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A Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews

A Feast of Snakes (1976)

by Harry Crews

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Raw -- rattlesnake hunting, dog fighting, Louisiana bootlegging, male bonding/dominance confusion, brutal relationships, small-town football culture, heroes and cheerleaders, crazy people, depression, alcoholism, racism--all in a few hundred pages. And yet, it's a well-written, character-driven novel. Definitely worth the time. ( )
  wrk1 | Jan 15, 2014 |
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, messed up her teeth and can't keep the kids quiet. Elfie’s sister, Beeder, meanwhile is descending into her own private hell, lying in bed doing nothing but watching “the TeeVee” at loud volume and smearing feces in her hair after seeing her mother commit suicide rather than stay with her abusive father.

Lottie Mae, a young black girl, helps out Joe's sister sometimes by cooking for them. She likes watching the TeeVee with Beeder, especially during the NBC Nightly News that was so much better than detective stories and soap operas where you had to "put up with a lot of talking and fooling around before you got to the good parts." The news "went right to the robbing and killing, the crying and the blood, burning buildings and mashed cars. Them NBC Nightly News sumbitches was mean. Soon kill you as look at you. Killed somebody every night. Sometimes drowned whole towns in the ocean. Or made babies grow together at the shoulder." Followed by a Ford commercial, "The closer you look, the better we look!"

Joe was beloved by the whole town and his exceptional quietness off the field "everybody chose to call courtesy. He had the name of being the most courteous boy in all of Lebeau County, although it was commonly known that he had done several pretty bad things, one of which was taking a traveling salesman out to July Creek and drowning him while nearly the entire first string watched from high up on the bank where they were sipping beer."

Joe's only future seems to be selling illegal liquor. Everything is closing in on him as he begins to feel like in a barrel of snakes, "a writhing of the darkness, an incessant boiling of something thick and slow-moving." Joe's father is an intensely cruel and savage man who runs his pit bulls to exhaustion to prepare them for the dog fights the night of the snake hunt. Joe knows that things have become a little crazy, as more and more people crowd into the campgrounds, overflowing the portapotties, and an undercurrent of violence begins to pervade the area. "Just a bunch of crazy people cranking up to git crazier," he says. "But that's all right. Feel on the edge of doing something outstanding myself." He does indeed go over the edge, and the sheriff gets his comeuppance in a spectacularly appropriate manner by Lottie Mae, one of the sheriff's victims who faces her fear of his snake in her own way.

Crews portrays a dark side of the South, filled with grotesque characters and bizarre places, incest, adultery, and murder. One wonders how people could descend to such depths. Personally, I think it's the influence of country western music.
( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
white trash southerner's at their best. A fine read ( )
  zmagic69 | Mar 13, 2011 |
A comparative study of humanity being much like dog fighting. ( )
  Quixada | Jun 9, 2010 |
The annual rattlesnake round-up in Mystic, Georgia bears no relation to 'whacking day' in The Simpsons at all. When the thousands turn-up to take part and watch, by the day of the actual hunt, you know it'll have all gone horribly wrong. Throw a handful of good 'ol boys and their women, moonshine and whisky, fighting dogs, diamondbacks and the return of the prodigal cheer-leader queen into the mix and you have a heady brew that will burst its bottle in a flash. At the centre of this is Joe Lon Mackey, a former footballer who didn't get the grades to go to further, stuck in a trailer with his fading wife, two babies, and with nothing to do except mind his father's liquor store, misses his former girl Berenice the cheerleader, and finds himself taking it out on everyone ...

It's tragedy in the making, and the writing is brutal, visceral, yet not without a wicked sense of humour in the caricature of the characters. No words are wasted in this cinematic novel of murder and mayhem, and the tension builds and builds until it finally explodes in an stunning ending that shakes you to the core. ( )
2 vote gaskella | Jul 30, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0684842483, Paperback)

Welcome to Mystic, Georgia. This going-nowhere town hosts the annual Rattlesnake Roundup, which attracts thousands of visitors for a rough 'n' rowdy weekend of your basic primate behavior--hard drinking, ogling bikini-clad contestants in the Miss Mystic Rattle beauty contest, betting on dog fights, snake catching, and snake eating. Meet Joe Lon Mackey. He lives in a trailer in Mystic with his lumpy, devoted wife and two hollerin' young'uns. His days of glory as the Boss Snake of the Mystic Rattlers football team are over, and he didn't have the grades to go to college. He's just now realizing that his dreary business selling beer, bonded whiskey, and moonshine is all he's gonna get in the way of a destiny.

As the crowds for the Roundup start to overfill the camping area, Joe Lon feels on the inside like a barrel of snakes: "a writhing of the darkness, an incessant boiling of something thick and slow-moving." As he and his good ol' buddy get ready to wander around and check out the scene, Joe Lon says, "Just a bunch of crazy people cranking up to git crazier. But that's all right. Feel on the edge of doing something outstanding myself."

A Feast of Snakes is probably the most skillfully crafted and entertaining novel ever written in which a fed up person goes violently berserk. But Harry Crews belongs to the tradition of great Southern weird writers such as Flannery O'Connor, so A Feast of Snakes is richer than that: Crews serves up the reality of people's savage and unrelenting cruelty toward animals and toward each other, stark truths about human despair, male-female face-offs at their sexiest and most ruthless, and (here's his real genius) humor so powerful you can't help but laugh--even though it hurts when you do.

A Feast of Snakes, first published in 1976, is a dazzling and flawless horror novel. --Fiona Webster

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:34 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A small Georgia town, filled with a curious assortment of losers, anticipates the promise of bizarre new possibilities with the upcoming rattlesnake hunt

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