A Feast of Snakes
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A Feast of Snakes

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  2,178 ratings  ·  238 reviews
From the acclaimed author of such novels as "Blood and Grits" and "Childhood" comes a wildly weird and breathtakingly original visit to the rural South that reveals the exotic subculture that erupts in all its glory at the Rattlesnake Roundup in Mystic, Georgia. "No number of adjectives in the thesaurus can do full justice to the dazzlingly bizarre nature of Crews' creatio...more
Paperback, 188 pages
Published January 1st 1998 by Touchstone Books (first published 1976)
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Best Southern Gothic Literature
25th out of 94 books — 178 voters
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Best Southern Literature
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In one of his essays collected in Blood and Grits Harry Crews explains that there came a time when he was trying to write fiction that he realized, if he was going to be any good at his craft, that he had to stop pretending to be someone he wasn't and start writing about what he knew. Embrace his roots. There was plenty that Crews wished he had never experienced, but he didn't get to pick whether or not he grew up poor in Bacon County, Georgia. Because he decided to be true to his heritage, we r...more
Dec 26, 2012 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Not for the squeamish
Recommended to Mike by: Grit Lit: A Rough South Reader
A Feast of Snakes: Harry Crews' Surreal Novel of Sex, Snakes, and the Winding Way to the Future

“That was the only decision there was once upon a time: what to do with the night.”

Harry Crews (June 7, 1935-March 28, 2012)

I was introduced to the works of Harry Crews through the anthology Grit Lit: A Rough South Reader, edited by Tom Franklin and Brian Carpenter. Included was the first chapter of A Feast of Snakes. I was hooked. (For my review of Grit Lit, see http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...more
Prepare to let Harry Crews take you by the hand in this narrative, to dark places and witness things you would hate to see.
Right from the get-go he immerses you. Read the following visceral sentences in this first paragraph..

"She felt the snake between her breasts, felt him there, and loved him there, coiled, the deep tumescent S held rigid, ready to strike. She loved the way the snake looked sewn onto her V-neck letter sweater, his hard diamondback pattern shining in the sun. It was unseasonabl...more
Apr 30, 2012 Paul rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
There should be a lawyer from Atlanta putting together a class action suit against Harry Crews on behalf of everyone who lives in rural Georgia. He's just so astonishingly insulting about them. In this mad novel not a page goes by without whiskey or beer or shine being drunk usually by the driver of a motor vehicle which is not stationary. Every ten pages someone you'd sell your left kidney to not have to meet does something unspeakable to a yet more hideous other. I guess if this book has a the...more
I didn't enjoy reading this book. I was happy to be finished. But I think that was entirely the point.

I haven't read Crews before and I probably wouldn't have if it wasn't this month's book club book. I'm not opposed to Southern gothic lit - Flannery O'Connor is one of my favorite writers, I've mostly enjoyed most of what I've read so far by Daniel Woodrell, and there are others that my sun-stroked mind isn't coming up with right now.

There's a grittiness in all these authors that appeals to me,...more
“I don’t like snakes,” she said.
“You’re in a hell of a place if you don’t like snakes. Why’d you come?”

Faulkner said— or, it’s something close enough to what Faulkner would say— you can’t understand the world until you’ve understood a place like Mississippi.

This, right here, is the deep howling scream: you can’t understand the world until you’ve understood Mystic, Georgia.

Harry Crews doesn’t put this place on the map. This is the map. This is the fever-pitch, this is the roiling-coiling, this...more
Apr 22, 2011 Nlydia rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no one.
If you read to feel bad, this book is for you. Ok, I simply hated this book. It was something like being on a bad acid trip (if you can't imagine that, then trust me). I've never really hated a book before this one (and hope to never again), but this book gave me the worst feeling to my core. I finally just put it down for good at the point in the story where there is a scene of animal cruelty. I didn't see the point of prolonging the agony. My advice is "don't bother" (unless you like terrible...more
Aug 23, 2008 Cave added it
Shelves: fiction, america, southern
Finished 8/20/08

Part of me hates this book. Hates the characters, their slithery morality and unfulfilled aspirations, hates how the emptiness, the vacuum left is filled the coiled hissing forms of snakes and how it gets under the skin and into the stomach and bowels. I acknowledge the power and intensity Harry Crews has at his command, but I do not admire his A Feast of Snakes.

