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3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  274 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Hawkes, Travesty. John Hawkes' most extreme vision of eroticism and comic terror.
Paperback, 132 pages
Published December 12th 1976 by New Directions Publishing Corporation
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(showing 1-30)
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Paul Bryant
Aug 25, 2012 Paul Bryant rated it did not like it
Shelves: novels
Nauseating. Also, insufferable. Also, bad. A pompous egomaniac finds out that his best friend has been shagging his 24 year old daughter. And same friend had a previous affair with this unnamed guy's wife. This recent discovery has incensed the unnamed husband and father to the point that he picks up friend Henri and daughter Chantal – they're all French - in his new car one evening then proceeds to drive through the countryside at increasingly alarming speeds and informs them in the transcenden ...more
Nate D
Jul 21, 2014 Nate D rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: megalomaniacal road trips
Recommended to Nate D by: the car as hermetically sealed environment of destruction
A breakneck ride in the sinister hands of a familiar-yet-unique Hawkes narrator. Why we're in this car, and where it's going, are all a part of the array of narrative hooks that slide in from the first and carry this straight through in one breathless heaving of life, sex, and vitriol, even acknowledging Hawkes' love of circling the absent and inconclusive crux of his characters and plots, so that I really should say no more and let the hooks do their work. In any event, the voice in this incred ...more
Sep 10, 2008 Jimmy rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
A self declared "homage to Camus", this short novel by Hawkes is part of a triad of novels beginning with the Blood Oranges. The premise is simple enough, a man (who for clarity's sake, let's call him Papa because he isn't really given a name in the story) picks his younger daughter and her lover (Papa's closest friend, also a famous poet) up from dinner. As they begin their long drive through the French countryside, Papa informs them that his intention is to crash the car at a considerably high ...more
This is a… strange little book. And I mean that in the best possible way.[return][return]The set-up seems simple enough – we’re inside a car for the whole duration of this short novel, together with its driver, his daughter Chantal and his friend, the poet Henri – who incidentally is the lover of not only the car driver’s daughter but also of his wife. Said driver is also the narrator of Travesty and he is one of the most deeply unlikeable characters to ever fill that function. And that is not j ...more
Jul 21, 2008 R. rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008
Basic idea is that a guy goes mad - delivers a rambling monologue that's supposed to be an erotic revery of his wife - and drives through the night with hostages -his daughter, her lover - towards a crash, the explosion of which will awaken his wife from her sleep.

Robert Coover wrote a preface to one of the editions, so you know that at least you are in the hands of an expert driver.


Not bad, but not mindblowing. Robert Coover owed somebody a favor, I suppose.

Cooper Cooper
Jul 13, 2009 Cooper Cooper rated it it was amazing
This book is a variation on the récit genre—that is, an extended monologue by a single narrator; it differs from the récit in that the narrative does not address the reader directly, but rather other (invisible and silent) characters in the story—in the tradition of Camus’ The Fall, to which Travesty owes one of its epigraphs and which it greatly resembles—whether in admiring emulation or in outright parody (“travesty”) I’m not quite sure, because I know almost nothing about Hawkes or his inten ...more
Nov 06, 2010 Zach rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010
at a little under 130 pp, still a very slow read for me. for a while i was wondering if hawkes's central idea was actually interesting. the narrator's flowery, exquisitely prepared monologue seemed odd within the confines of a speeding deathtrap, but I guess I've come to expect sparse prose in transgressive fiction (if you can call this transgressive), and i suppose it suits the (underdeveloped) precept of cataclysm-as-conceptual-art that the narrator upholds.

the book does, however, gain a lot
Aug 10, 2014 Ferris rated it it was amazing
What is the meaning of travesty? A travesty is literary or artistic composition so inferior in quality as to be merely a grotesque imitation of its model. John Hawkes' novella is a poetic travesty. The driver of a luxury sports car, an upper class intellectual, has decided to commit the ultimate poetic act. Is it because his wife is his poet best friend's mistress? Is it because his daughter is mistress to the same poet? You will have to join the threesome on this ride to death to determine the ...more
Apr 25, 2011 Lisa rated it really liked it
Creepy but compelling. Can't help but wonder what made John Hawkes imagine a book with this premise: a man is driving in a car with his best friend and his daughter and the monologue is the narrator/driver listing out the many indignities he has suffered by his friend who has taken both his wife and his 20-year old daughter as his lovers. He is so hateful of everyone he loves. Short and not sweet.
Sep 21, 2009 Tobias rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2010
Quite liked this -- probably my favorite of the three Hawkes books I've read. Looking forward to checking out the Dalkey Archive reprint of "The Passion Artist" in the not-so-distant future.
Steve Mitchell
Dialogue of the Skin: John Hawkes’ Travesty

You’re hurtling across a dark European countryside at dangerous speeds. Your driver boasts of his wish to kill himself, you, and his young daughter by soon plowing the car into a rock wall across a gorge. He’s driving too fast on roads too narrow for you to attack him at the wheel. To make it worse, like a villain in a James Bond film, he insists on telling you every way you’ve offended him, every detail of your impending death, interspersed with events
Oct 18, 2016 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It would be lovely if Travesty were somebody's last novel. Because it is a suicide note. Rather, a suicide screed. But a monologue. We are led to believe - in a manner that is not really credible, but in no way needs to be - that the text is being delivered verbally by the perpetrator of an imminent murder-suicide to one of his victims. A ghastly business, this. Undeniably. Business for which I am steadfastly in the market. I have read most of Hawkes' novels written up to the point of Travesty. ...more
Apr 09, 2016 Haley rated it it was ok
That was a chore.

