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The Beetle Leg

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  194 ratings  ·  19 reviews
The Beetle Leg, John Hawkes's second full-length novel, was first published by New Directions in 1951. Now, after more than sixty years, this brilliant novel is emerging as a classic of visionary writing and still remains Hawkes's only work devoted solely to American life. As a "surrealist Western" (Newsweek), and a violent and poetic portrayal of "a landscape of sexual ap ...more
Paperback, 159 pages
Published January 17th 1951 by New Directions (first published January 1st 1951)
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50th out of 100 books — 102 voters
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Nov 17, 2012 s.penkevich rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: McCarthy fans and those who like to work the grey matter
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Eric
It is a lawless country.

Reading John Hawke’s second novel, the purgatorial western The Beetle Leg, is like being a small child awake during the night, staring in horror at some formless dark beast of the imagination that lurks within the shadows of their room. The plot, notorious for its obtuseness and the stunning surrealism which furthers the difficulty of finding a handhold from which to cling, churns forward with growing dread and silent monstrosities that rivals even that of Krasznahorkai’s
Mike Puma
Nov 26, 2012 Mike Puma rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people I had it in for
Shelves: ugh, 2012

I am an uncontrolled variable.

The text, in this case The Beetle Leg, is the independent variable.

My reaction, or yours, or anyone else’s would be the dependent variable.

With this experimental novel, one might (I was) tempted to say that the experiment failed, but experiments don’t fail—they produce unexpected results, or results unhoped for.

I did not enjoy this one. Not at all. Not one little bit. I’ve looked over at my unfinished copy. For more than a week. 10 pages to the end, an

It has been said Hawkes writes but doesn’t read. As in, he’s unreadable. Well, he is. I mean, he does. Theres a whole lot of nothing much going on here, but I’ve been weaned on de Chirico’s Hebdemeros, the quintessential book about nothing, so this isn’t going to send me on a wild goose chase so easily. Plus, the guy was only 23 when he wrote it: its very possible he had nothing much to say to begin with: how many of us do at that age?

But if he is thin on plot and action, butter won’t melt in h
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
I continue to be perplexed by the early novels of John Hawkes. His claims to have had no interest in conventional elements of the novel--character, plot, themes, etc--have never been born out by what he’s written; I don’t believe him. His books were introduced to me by John Barth, and nothing could be in starker contrast than the story-drunk Barth and the austerity of early Hawkes. But story, narrative, and plot, just like character, live rich lives in Hawkes, even if one needs to read far far b ...more
"I began to write fiction on the assumption that the true enemies of the novel were plot, character, setting and theme, and having once abandoned these familiar ways of thinking about fiction, totality of vision or structure was really all that remained."

This seems to me, to be the mission statement for most experimental fiction. The concept of the death of the novel always sounded a little too gimmicky for my taste. It's more appropriate for a contemporary writer to simply state that the novel
Tried twice, found this unreadable. As friend AC said, there's something "deeply inauthentic" here. Read The Lime Twig instead. You'll be glad you did.
j. ergo
Jan 25, 2013 j. ergo rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like dark shit & don't have to understand everything
Recommended to j. ergo by: no one
I have no idea what just happened to me as I finished this book. I have very little idea what happened in the book. The plot is there, seemingly right in front of you, and yet. . . and yet, it is still, a week after finishing it, almost completely indiscernible. More importantly, it is seemingly entirely unnecessary. I keep saying seemingly, I think, because a) I am trying to evoke a feeling I got that, while things may seem to be this way or that, or saying this or saying that, that they are no ...more
Nov 21, 2011 AC marked it as books-i-don-t-quite-seem-to-get
I read a chunk of this and had no idea why... lots of descriptions about boots and tables or something... But what bothered me most is that this is an Ivy League professor trying to sound like he's a dirt cowboy in Montana -- just as, in the Lime Twig (which worked better, I thought), he was trying to sound like a working class Brit. There is something deeply inauthentic about this - though I suppose that some would call him a "master of style". Anyway -- to each his own.
Charlie Zoops

Before reading one of John Hawkes books, it is helpful to understand the author's intentions,
“I write out of a series of pictures that literally and actually do come to mind, but I’ve never seen them before. It is perfectly true that I don’t know what they mean, but I feel and know that they have meaning,” He says, and it is clear that the interest lies in verbal and psychological coherence, rather than any conventional plot that can be followed easily.
With the overlapping time-frames, and chara
this is my first Hawkes novel. i didn't think i would finish it. i kept saying, "i'm 40 pages/60 pages/halfway through this thing and i have no clue what it's even about!" now i've got 10 pages left in this book and i'm still not totally sure what's happening, but i still cannot put it down. the delivery is so alluring, the scenes are beautifully eerie and vivid, offering an impression of a scene with gritty detail on a few focal points. i suppose that's really how i recall most books anyway, no ...more
Brent Legault
Thick, chewy stew of a novel poured into a small bowl. Plenty of gristle. Salty, salty but shy on spice. Nearly choked a time or two. Wouldn't recommend it as an airplane or commuter train read but an excellent choice for solitary confinement or for those that are trapped under rubble.

Michael David
Whenever I read a novel set in the American South, Faulkner usually becomes my measuring stick. I think the reason is obvious: Toni Morrison, in a recent interview with BBC's Talking Books, praised the ability of Faulkner to not generalize people into stereotypes. She contrasted Faulkner's ability to characterize with the stock, stereotyped characters seen even in works by Hemingway. It's high praise: Morrison is the latest American Nobel laureate in literature, and to speak with such deference ...more
Not quite as accomplished as "Second Skin" or later novels (his next novel, The Lime Twig would be his breakout book), this seemed like a warm up for Cormac McCarthy's books of the West, particularly Blood Meridian which it echoes in tone and hyper-realism. The prose style employed here is bravura and exhilerating.
Nota bene: Do not read the following if you have no desire to discover what happens, though I make no guarantee to having accurately set forth what did—and, seeing as it makes not a lick of sense to those not partially subsumed within the ghost world, what the fuck do you care if it seeks to squeal that business anywho?

The sheriff narrates the opening chapter in a tongue thick with twanged weariness and the dust of life.

Luke Lampson has an older brother, Mulge—the man the sheriff spies frozen by
Aug 06, 2015 Logan added it
Not rating this one either because I'm giving up. But, I have to say, there's a difference between a challenging book, and a flat-out boring one. At least, I think there is. I don't know. I'm a dumb-dumb. If you need me I'll be over in the corner making farting noises with my mouth.
This book is good, but SO dense, a more difficult read than Gravity's Rainbow, at least in my experience. It's a little bit Thomas Pynchon, a little bit Cormac McCarthy. The Lime Twig was more of a Hawkes page-turner.
An opaque, surreal parody of a western. Grotesque and confusing, will bring to mind Faulkner and Dante(and David Lynch).
Cap Leech is a good antecedent for McCarthy's Judge, except that things are even more discordant here.
So amazing
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John Hawkes, born John Clendennin Talbot Burne Hawkes, Jr., was a postmodern American novelist, known for the intensity of his work, which suspended the traditional constraints of the narrative.
Born in Stamford, Connecticut, and educated at Harvard University, Hawkes taught at Brown University for thirty years. Although he published his first novel, The Cannibal, in 1949, it was The Lime Twig (196
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