The Lime Twig, a novel about an ordinary man caught up in an underworld scheme to kidnap a race horse and win a stakes race, was inspired by a newspaper account of legalized gambling in England. But the novel does not, nor do any of Hawkes's novels, address social controversies in any Dickensian sense. Rather, current events and personal experiences typically serve to incite the author's associative imagination, inspiring him "to write about large issues of human torments and aspirations," as he has described it. In this third novel, Hawkes reveals his preoccupation with the problems of individual survival in a modern world which is often alien, even nightmarish. His concern with social issues is thus linked inextricably to his persistent thematic pursuits — the problems of solipsistic loneliness, satiation of subconscious desires, the potential for violence lying just beneath the surface of everyday events.
Although many consider this work the most accessible of Hawkes's fictions, the first-time reader will discover quickly that expectations one generally brings to the novel — expectations of coherent plot, character development, a relatively lucid theme — are quite simply irrelevant to Hawkes's interests as a novelist. Nevertheless, certain themes emerge through the density of the prose. Perhaps the central motif in The Lime Twig questions the relationship between desire and fulfillment as each character gradually comes to live out...
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