Read The Lime Twig by John Hawkes Leslie A. Fiedler Online


An English horse race, the Golden Bowl at Aldington, provides the background for John Hawkes' exciting novel, The Lime Twig, which tells of an ingenious plot to steal and race a horse under a false name. But it would be unfair to the reader to reveal what happens when a gang of professional crooks gets wind of the scheme and moves to muscle in on this bettors' dream of a lAn English horse race, the Golden Bowl at Aldington, provides the background for John Hawkes' exciting novel, The Lime Twig, which tells of an ingenious plot to steal and race a horse under a false name. But it would be unfair to the reader to reveal what happens when a gang of professional crooks gets wind of the scheme and moves to muscle in on this bettors' dream of a long-odds situation....

Title : The Lime Twig
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780811200653
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 192 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Lime Twig Reviews

  • s.p
    2019-04-19 21:39

    ‘He felt the desertion, the wind, the coming of darkness as soon as he stepped from the saloon.’Behind every corner of reality is the possibility that terror and violence can spring upon us. This dread is perfectly captured in John Hawkes’ 1961 novel, The Lime Twig, a heist story centering on a horse race and a gang of criminals holding a married couple at their whims in order to pull off their scheme. The Lime Twig is a burning ball of lucid terror engulfed in an exquisite, nebulous narration that leaves the reader feeling beset by the very events on page as we witness the characters’ own desires and fears lead them to the slaughter.Although Hawke’s novel is difficult—demanding the readers full, constant attention and willingness to decipher the intricate fragments of a world seemingly going mad around them—his ability to create a powerful, rhythmic prose that dances like smoke across this vivid landscape of violence and betrayal will clutch the reader by the throat and ensure that they can’t imagine even wanting to do anything less than fully submit and commit. Hawkes allows the reader to experience the action in a similar fashion as his characters, who face the world through a various hazes like drunkenness, fog or fear.’Yet, whatever was to come his way would come, he knew, like this—slowly and out of a thick fog. Accidents, meetings unexpected, a figure emerging to put its arms about him: where to discover everything he dreamed of except in a fog. And, thinking of slippery corners, skin suddenly bruised, grappling hooks going blindly through the water: where to lose it all if not in the same white fog.’The confusion felt in the characters is shared by the reader, making us feel an active participant in the mayhem and menace. Flannery O'Connor wrote that ‘you suffer The Lime Twig like a dream,’ which makes for a succinct metaphor of this nightmarish narrative which twists and mutates before our eyes, often devoid of the very details that would allow us to rationalize and assess the monstrous visions before they transform into another horrific scene. As Michael Banks is powerless to control the events set up just for him, the reader is powerless to control the narrative written for them; Hawkes crafts a devilishly wild ride where all we can do is hold on tight and endure the fantastic novel that transpires like an apparition before our eyes.While the novel often leaves the reader to find their bearings in the events taking place, each passage is rife with the sights, smells and other vibrations of life, all culminating to chain the reader to the present of the scene. Hawkes also demonstrates his mastery of tone, keeping a tight control on his language to affect the largest emotional response. His metaphors and imagery cast the ordinary world in shadows. His descriptions of the criminals take on demonic stature that seem to push the limits of reality, such as Miss Dora with ‘eyes like a female warden’s eyes, black, almost beside each other, set into tiny spectacles with tweezers.’ There is also the gang leader, Larry, who despite often being depicted as ‘angelic’, seems more like a fallen angel, an instrument of evil, in his metal armor and facial features: ‘there was the perfect nose, the black hair plastered into place, the brass knuckles shining on the enormous hand, and the eyes, the eyes devoid of irises.’ Even the horse seems an instrument of evil, a beast of ancient times, bread to be an unstoppable force terrorizing all, and the bit about having a chunk of its ancestors skull placed in its head gives a vile feeling of monstrosity that cannot be shaken. The dark, elusive and nightmarish tones keep the reader feeling cornered and claustrophobic before these unpredictable characters—a feeling that is further elevated by the constant tightly enclosed settings that frequent the novel. Right from the start, especially in the first scene surrounding Banks, each word portends the disasters that will follow and drenched the text in its ominous tone. ‘The great difficulty Hawkes has,’ said William H. Gass in a recent interview with Tin House, ‘is to take something that is so revolting in life and write about it beautifully. That makes people mad, you know? Because they think you’re doing something, you’re advising or approving the situation, which isn’t the case. That’s one reason he liked violence. There are scenes in The Lime Twig that are so beautiful, so awful. That’s art, boy.’ Gass makes a great commentary on the violence here, which is often nearly lost in the shaky visuals of the narrative, occurring right before the readers nose but hidden from them at the same time; Hawkes artfully depicts the violence by transmitting it to the reader through vague, irrepressible feelings of discomfort and terror instead of simply creating a blood bath out of words. The first death, when the horse kicks in a mans head, occurs beneath prose that never takes it’s eye off the violent event. The man ‘tries to speak, and slides suddenly into the dark of the van’, he slips into the abyss to meet his doom, as the text portrays the fear and commotion emanating from the disaster, implying the death without ever explicitly showing it. Each death is like that, and the reader almost misses it even though it happens right there, but the narrative portrays the obfuscation of fear and the motion of escape. Characters are alive, then lost in the blindspots for a moment, a bloody corpse suddenly appears from the mist, and then lost again as another matter comes into focus and all we are left with is that fear, that feeling, that abstract horror or events we cannot understand which creates a far more powerful resonance than any cold depiction of the violent act could have.This is a crime story where everything is seemingly lost, nothing gained, yet the reader will leave feeling a heavy burden from the events they have passed through. We watch the criminals orchestrate the common man and his wife, dancing them like marionettes for their purposes, and we watch this man and wife willfully dance in order to chase their ill-fated desires. These desires are the lime twigs, an old device to catch birds comprised of a branch covered in a sticky substance called birdlime, through which they are ensnared. It is her love of her husband that leads Margaret Banks into their trap, and Michael Banks is snared by his lust and thereby kept as a semi-willing accomplice. The criminal activity was initiated by their tenant, Hencher, in his desire to repay the Banks’ the kindness they had shown him. We watch Michael Banks falls from grace, trying to liven his boredom of domestic life by agreeing to the heist, and then subsequently betraying his young wife to bed each of the various women he meets, and can only attempt to redeem himself through a final act of destruction. The reader moves, shivering with shame, towards the dramatic finale. In keeping with the idea of a crime drama, which almost seems parodied to be used as a springboard for Hawkes greater purpose, there is a slight detective element to the novel through Sidney Slyter’s newspaper column interludes. Although Slyter was a late addition at the request of Hawkes publisher to clear up some of the confusion of the novel (found in this wiki article), he serves as the detached voice of reason and attempts to piece together the crime as the novel progresses. Slyter does keep the reader on track with what is going on, but the switch in narration, from a third person narration that is intensely embedded in the story to a first person that is far removed from the events, creates a wonderful effect.This novel is slightly more straightforward and accessible than Hawkes’ grotesquely fantastic second novel, The Beetle Leg while still retaining the vivid surrealistic quality that made Beetle Leg so wonderful. I felt that this book was all the better for it as well. Short, yet dense, but immensely rewardin. It is a horse heist like Faulkner’s brilliant The Reivers but removed of anything idyllic and replaced with a lurking distress, like The Reivers from hell and delivered in spiraling madness (okay, the whole comparison does admittedly hinge solely on the fact that both books have a horse race scheme). The Lime Twig is like a literary romp through your own disturbed dreams. It writhes on the edges of reality, revealing itself in delirious fragments that drift through your mind like a shadowy specter. 4/5‘He felt how naked he was, how helpless.’

  • Jonathan
    2019-04-21 14:33

    Hawkes makes us see through a glass darkly, disorientates us. Our feet stub and stumble though the fields of his prose, flint-sharp, serrated. Somewhere far in the distance is a narrative, a story, some Dick Francis Thriller with its thugs, beatings, murder and horse racing. But this is far far off in the fog, thin and pale and unremarkable. What remain before our eyes at all times are the words, hard-edged and cutting, words which gather themselves inward and bare their claws, which are small and ancient and stained with blood, words which stand in short, carefully structured sentences and demand recognition, fealty. What is the point of this text? What does it do? It bruises and bloodies us. It sings to us in a hard and painful voice. It cuts its way somewhere deep into the Human and into the World given Being by language. It is prose as Thing, rather than prose as Journey, or as Lecture. It is impossible to situate, un-like its relatives, it is an object building itself in our interior, it leaves scars. It is not the Dream but the thing seen through the Dream, the black shape glimpsed from the corner of the minds-eye, the un-remembered darkness that wakes us into sweat and twisted sheets. It is late at night. I stayed awake to finish reading and am typing this quickly while feelings are fresh, and so that I can sleep. I do not know where Hawkes goes, in the great scheme of things, who his predecessors and successors are. He seems too unique. What he is doing is hard and important, and his prose technique is impeccable. This was my second of his, and I intend now to read them all. Thanks once more to the GR community for bringing him to my attention. Now off to bed.

