Our Best-Known Neglected Novelist
JOHN Hawkes is perhaps this nation’s best-known neglected novelist. When The Blood Oranges, his fifth novel, appeared in 1971, a front-page review in the Sunday book section of the New York Times complained of his persisting obscurity. “Feasibly our best writer,” wrote novelist Thomas McGuane. “Inevitably you finish a Hawkes novel wondering why he is not better known.” But something has been done in the last decade, especially by reviewers and critics and the academic community, to rectify the long neglect of Hawkes. There are several books devoted wholly or in part to the study of his work, his last three novels have met with large-scale critical success, and articles are quietly accumulating on such topics as “The Romance Structure of Second Skin” and “Narrative Unreliability as a Structural Element in Hawkes’s Fiction.” Although he is still not much read by the general public, the steady, perennial voice of his supporters, and still more, of course, the novels themselves, have won from many a conviction of the centrality and importance of his work at the present time. It is clear, too, that Hawkes has merited his reputation for aesthetic purity: he is a singularly committed and devout practitioner of the fine art of the novel at a time when that austere discipline totters with disregard. There can be no quarrel with his seriousness and integrity.
About the Author