Each year in Mystic, Georgia, Jon Lon organizes the Rattlesnake Roundup, a festival that attracts a denizen of unsavory...more
Mystic, Georgia is home to the annual Rattlesnake Roundup. The local sheriff is a one-legged, hard drinking, ex-local football star who locks up any woman he fancies until they “put out.” Joe Lon, another character was a former football star resentful of his girlfriend Berenice, former Miss Mystic Rattle beauty champ, who had the temerity to go off to college where she became enamored of a "debate player" leaving Joe stuck with his wife Elfie, whose body has gone to hell after two children, mes...more
Bill  Kerwin

Not bad, I guess for a "hillbilly noir," po' white trash turning berserk and homicidal in the Deep South. But somehow I expected more. I mean, the premise is fantastic . . .

Every year in the little town of Mystic, Georgia (high school football team "the Rattlers"), there is a "Rattler Day," which features the crowning of a high school girl as "Miss Rattler," followed by her ritual torching of a huge snake effigy, followed in turn by a pit bull battle. Then, the next day, the real fun: hundreds...more
I am now officially a Harry Crews fan.

This novel is mad, seductive and trashy in the best way. The characters are ghoulish, cheerleaders & all. The snakes play an incredible role. They're worshipped, taunted, revered, skinned & ingested - I loved their omnipotent presence.

Joe Lon, The protagonist wants to wail, grow in violence, he's all fists and need and his coiled malice erupts to a fantastic conclusion.

There is much to admire here.
Nigel Bird
A Feast Of Snakes is a stunning novel.

It’s set in Mystic, Georgia during the build up to a Rattlesnake Roundup that’s become a little too successful for the small town to handle.

Joe Lon Mackey is an ex-football player whose career is over at a young age. To take the edge off his sense of failure he’s turned to the bottle and still tries to maintain his top-dog status in the area.

He has a hard-nosed father (Big Joe Lon) who has a talent for dog-fighting, a damaged sister who stays in bed all day...more
Sometimes how you come to read a book is intriguing. Perhaps you browse the shelf after shelf, book jacket after book jacket at a book shop. Maybe you read vast literary reviews or reviews by your contemporaries who have similar book tastes. On rare occasions, I find a book just happens to fall into my possession out of thin air I cannot for the life of me recall how I came to own it. But the very best way to acquire a book, I believe, is when an acquaintance who truly knows your literary taste...more
This book is trashy and fun, pretty much summed up by this excerpt

"But I can love you too, love you with all my heart, love..."
"Love," said Joe Lon, "is taking it out of you mouth and sticking in you ass."
"Yes," she said, "oh, yes, that's..."
"But true love," he said, "goddam true love is taking it out of you ass and sticking it in you mouth."
For my money, the best fiction from Mr. Crews published during the Bicentennial hoopla. FEAST shows a different side of America. I re-read A Feast of Snakes tonight (9/12/13), and loved my latest immersion in the rattlesnake rodeo down in Mystic, Georgia.
Feb 18, 2012 Rachael rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Southern Gothic fans, readers who love dark and very twisted humor
Recommended to Rachael by: Terry Klinker
dark, disturbing and darkly humorous.
could NOT fathom the distaste for this Crews book evidenced by the reviews before mine.
People: It is Southern Gothic. You clearly need to read more Flannery O'Conner, Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote.
Another favorite Southern Gothic writer (still twisted but no quite as dark, but certainly no rainbows eh) is Larry Brown. Sadly he recently died. His books live on and I cannot recommend him highly enough. Oh could he write.
Maybe ease into the current South...more
If you think Jim Harrison spikes his ink with testosterone, you ain't seen nothing until you've read Harry Crews. He makes Harrison read like a society page columnist in comparison. Actually a better comparison might be Albert Camus. Seriously. I think if Camus had been born in Mystic, Georgia, he might've written this book instead of The Stranger.
A similar existential abyss sits at the center of Crews's novel, an abyss as mean and violent and frightening as the snake pits and dog-fight pits cov...more
Ivona Poyntz
Straight to the keeper shelf: fresh on every re-read. Think you can sit back with a whisky sour and relegate Jo Lon to the 'us and them' pile, where he is so obviously 'them': no way. The beauty and timelessness of this character is that although he is painted with the regional bread-basket brushstroke best reserved for the webbed-footed denizens of 'we're back in Kansas Toto' stream of consciousness (OK, oxymoron), we're ALL of us secret harbourers of this guys spiritual DNA: the hopeless feeli...more
Written in 1976, A Feast of Snakes is a whiskey fueled frustration of violence, of the knowledge and acceptance that things won't be different tomorrow. Harry Crews is fast becoming my new literary hero. The language is fantastic, the characters are incredible, the plot is over the top. Crews writes so much beauty into so much ugliness and brutality. And his ear for dialect blows me away.