  • Hadrian
    2019-03-30 18:28

    I'm not sure what the hell I read, but I think I love it.

  • Mariel
    2019-04-20 18:42

    "You suffer The Lime Twig like a dream. It seems to be something that is happening to you, that you want to escape from but can't. The reader even has that slight feeling of suffocation that you have when you can't wake up and some evil is being worked on you. This... I might have been dreaming myself. - Flannery O'ConnorYou tell 'em, dream sister! We've been to this same place. Do you ever feel like you've really been through something when lying in your bed reading a book? I could have fooled that evil WII fit game into thinking I had had a workout. I had a physical reaction like one of those strong dreams that you would check your arms to see if you had the same war scars or hair in your mouth. It was before bedtime. I was sick that night and had taken my allergy medication that knocks me out. I don't know that it wouldn't have felt that way without the elemental help. And wouldn't you know it I opened The Lime Twig and strong sensations as if the book people were putting their hands on my head. Resist sleep, withstand dreams. I could have been standing in their closets and holding my breath that they wouldn't overhear me catching my breath for what was going to happen. Innocents sleep side by side and cry or scream themselves to sleep. The brutal villains hold their branches bearing anything but olives. Limes, with their burning acid on forced kissed lips. Thorns and shadowy shapes on windows that you could fear to be anything. Fear of fear itself. Fear of that nightmare corridor or whatever dream cliche that you cannot stop yourself from having every night. (I dreamed the rabbit dream again.) Why doesn't anyone ever run away in these? Here is AC's review. This is the kind of goodreads review that I cannot resist. It is that. They touched me they and scraped. Why doesn't anyone ever run away? I think I'll be haunted why the one treacherous vision was actually a dream for Banks. He could leave his wife to their void mercy and gaze into the eyes of emptiness. How could they leave themselves to that? I didn't want to leave the closet. They could have forced me on my kness and burned my head off with the smell of limes.

  • Michael
    2019-04-14 17:24

    This 1961 novel is the second by chronology in a series of “experimental” novels I recently toured. This was very effective take on the fragmented realities of various characters converging on a lucrative caper set up by some heartless British gangsters. The greed of a middle class character named Michael Banks makes him susceptible to a con man’s scheme to steal a capable race horse from a demented dowager he knows and run it at long odds in a race under a false name. Some serious thugs hijack the plan and force Banks to play along by a deadly form of blackmail. Anything beyond this level of knowledge from the cover and book blurb represents a spoiler, so it’s best to avoid reading a lot of reviews or the book’s introduction. The read works best to experience the brilliance of its cinematic unfolding in a series of vignettes. Like the cover picture illustrates with a blurry face in the fog, each scene emerges through the senses in pieces you have to puzzle out to make sense of-- sights, sounds, smells, bits of dialog. Menace abounds throughout, and by the time the elements violence or entrapment becomes perfectly clear, you are hypnotized by the horror like prey before a cobra. Amongst all this nefarious unfolding of evil, little elements of humanity by some of the characters stand out like a beacon in the dark. As disgusting as Banks makes us feel about him for getting himself and his family in this pickle, he has one chance to redeem himself in the final stretch. In this respect I appreciate the following perspective rendered by Leslie Fiedler in the introduction:In a culture where even terror has been vulgarized by mass entertainers that we can scarcely believe in it any longer, we hunger to be persuaded that, after all, it really counts. For unless the horror we live is real, there is no point to our lives; and it is to writers like Hawkes that we turn from the wholesale slaughter on T.V. to be convinced of the reality of what we must fear. If the Lime Twig reminds us of Brighton Rock, which in turn reminds us of a movie by Hitchcock, it is of Brighton Rock recalled in a delirium or by a drowning man—Brighton Rock rewritten by Djuna Barnes.

