Now that was a sonorous way to end 2013 – just finished A FEAST OF SNAKES, by Harry Crews. Brad Watson recommended the book to me this past summer but I just now got to it. You know when you get up from reading a book and all the world seems a-tilt and off-kilter somehow, and it takes a few minutes before any semblance of good sense will return to your skull? That’s how it feels rising up from A FEAST OF SNAKES. Some don’t read for such purposes and I appreciate that, because neither do I, always, but when it happens, ain’t much you can do, but pass on the good word, that this is one of those books that will wallop you good, if you so happen to pick it up.
The realist in murder writes of a world in which gangsters can rule nations and almost rule cities … where no man can walk down a dark street in safety because law and order are things we talk about but refrain from practising; a world where you may witness a hold-up in broad daylight and see who did it, but you will fade quickly back into the crowd rather than tell anyone, because the hold-up men may have friends with long guns, or the police may not like your testimony, and in any case the shyster for the defense will be allowed to abuse and vilify you in open court, before a jury of selected morons, without any but the most perfunctory interference from a political judge.
It is not a very fragrant world, but it is the world you live in, and certain writers with tough minds and a cool spirit of detachment can make very interesting and even amusing patterns out of it. It is not funny that a man should be killed, but it is sometimes funny that he should be killed for so little, and that his death should be the coin of what we call civilization.
– Raymond Chandler
In the beginning is the Book. And that moment in which Cain kills his brother Abel. In the blood of this fratricide, the Mediterranean gives us the first noir novel.
– Jean-Claude Izzo
“Cormac McCarthy’s novels are as innocent of theme and of ethical reference as they are of plot. On the other hand, each of them constitutes a densely created world as authentic and persuasive as any that there is in fiction. The worlds are convincing not because the people in them do normal and recognizable things, or represent us metaphorically, or even inhabit identifiable time and space, but because McCarthy compels us to believe in them through the traditional means of invention, command of language, and narrative art. To enter those worlds and move around in them effectively we are required to surrender all Cartesian predispositions and rediscover some primal state of consciousness prior to its becoming identified with thinking only. There is a powerful pressure of meaning in McCarthy’s novels, but the experience of significance does not translate into communicable abstractions of significance. … Ethical categories do not rule in this environment, or even pertain: moral considerations seem not to affect outcomes; action and event seem determined wholly by capricious and incomprehensible fates. His stories are lurid and simple; they seem oddly like paradigms without reference and are all the more compelling because of that, since the matter of the paradigm does not lose its particularity in abstraction. The characters–without utilitarian responsibilities to well-made plots and unrelated to our bourgeois better natures–are real precisely to the degree that they resist symbolization.” (Vereen M. Bell)
Interviewer: Do you think you offer a “surreal vision” of Montana, as one writer commented in a review in Time?
Crumley: Surreal?! I think part of the trouble is that nobody on either coastd really knows much about what goes on out here, so that it *seems* surreal to them. … I have a notion that New York and Washington and Los Angeles are really provincial places, that the true sophisticated cosmopolitan American lives somewhere in between. I find it difficult to think of people as civilized who don’t know how to change a tire. I don’t *like* to change tires, but at least I can.