Mr. Frade
Yes, there is a character that covers themselves in their own feces. And okay, someone's dong gets cut off. And alright, the definition of love (where one will fornicate anally then immediately finish off their partner orally) is a bit insane. But this book captures Southern culture so well. Missed opportunities, lost potential and ghosts come back to haunt you.
Jun 29, 2007 Irene rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those that slow to see trainwrecks/accidents/tongue toothaches/eat jalapenos so ass will hurt
disturbingly funny, dark, sardonic look at the vacant lives of those populating small town deep-south. Reminds me of Natural Born Killers since it screams of the intrinsically violent nature of humanity. Snakes are "violent," dogs are "violent" humans are violent without the marks (violent is begining to look like violet, like bruises).
Cross Flannery O'Connor with meth, and you get Harry Crews - or something near enough. At 177 pages, A Feast of Snakes is easily one of the weirdest books I've ever read, populated with the most despicable cast of characters - mean s.o.b.'s and losers all - who don't seem to have one redeeming quality amongst them. On top of that it's a compelling read, and even oddly, very oddly funny.

There's a snake hunt, a dog fight, domestic violence, rough sex, deep and chronic alcoholism, castration, road...more
Liam Michael Sweeny
Dec 29, 2013 Liam Michael Sweeny rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of grit, southern fiction readers
Recommended to Liam by: Les Edgerton
Welcome to Mystic, a dry-county Georgia town where high school football makes immortals and mortal men, women and children all slither once a year to the Mystic rattlesnake round-up, complete with snake-bit, white-haired frenzied preachers; ancient, snake-scale artisans and Joe Lon, a fallen immortal, a Prometheus providing moonshine, beer and bonded whiskey to one and all, including the Sheriff.

Mystic is a land of dogfights as a community event, domestic violence, mental illness, where Joe Lon...more
Kirk Smith
Sumbitch, that was violent and crazy. Extra point for creative concept. A Classic!
Ben Loory
That was the only decision there was once upon a time: what to do with the night.
Nicholas During
Well...from the first line of this book (off the top of my head "she squirmed with pleasure as the snake twisted between her breasts" or something like that) you know what kind of world you are in. Redneck world! And the strange thing here is that the author doesn't really try to say "you know, all the bad things people say about rednecks is wrong, they are normal people like you and me." Because, in this book, no one is normal at all. I got a bit of sympathy for the protagonist by the end, but...more
Robert Vander
I finished this book around one O'clock. I was in the woods by two O'clock, relaxing by a stream come three O'clock. I was home by five. This was yesterday and I was about on my way to work and studying a real big pile of locust 2x6s I've acquired without having a proper place for them. Heavy wood. I remember sitting there thinking how much it'd suck to have such a pile of underutilized material collapse and fall on me.

This book is what brought my mind to the force of such a potential impact. S...more
Patrick O'Neil
Damn. I mean goddamn. I mean man, oh man, goddamn. To say Harry Crews' A Feast of Snakes is dark sort of puts it mildly. It's dark, it's way dark. It's so dark I had to put it down a couple of times. His characters are angry. They lead dismal lives that could have been something else, except they chose to live them like they do. They've made their own destinies through accepting the worst parts of their existences. There's battered wives. Corrosive relationships. Abusive sex. Tortured animals, a...more
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Harry Eugene Crews was born during the Great Depression to sharecroppers in Bacon County, Georgia. His father died when he was an infant and his mother quickly remarried. His mother later moved her sons to Jacksonville, Florida. Crews is twice divorced and is the father of two sons. His eldest son drowned in 1964.

Crews served in the Korean War and, following the war, enrolled at the University of...more
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“That was the only decision there was once upon a time: what to do with the night.” 44 likes
“White people were dangerous and snakes were dangerous and now the two were working together, each doing what the other told it to. She was sure she had seen a snake in a weeded ditch with the head of a white man. Right after she came out of the house on the way to Big Joe's, which she had immediately forgotten, she saw it, long and black and diamond-patterned in the ditch with a white man's head. It had blue eyes. The bluest eyes any white man ever had. She was sure she had seen it. She thought she had seen it. Maybe it was only a dream or a memory of another time. Whatever it was, she still saw it every time she closed her eyes, coiled there on the back of her eyelids, blue-eyed and dangerous.” 2 likes
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