  • Stephen P
    2019-04-20 13:42

    Really liked it or was it amazing? 4 stars or 5? If amazing should it stand shoulder to shoulder with the works of Shakespeare, Tolstoy, etc.? In, The Lime Twig, Hawkes conjures us by smoke and fog, cherubim and trains, and loss. Quickly, we move back and forth in times. We're not quite sure who said what to who, sunk into the POMO world of fragmentation. However, the edges are not sharp or ragged. They are rounded by his cadenced language, the poet's knowledge of the mysticism of letters sounds, their mix and alchemy. His pen was sure and all I had to do was lay back and be drifted off. I did not even bother latching my seatbelt. This was my mistake. Not my first.A good POMO read and at only 175 pages! I'm going to get the experience of my life, my world being fragmented at a sale price so small I will not have to spend a good portion of my fragmented life experiencing its fragmentation through the reading of a book that sweats me through it. Yet I did sweat but for different reasons. Hawke's, secreted away somewhere within the narrative, pens an elegant style replete with elegant descriptions, about events not completely elegant. I, as the obedient reader that I am, waiting while trying to look as though I am not waiting for the pat on my head, search the successfully but at times bewildering-who said what to who?-for the stream and layers of metaphoric meanings, the essential messages that will rise from between and beneath the words. I'm enjoying this. I relish this kind of writing. Plastered across my face is that goofy look, I've Got It! I've Figured It Out!-the underlying themes, where we are headed, the style and how it fits and strengthens the message; our message, Hawke's and mine.I should have clicked in my seatbelt. Details were missed. Important ones. Probably crucial but I hesitate to use that word, it is a piercing word with the weight of fate and finality. I am really a very good reader, You should see me sometime. I do not crack spines, books are held at an appropriate distance from me, I provide a serious contemplative look or can when requested a swooned dive descent lost in the book appearance (SDDLBA) in the Reading As Performance manual, P.83.What happened was that Hawkes floated important clues, but clues to what at the time, wrapped in his reward -in itself -high -language -prose, (RIIHLP P.24) These clues originated organically out of the text, the style, the Dickensian events and sexual tension setting the narrative in motion. I took the jolts, hits, the smooth streamed ride not looking about and soon found myself, of all things, in the midst of a suspense mystery. I pulled the cord. Twice. The conductor came back and I showed him my stamped ticket. He stared at me under his brimmed cap. I held back my hand wanting to yank the cap down over his imperious glaring eyes. Listen buddy, I said in my thickest New York accent, which usually only intimidates me, I paid a lot of money for this ticket to be taken on my usual trip where high style prose is written in a format that by the act of reading it leads me into an experience of the fragmentation of existence. You get that. It wasn't exactly intimidating nor did it serve the purpose. He ripped up my ticket. Did you ever think, he said, that maybe you're not smart enough. That maybe you did not get it? I yelled at his back that I thought of that. I thought of that most of my life. But I did not pay money or spend all this time to wind up in a suspense mystery novel. He mumbled some acronyms and disappeared. What the hell.I took my medications and settled down. O.K. I was in the midst of a suspenseful mystery novel yet the elevated prose had not ceased, even though the subject matter was banal. Looking back, the trickster, this Hawkes guy, had laid out detail. In my defense it presented itself as a, POMO high literary narrative form, and I wasn't searching for any...details. I'm not a detail-person so might have missed them anyway but he did not hide them, as a mystery writer hides clues. Hawkes wrote them, with no distinction, as part of the narrative flow. This is the way of the genius of the book, his writing. The second is the telling of building suspense and mystery in POMO style.Suspenseful It was. The beauty of the writing only enhanced the tension. I read on, remembering some detaiIs missed, desperately wanting to know what happens.This is the most difficult book to leave. I have wandered from book to book leafing through pages, reading first chapters, trying to locate the next book for me. The next book has Always located me just prior to finishing the book I am reading. I pass books on my shelves every day and one soon demands its reading. After The Lime Twig I do not want to leave the sublimity of its language. This is a world that is much more than difficult to voluntarily exit.I could reread it. An idea juicy with endless possibilities. I began to and found that I was just-rereading, the magic diluted. What I wanted was that first wide-eyed read; that initial immersed experience. I may have to wait a while or perhaps never. Anyway, I have to take my next scheduled medications. The review has worked me up. Read the book.

