A Feast of Snakes : A Novel

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Reviews of A Feast of Snakes : A Novel (1 review)

4 - Good Review

Reviewer:

Harry Crews is often credited as the father of a certain type of modern southern fiction, sometimes called redneck lit or a whole slew of other pejoratives. Yet his work offers more depth than the voyeuristic backwoods splatterfest conjured up by that name. So here's A Feast of Snakes--a short, brutal story centered around a small Georgia town's annual Rattlesnake Roundup. The central character is Joe Lon Mackey, ex-high school football star, whose life is effectively over at the age of twenty. He's stuck in tiny Mystic, Georgia, working in his daddy's store, trying to support a wife he never really loved (and is growing to hate) and two little boys. He hangs out with the current high school football star (a slightly younger, more vicious version of himself), helps his ailing, half-deaf father with staging dogfights, and tries not to blow his top at home. Into this nest of tension comes Joe Lon's former sweetheart, who has gone off to college, is dating a rich boy, and has improved her life in every way--basically, she's everything Joe Lon was unable to become. Naturally, Joe Lon can't stay away from her, which eventually results in one of the more gruesome sex scenes I've ever read. As stomach-turning as some parts of the book may be, there are also scenes that are thigh-slapping funny. Example: Berenice's new boyfriend is on the debate team at college, and when Joe Lon finally asks someone what that is (having no idea himself), the guy gives him a ridiculous answer about how it's where two almost-naked guys stand in a room and toss little rubber rings back and forth with their mouths. The thing you're supposed to take away from the book, I guess, is an awareness of the complete ruination of Joe Lon's life, and the question, "What DOES a football star do when he graduates with absolutely no other skills in a town with zero opportunities?" What eventually happens to Joe Lon ain't pretty.