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John Hawkes (John Clendennin Burne, Jr Hawkes) Biography

(1925–98), (John Clendennin Burne, Jr Hawkes), The Cannibal, The Beetle Leg, The Lime Twig

American novelist, born in Connecticut, educated at Harvard; he spent his formative years in Alaska. His experience as an ambulance driver in Italy and Germany during the Second World War was to mark his early fiction, including the novel The Cannibal (1949), which was viewed by many critics as an allegory of German fascism. Hawkes is often compared to the masters of avant-garde and post- modernist fictional technique, and his lavish prose style, imagistic virtuosity, and skilled use of the first-person narrative voice echo Nabokov and Djuna Barnes. Hawkes's novels include The Beetle Leg (1951), set in the American West; The Lime Twig (1961), a parody of the detective novel, marked by Hawkes's characteristic emphasis on violent and occasionally misogynistic sexuality; The Blood Oranges (1971), which reworks Ford's The Good Soldier; Death, Sleep and the Traveler (1974), a drama of sexual exchange and infidelity; and Travesty (1976), the monologue of an ageing writer driving the lover of his wife to death and himself to suicide. In later work Hawkes has experimented with female voices and semi-pornographic themes. The highly praised Virginie: Her Two Lives (1982), rich with allusions to the writings of de Sade, is narrated by a girl of II, living parallel lives in two centuries, the eighteenth and the twentieth. Adventures in the Alaskan Skin Trade (1985) uses autobiographical material, though the narrator, Sunny, is a woman. Rich with detailed descriptions of Alaska, the novel is Hawkes's most uncharacteristic work, and has been seen by some critics as his mandatory attempt to write the ‘Great American Novel’. Other works include the novels Second Skin (1964), The Passion Artist (1979), and Whistlejacket (1988). Hawkes's early short fiction, located in an Italy set between fact and fantasy, was collected in Lunar Landscapes: Stories and Short Novels ′49–′63 (1969). Hawkes is much admired by academics for his experimentalism and unashamed literariness.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: William Hart-Smith Biography to Sir John [Frederick William] Herschel Biography