Forewarning, this book is nothing short of the manifesto of a man unhinged.

Where do I start? I'm a sucker for "one act" books. I thought I'd love this, set all behind the wheel of a sports car speeding toward its doom. I was wrong. I assure you that you can safely skim this book and not miss a single thing, chiefly because nothing happens. This is a tough read. It's short, very short, but feels like a marathon. Having put it down, it's hard to make yourself pick it back up.

Dec 19, 2014 Littlebrit rated it it was ok
I read this book because it was a "Book Club Choice". I would not have chosen it myself and sadly, I did not really enjoy it. For me, the only recommendations I could give was that this book is extremely well written and that it is set in a highly imaginative way such that it leaves the story open to almost limitless and very different interpretations. But, for me, the central character is totally unsympathetic and uninteresting, and the story itself, again in my opinion, could have been complet ...more
Apr 09, 2007 Adam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This slim novel covers some of the same ground as J.G. Ballard's Crash, but focuses less on the medical, scientific, and technological aspects of auto accident deaths and more on the psychological depths of a man who plans to take his friend and daughter to their deaths in a car wreck. Although Hawkes was American, his prose often reads like a dry English translation of a French writer such as Camus or Sartre. (And Hawkes actually found much greater fame in France than he ever did in the United ...more
Jan 26, 2013 Lindsay rated it liked it
A strange little novel, but an interesting, short read. You may find yourself asking "what's the point?" in the course of reading--and if so you're pretty much answering your own question in the process. The relationship between the random universe vs. the ordered, predestined universe (and which one you believe in) is really crucial to the novel, and probably the most fascinating thing to consider in the process of reading.
Sep 22, 2010 Slickdpdx rated it liked it
A short, twisted, monologue. I liked it, but I also admit I read it as a bit of literate farce. Hawkes must have intended the farce. The narrator is ridiculous, repellent, comically Gallic. If there is anything serious about it (aside from the finely-tuned writing) its that Hawkes is the poet in the front passenger seat and this is his greatest fear. As he gets older, he finds himself in the driver's seat...
Matt Adkins
Jun 29, 2013 Matt Adkins rated it really liked it
Surprised by how much I liked this. Essentially a monologue, or a half a conversation... But there's some nicely turned phrases on nearly every page, & story holds your attention. Details would only spoil it, but there's a fair amount of suspense as well (although the not-clearly-delineated finish will leave some unsatisfied. )
Aug 26, 2008 James rated it liked it
Odd and enjoyable. This 90-page novella takes place in a speeding car. The driver is a Frenchman who's decided to kill himself, his daughter, and his son-in-law by driving the car into a brick wall at a very high speed. There's no narrative or dialog; the entire text of the story is the man's crazed melodramatic soliloquy as he speeds toward his destination.
Nov 15, 2007 Adam rated it really liked it
Another of Hawkes’ unbearable narrators. The monologue of poet as he drives his car containing him and his daughter and her lover to his aesthetically approved suicide/murder. Similar territory to Ballard’s Crash and Camus’ The Stranger.
Feb 07, 2015 Sean rated it liked it
Shelves: new-directions, 2014

Three people in a car hurtling through rural France. Only the driver speaks. Read it to find out what he says.

(Click here for a longer discussion of this book.)
Mar 31, 2016 Maddy rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016
Had the driver/narrator been the daughter this would have been much better.
Nate House
Nov 20, 2011 Nate House rated it it was amazing
One of the best literary thrillers ever!
Apr 03, 2007 Chris rated it really liked it
Another gem that I discovered in Morrow's class. This slim, riviting novel takes place in the space of a car-ride as the travellers hurtle towards their deaths.
sam kim
Feb 20, 2010 sam kim rated it it was amazing
such a fun read. really smart and sexy. loved it.
May 19, 2010 Anne rated it did not like it
Philip Bardach
Aug 24, 2013 Philip Bardach rated it it was amazing
One of the more eloquent and captivating lunatics I've come across in my reading history.
Jeff Weyer
Feb 09, 2015 Jeff Weyer rated it really liked it
I read this originally 25 years ago--it really stayed with me. It would be hard to recommend, but it is one ride, if postmodern is your thing.
Mark Snyder
Feb 07, 2012 Mark Snyder rated it it was amazing
This may be one of my favorite reads of all times. It can be re-analyzed so many times from so many different directions, that it keeps it fresh and alive and my mind keeps chewing it over.
Charlie Zoops
Jun 08, 2012 Charlie Zoops rated it really liked it
the whole story exists in a few seconds, passengers in a car, with meta-dialogues
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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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