  • Geoff
    2019-04-06 21:42

    I sure wish I was a real good art critic. Then maybe I could talk about this book and its Dreams, Schemes, and Themes, and I probably wouldn't make sentence constructions like "real good art critic". I wish I had the pure crystalline objectivity of the real good art critic, of which there are literally millions on Goodreads!! No dearth of startlingly pure objective opinions in this E-world, nope, and if I dislike something I sure wish I had that guy's number like other people have people's number, which I'm told means something. I'm a bad art critic. I get excited about things, I want to energetically push them on my friends and strangers, I want to shout about these things into the ears of the sleeping, I want to champion things that brought me bliss, and when I read my first book by John Hawkes here I want to go find everything he wrote and gobble it up. Cuz this right here is a fantastic, utterly unique prose writer the likes of whom I've rarely encountered, if I'm extrapolating my judgement from just these slim 150 pages. I would say, if I didn't fear people doubting my knife-sharp critical acumen, that you out there in E-world should run off to your bookery or library and find a copy of The Lime Twig, and read it immediately, or read it on one of those phones I see adults reading childrens' books on all the time on the subways in this city, that I hear are fueled by a chimney system that burns raw cash. (It won't even take that long to read, it's short and goes pretty quick even though it's elaborate prose, so you know, you'll have plenty time left in the day to trash that waiter from that pricey restaurant on YELP.) But then someone would call me a fan-boy or say I'm not pure objective uncut critical cocaine, that I'm not looking enough for cracks and flaws in the enjoyment Hawkes has brought me here, if I go raving like some idiot about how good this book is. If I only looked closer I'm sure I'd find something wrong, something to dislike, something to be suspicious of, that would ruin my enjoyment, make me hide my face behind a Japanese fan or peer over my neighbors' fence at night when their windows are glowing like hunted animal eyes. If there's one thing the Red Scare and Islamophobia have taught me it's that if you look close enough at any one person or thing, you'll always find things that aren't right, things to suspect, things to fear and ruin enjoyment. But I'm a terrible art critic, I think you should run off and read John Hawkes, and show some enthusiasm while you do it. It's NFL season again, and all the time unhealthy looking men ask me "who my team is" (I wish to tell them we no longer live in the days of the Swan-shirt or the Bear-shirt, putting on a sports jersey doesn't transform you into a more successful, virile, interesting man - we have lifted away from those ages of Vineland like unto a water spout vorticing above the silver ocean!) - and now I know what to say! I'll say, I'm on team John Hawkes! And my inquisitors will think I misspoke and look at me with glowing animal eyes like my neighbors' windows where at night all secrets are given.

