John Hawkes: Innocence in extremis


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This offshoot from the author’s novel, Adventures in the Alaskan Skin Trade, shows us innocence lost-not so much to experience as to the erotic imagination and its astonishing images. An American family returns to its native France for a reunion with the grandparents. As the story evolves, crowned by three bizarre and visionary scenes, we learn-along with the 12-year-old protagonist, of the family’s heritage of sexual despotism and its morality of extremes: “Nothing too much” is the family motto.

“John Hawkes’s prose carries a charge of intensity beside which the ordinary run of writing seems pathetically underfelt… INNOCENCE is an inspired visual piece of writing … handsomely produced, beautifully printed, a reading experience of exalted insignificance”

–Jack Beatty, NYTimes Book Review

“This novella is one of Hawkes’s most brilliant works because of the compressed balance, the deliberately controlled incongruities. It will not be easily forgotten; it is a dangerous, beautiful, final crossing.”

–Irving Malin, The Hollins Critic

“A short novel that’s vintage Hawkes-obsessive, hilarious, scary, and simply beautiful.”

–Russel Banks, Writer’s Choice

“More accessible than much of Hawkes’s fiction, its narrative line is straightforward, its structure clear and firm, its images readily comprehensible… Hawkes seems trapped in a characteristically American paradox-between an urbane acceptance of sensuality and an agonized, Puritanic rejection of its destructive impact upon unsoiled, Edenic innocence. INNOCENCE IN EXTREMIS affords an engrossing introduction to Hawkses’s concerns and his craft.”

–Arthur Waldhorn, American Book Review

“Mr. Hawkes has the power to do, gorgeously and as art, what most of us can at best do drably and as dream: transform incident into phantasm.”

-A.C. Danto, The New York Times Book Review

“…breathtakingly beautiful … His sentences are themselves ‘events.”‘

–William Gass

“INNOCENCE IN EXTREMIS [contains] Some of the best scenes that Hawkes has ever written, displaying the erotic mysteries of innocence struggling with experience.”

–James Schevill, East Side Monthly