Reading a Harry Crews book is like drinking rot-gut whiskey with an old friend who just got out of jail, but will no doubt be back in the slammer comeReading a Harry Crews book is like drinking rot-gut whiskey with an old friend who just got out of jail, but will no doubt be back in the slammer come sun-up. Only Crews could write a novel about freaks, gym rats and scumbags with such honesty and heart, make you laugh hard and then simmer in a sharp melancholia. You get a true sense that he cares for his characters and never does he piss on them just for the sake of it. Of course, cruel and savage things unfold. As with 'Feast of Snakes', this one has a sudden burst of violence that (even though expected) shatters the nerve. With each page, Crews pours salt in your wounds and then gives you a brotherly hug to make the pain go away. He's a madman but one full of grace. 'The Gypsy's Curse' is about a ragtag group of punch-drunk fighters, body builders and sideshow freaks whose world of routine & iron gets scattered when a woman comes to the gym to live with them. A short novel full of horrible beauties and lines worth rereading aloud, again and again.
'Leroy was looking at me in a way I have never seen him look before, like a man might look at a favorite dog that had just bit him for no reason.'
'"I've had more balls in my hands than Willie Mays," she said, making a great show of being casual.'
'He still had that awful mechanical smile fastened to his face. It looked like somebody had told him to smile, and he was doing it but he didn't know why.'
This is one desolate, scabrous and scathing novel that is equal parts a comedy about the misery of existence, and a grotesque about the absurdities ofThis is one desolate, scabrous and scathing novel that is equal parts a comedy about the misery of existence, and a grotesque about the absurdities of the faithful in the Christian South. O'Connor paints this short, episodic novel with one abnormality after another - the disfigured, the cheating, the dumb and the blind all congregate on the stage and show off all that is uncouth, and damn downright hilarious at points. With a penchant for the grotesque (say like Fellini and Lynch) faces are turned inside out, bodies malformed, and nearly every intellect stained by some travesty. Actually thinking of it now, there is no beauty in the book whatsoever. Fleeting moments (mainly from the landlady as she tries to figure out what love means) perhaps, but nothing to grasp and hold and cherish. O'Connor is far too witty to have schmaltz and sugar in this one. Instead, we have psychopathic cops and disillusioned preachers, gorilla suits and mummified corpses, blind faith and a crook's charm hellbent on stealing any purity left in the world. There is some sense of transcendence here but it just isn't the poster-board kind. Illumination comes in mysterious, cruel ways. And it the end, for example, a man in a gorilla suit looking at the fading skyline of a corrupt city, one can feel that in some way O'Connor was rewriting parts of the bible with her absurdist, razor-sharp wit. Sodom and Gomorrah on the redneck belt between light and darkness. A classic....more
This is a unique short novel. It is a satire about tragedy and poverty, a two-faced insult at one's own country and nati"Woe to him who eats the bog."
This is a unique short novel. It is a satire about tragedy and poverty, a two-faced insult at one's own country and national pride. Flann O'Brien is a hilarious, cruel man. In these 110 pages, there is so much suffering and disillusion, but he plays it off like a slapstick farce complete with child abuse, death by bodily gas, and murder. But like no author can, O'Brien deviates the comedy with such sinister dexterity, and shoves the reader into a stark reminder of the famine. There was one section I had to read nearly a dozen times to fully to take in how he switched from light to dark so quickly - one moment uproarious comedy, and then half a sentence later, one of the grimmest, saddest images.
"After great merriment comes sorrow and good weather never remains forever."
The pigs and the seals are some of the stars here, especially their stories co-existing with man. Ambrose, the fat pig, is hilarious, a swine who evacuates the household with its voluminous and toxic flatulence. As is the tale of the thin man who goes to cave to feed on seal meat, only to befriend the sly creatures and become one of them. Full of hilarity is the week-long Gaelic festival which includes death by dancing, men going mad from debating about nonsense for days, a few bludgeons and suicides, and a hallucination from too much bootleg. There is nothing sacred.
You don't see novels like this written anymore. And probably never will again....more
Only Flann O'Brien could weave a narrative about existential purgatories, murder, atomic theory, bicycle possession, ghosts, and a soul named 'Joe.' NOnly Flann O'Brien could weave a narrative about existential purgatories, murder, atomic theory, bicycle possession, ghosts, and a soul named 'Joe.' Not quite as widescreen as his masterpiece, 'At Swim Two Birds', 'The Third Policeman' is a brilliant comedy with very dark edges.
"As he collapsed full-length in the mud he did not cry out. Instead I heard him say something softly in a conversational tone, something like, 'I do not care for celery,' or 'I left my glasses in the scullery.'"
And yet there is a wondrous beauty to some segments, in particular, how the "ancient peoples" could see the eight colors of the eight winds off the hills, and use these winds to judge the length of one's life. And "omnium", of course, the element of everything, what "some even call God".
MacCruiskeen and Sergeant Pluck are as memorable a duo as Laurel and Hardy. Not to be forgotten....more
I really wanted to like this one. A sardonic Gothic Western with a monster hiding in a mansion built over ice caves? I'm so in. But after being introdI really wanted to like this one. A sardonic Gothic Western with a monster hiding in a mansion built over ice caves? I'm so in. But after being introduced to the two idiosyncratic gunslingers, Cameron and Greer, the novel spikes downward in a flailing bore of short-changed jokes and bland deviations of what makes a Western novel - all the Brautiganisms are void of their usually vibrant charm. No doubt, there's interesting stuff in here. At first I imagined it as a 'hippy western' that could of been perfectly lensed by Robert Altman (see: 'McCabe & Mrs. Miller'), but it turned into an unraveling of short chapters that really miss the mark. 'A Confederate General from Big Sur' is a masterpiece; 'The Hawkline Monster' is a footnote, sadly. ...more
Dreaming of Babylon is the chump's version of Chinatown. A slapstick romp that fucks with the P.I. genre and all of its well-worn trappings. You get tDreaming of Babylon is the chump's version of Chinatown. A slapstick romp that fucks with the P.I. genre and all of its well-worn trappings. You get the down-on-his-luck detective, an angry cop with a bad temper, a one-legged mortician, a blonde dame and her Dick Tracy thug, and most importantly, a corpse that everybody wants a piece of. One can tell Brautigan is having fun by playing every trope for a dime-store laugh. ...more