When my girlfriend and I first began dating, she recommended Harry Crews’ Feast of Snakes. I picked up a used copy at Powell’s during a summer road trip, along with George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman’s Lady.
Both books explore the absurdity of masculinity and compromised manhood; both books also feature copious amounts of adultery and physical violence. But where the Flashman series is proudly comic, Crews’ novel is darkly, acidly comic. (If you’ve read it, recall his definition of true love.) Within the first page of Feast of Snakes, I was a full Crews convert.
To borrow Rosecrans Baldwin’s phrase, the novel breathes the oxygen of its own world. It’s a world complete and unique to Crews’ voice. (The best of Cormac McCarthy, David Foster Wallace, and Thomas Pynchon do the same.) And though it’s not a world I’d ever wish to visit in reality, I love all of his characters as if they were my own (repellent) cousins.
Which is a long preamble to say I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing this last week at the age of 76. There are rumors of a new novel, which I hope will see publication soon. In the meantime, we can celebrate the author the way you would any other: by reading him. I’m tackling Car next.
And if you haven’t read Crews, this great NPR interview from 1988 should convince you.