The Beetle Leg (New Directions Paperback)
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After years of underground existence, this brilliant novel is emerging as a classic of visionary writing and still remains Hawkes's only work devoted solely to American life.
The Beetle Leg, John Hawkes's second full-length novel, was first published by New Directions in 1951. After years of underground existence, this brilliant novel is emerging as a classic of visionary writing and still remains Hawkes's only work devoted solely to American life. As a 'surrealist Western" (Newsweek), and a violent and poetic portrayal of "a landscape of sexual apathy" (Albert J. Guerard), The Beetle Leg is a rich flight into the special vein of comedy that Hawkes had begun to exploit a decade before the popular acceptance of "black humor."
welders, unlike hog men or men of the hills, were unable to keep silent in front of her, their mouths were not stunned shut and awry. And now and then, to break the stare of the silken woman, they mentioned him, a brief description of wet wash as telltale as his small footprints in the mud, the sound of their voices through larynx and nose still pinched and awed with the knell of the one death. There was no flood but of light, and in the light no clash of cocks or bodies, only the lime glass
pitted against the hermit’s birthmark, he briefly stepped aside for the passing of water—as another might turn his head to cough—and swallowed a black and spongy pill picked from a matchbox. Then Bohn burst with feebleness and fought, with laughter and pains of senility, a past in which life moved deep within the woman’s body though her hands were cold. “I’m still ahold of myself, Lampson. At least I ain’t out looking around like these boys here.” “We’re just walking, Harry.” “I know,”
Leech did not have to climb, only explore each changing, still warm niche, approach with velvet crouching feet. In and out of a child’s late cradle, perched for a moment on the rim of an enamel pitcher, then behind it, pink helmet in full view; it adorned a tilted dry commode and backed off bowing and scraping. He thought of the face, all nib, and followed the body, the simplest shape, a bag for the intestines, as it puffed and shrank. He stopped, clapped his hands twice and listened as it fell
over and over itself. He climbed through the collars, the leather loop, harness for a whale, until he saw the plumes and heard the ligatures and chalk of the bare head batting against the wall. Down came his two stiff arms as one. Out of the barn slid a short dark tousled figure who carried a handful of tight feathers around the side to the fence and who, moving to his moonlit chores, tossed it over the rails for the horses. Then, crossing the yard briskly, he disappeared into the cabin. He
their feet, alert by standing, old now, steady, for nights which kept them from slumbering, together watchful, dimly awake.. “I knew he was coming, Wade. I heard of it.” The Sheriff gently laid down the fat, wingfolded body of his Stetson. No move was made to sit or turn and take the few steps to the open door from which they could have seen a street, a ridge of roof, the sloping, dry and distant night. Their backs remained without effort toward those sights, dim or broad, which might have made