John Hawkes is a novelist of great originality and abrasive power whose intensely personal vision reveals the painfulness and absurdity of so much experience in the modern world that seems filled with violence, frustration, and lovelessness. His books, experimental in technique, belong to a modern genre of the grotesque and the absurd.
Experiment as it was manifested in the 1920’s has been tempered into the conventions of good craftsmanship, and no complaint against this healthy level of art and intelligence on which many later novelists’ work should be registered; the whole point of literary revolution is to create a new and consistent order. At any time, a young novelist may appear who forces the reader, almost against his will, to revise his mode of apprehending experience. Such a novelist is Hawkes, who is certainly not without a full share of art and intelligence, but who exercises these faculties to create a special mirror of life which startles readers by the absolute clarity with which it reflects the distortions of dignity and decency in the life of man. Hawkes does not attempt to resolve or explain these distortions; he renders them truly. They convey that sense of unreality which is one of the realities of modern life.
Hawkes is not without his kinships and predecessors. He is in direct descent from the Gothic visions of Poe, whose imp of the perverse perched also upon the shoulder of Hawkes’s contemporary, Flannery...
(The entire section is 1216 words.)
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