'Connor, so A Feast of Snakes is richer than that: Crews serves up the reality of people's savage and unrelenting cruelty toward animals and toward each other, stark truths about human despair, male-female face-offs at their sexiest and most ruthless, and (here's his real genius) humor so powerful you can't help but laugh--even though it hurts when you do.
A Feast of Snakes, first published in 1976, is a dazzling and flawless horror novel. --Fiona Webster
Top Customer Reviews
His 1976 masterpiece, A Feast of Snakes, was a good example of how first hand experiences in life can become the basis of a memorable yet sometimes disturbing novel. This tale concerns a town's obsessive annual ritual, a rural rattlesnake rodeo. Welcome to Mystic, Georgia, the home of one Joe Lon Mackey, a truly terrifying protagonist. Joe Lon spends his free time running the illegal alcohol business that he inherited from his father, a pit-bull breeder whose brutality to animals is esteemed by the locals.
His sister is a disturbed individual with some repulsive habits who watches television all day. His best friend is the local sheriff, a bitter man who lost his leg in Vietnam, one who locks up and rapes the young, black girls who reject his advances. Joe Lon castigates himself for abusing his wife, the woman who cares for his two youngest children. He wallows in a mixture of past grandeur and present disappointments with the knowledge that his high school football injuries had cost him any kind of real future.Read more ›
Harry Crews doesn't mess with redemption in this novel, the characters are lost with one exception. This is accurate at the bottom. Very few people "move up." Read this and learn what life is like at the bottom.
Harry Crews has established himself as a kind of southern gothic Hemingway whose bruised, bloody and always, in some ways, crippled protagonists seem more foolish than heroic. Yet these 'freaks' are human and their stories move us. There is a great humanity in Crews books, but always beneath the surface.
A Feast of Snakes is one of those books on the very short stack I keep on hand to reread with pleasure from time to time. If you enjoy black comedy - if the exremes of the human condition strike you as much comic as tragic - then this book might be for you. I love it.
Gone with the Wind this ain't. Crews exaggerates for effect, but speaking as a Southerner myself, I've met few people as vile as these characters. Animal cruelty, rape, suicide, murder, torture, insanity, battered women, drug abuse, kinky sex and illiteracy, not to mention a stream of body fluids...the filth never ends. The French have a phrase for such decadence: le goute de la boue, or "love of the dirt." It's apt here. Mystic, Georgia is a pigsty.
Crews makes Flannery O'Connor (whom he cites as an influence) look like Little Bo Peep.
Yet Crews does evoke sympathy for his protagonist, the cruel but hapless Joe Lon Mackey (no small feat). And he can be downright hilarious,e.g., when Joe Lon tells girlfriend Berenice: "Studying them goddamn foreign languages is done ruint you mind." Like a snake crushing its prey, Crews's muscular prose squeezes the reader tightly into a squalid world of pain, misery and depravity. Give Caesar his due: three stars.
A Feast of Snakes packs a wallop, and it's not for the faint of heart.
But one wallow in the mud is more than enough.
Again, I'm sure there is probably going to be a fifty/fifty split with this book, largely based on how the reader handles the onslaught of savagery, but if you looking to immerse yourself in the filth and come out the other side perhaps a little better for it, go for it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A FEAST OF SNAKES
My first Harry Crews book and it will not be the last -
Set in Mystic, Georgia. it is time for the annual rattlesnake hunt. Read more
Harry Crews is a great author with his own unique vision of America. Well worth reading.Published 19 days ago by Ken Carroll
Harry Crews' masterpiece is chalk full of Southern-Fried Bad-ness!
It's too bad Joe Lon Mackey can't run for President.
Kinda how I thought it would be after reading reviews. not for the squeemish.Published 4 months ago by Jonathan W Crump
This is unlike anything I've ever read, written in a wholly original and "grit-sy" style of a Southern writer who never pulls punches, who writes without concern for... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Dante
I can't even begin to describe how grimy , thought provoking and deep this book is. Favorite read of the year for mePublished 6 months ago by Paige
As I was reading this book my reactions ranged from horrified to disgusted and back again. But I could not put it down, if for no other reason than to see just how twisted the... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Baseballfanatixx
This book is not for the faint of heart. I had to stop reading when it came to the training of the dogs for dog fighting. Not for me, or most people.Published 9 months ago by SWL0826