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Comment: A copy that has been read, but remains in clean condition. All pages are intact, and the cover is intact (including dust cover, if applicable). The spine may show signs of wear. Pages can include limited notes and highlighting, and the copy can include "From the library of" labels. Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee - Our business is changing lives.
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A Feast of Snakes: A Novel Paperback – January 7, 1998

4.2 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Welcome to Mystic, Georgia. This going-nowhere town hosts the annual Rattlesnake Roundup, which attracts thousands of visitors for a rough 'n' rowdy weekend of your basic primate behavior--hard drinking, ogling bikini-clad contestants in the Miss Mystic Rattle beauty contest, betting on dog fights, snake catching, and snake eating. Meet Joe Lon Mackey. He lives in a trailer in Mystic with his lumpy, devoted wife and two hollerin' young'uns. His days of glory as the Boss Snake of the Mystic Rattlers football team are over, and he didn't have the grades to go to college. He's just now realizing that his dreary business selling beer, bonded whiskey, and moonshine is all he's gonna get in the way of a destiny.

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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Reissue edition (January 7, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684842483
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684842486
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This was the first novel by Harry Crews that I ever read. It may as well have been heroin because to this day I will read anything and everything he publishes. Crews writes almost tenderly about brutal, ugly people in a wasteland of frustrated desires. He grabs you by the back of the neck and holds your head down close enough to see the gorgeous, swirling iridescence of a fly's wing as it feasts on rotted meat. He propels you through the most chilling land of horrors you will ever see and yet, somehow leaves you feeling uplifted. Crews will baptize you in a lake of raw sewage laughing gleefully all the while as you struggle to understand why you feel redeemed.
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Format: Paperback
Author Harry Crews is no longer among us. He passed away at 76 in Gainesville, FL, on March 28, 2012, having suffered from neuropathy for quite some time. This reader studied under him while in college during the '70s; as a fellow former Marine, he was not just a teacher, but was also a mentor and an acquaintance who became somewhat of a friend. He lived in Gainesville for over forty years, and said that he intended to keep writing "until the curtain comes down."

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.
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Format: Paperback
I grew up drinking Busch ponies in trailer parks around Western KY. I know these people. Joe Lon is what happens when the American myth is exposed and the real world hits you in the face. Football hero today, loser tomorrow.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Of all Harry Crew's books, this remains my favorite. On the difficult tightwire that Crews has chosen to walk, this book strikes the perfect balance between the horror and the comedy of life in a universe that doesn't give a damn about the individual's hopes and dreams. At times both laugh out loud funny and saddly horrible, this tale of modern day marginal southern characters is the perfect example of the peculiar universe of Crew's fiction.
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.
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Format: Paperback
Think all Southerners are genteel, hospitable churchgoers? Think again.
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel/novella will not be for everyone. It is gritty, raw, dirty, and the characters have very little redeeming qualities. It is Southern Grit Lit turned up. However, it is a memorable book that will stick with you likely forever. The material explored has been discussed--rape, animal cruelty, murder, domestic abuse, adultery, castration, bullying--and will assault the senses. The characters are desperate, lost, and depraved. But again, it will leave the reader with lasting impressions, not just with the material explored but the writing as well.

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.
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