  • Mala
    2019-04-07 16:48

    Two things. Firstly, it seems there can't be a Lime Twig review minus a Gass* quote.My excuse is that mine is different & germane to the text because it highlights the most striking feature of this book: its highly visual prose.In reading what the character sees, the reader sees; but what the reader sees, of course, is not the thing but a construction. Since we know that we are witnessing a perception, we are, in effect, seeing an act of seeing, not merely an object which might be seen in a number of ways, because in the text there are no more ways than are written.(...) John Hawkes is the American master of the sentence that sees. When his prose perceives a horse, that horse becomes visual as though for the first time. But what makes Hawkes's horse so magical is not merely the way it is made of precise visual detail—any vet might equal that—but the sense of responsiveness and appreciation, relish, worship, in the eye's sight.(Finding a Form, p.40)This visual writing leads to two impressive qualities here: a strong sense of place, and a very cinematic appeal. You almost walk the rain & debris-sodden dingy lanes of post-war London, smell its musty, cramped, working class quarters- such a contrast of rough & drab lives described in lush sensual pictorial prose!Reading The Lime Twig is like watching a highly stylized movie: comparisons have been drawn to the Lynchian territory—that no-man's land between sleeping & waking states, to the staggered narratives, elliptical & ambiguous presentation of the French New Wave. Like the blurred cover art, the narrative too requires special focus from the readers though help comes via the racing column excerpts of Sidney Slyter which provide an outside perspective on the larger narrative & the reader can piece together the puzzle.Secondly, the term 'Noir' evokes B-grade associations—Hitchcock's movies don't get the respect they deserve. Modiano is taken lightly because his books are noirish.There are here, of course, set pieces associated with the crime genre, but Hawkes' flawless prose gives them a new lease of life.The Lime Twig relates the nightmarish turn life takes for an ordinary couple when they accidentally get involved in the dirty business of professional crooks.It is a relentlessly harrowing narrative where the racecourse becomes a metaphor for both man & beast racing towards the finish line only to meet the horror along the way. The horse, Rock Castle, with its immaculate pedigree, stands at the centre with a mythic ferocity—timeless, ageless, a harbinger of death. Death within these pages comes swift & brutal.I was not at all surprised that in his introduction, Leslie A. Fiedler, recalled Hitchcock's movies & Graham Greene's Brighton Rock for comparison, though he likened it to a version "of Brighton Rock recalled in a delirium or by a drowning man—Brighton Rock rewritten by Djuna Barnes."Read this if only to see how Hawkes raises the noir element to A+ grade literature with his mastery over the medium. Language is the main capital of the writer on which various gains accrue. Hawkes is almost Gass-like in his perfect sentences, but Gass' sentences carry the full weight of his philosophical mind whereas Hawkes' gothic sensibility is more concerned with the terror of living & of loving, both of which find perfect expression here.***************(*) Gass has also singled The Lime Twig out in both his Fifty Pillars, and the Blue book. That's some recommendation indeed!

  • Ian
    2019-04-02 17:28

    A Film Clings to Each PageI can't help but think of John Hawkes' novel in filmic terms.Film often starts with a treatment or a script, developed by one writer, but after it, the film becomes a collaborative work.This is a highly visual work that moves with the dynamic and momentum of film. It belongs to a tradition that extends from American B-movies to French new wave film and English crime a la the 1947 filmisation of Graham Greene's "Brighton Rock" (also about horse-racing-related crime) and reaches out into the future, perhaps, even as far as Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie.The novel seems to reverse the sequence of film production. It's almost as if Hawkes first conceived of his novel as a film, pictured it in its entirety in his mind, and then worked backwards to how it might have been written in treatment or script form.Imagine painting a picture of a novel in your head, and then writing a novel inspired by that picture.At the same time, Hawkes took a collaborative work and individualised it. He returned a visual product to the verbal vision of the (original) writer. Only the outcome is totally different to what would have resulted if he had followed the normal sequence.Bleeding MeaningThe writing is flawless. Each perfect sentence captures the action or atmosphere of the imaginary scene on the screen. Each dynamic sentence passes a baton on to the next sentence. Each sentence bleeds meaning and impetus and tension and import into the one that follows it. Each step in this criminal enterprise builds towards an horrific, sinister, visceral, almost pulp denouement.The novel seems to imply that the cultural portrayal of crime, maybe even crime itself, transcends geographical boundaries. It's set in Britain. Midway through, it acquired an American quality as if it was paying homage to another tradition (American Western or Gangster?). It would take a French film director from the 60's to do it justice. I would love to have seen "The Lime Twig" made into a film in the days when the best cinema was somehow mid-Atlantic, inspired by pulp fiction, when America and Europe were still talking to each other, rather than the lowest common denominator insularity of today's Hollywood-generated globalism. Still, the novel remains, pregnant with all of its literary and filmic potential, waiting to be read, watched and enjoyed.

  • Greg
    2019-04-03 13:32

    Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind for this 'experimental' novel. According to Leslie Fielder's introduction, Hawkes skews conventions but of the avant-garde and conventional literature and bravely writes without worrying about things like plot, strong characters, coherent scenes or structure. Yeah, he does that, but he doesn't really go very far in making what I would consider a novel that really pushes the envelope towards some kind of literary vision. Rather, he has created a sort of confusing and cold novel that is as unwelcoming as the cranky old man who yells 'get off my yard' and then numbs your brain by rambling on about some story that his dementia ridden brain drifts about in while you think to yourself, what is the point to all this. Yeah, the novel isn't derivative. It doesn't bow down to the literary thriller genre, and it also doesn't have the usual tropes one comes to expect of pre-1960's avant-garde literature, no call backs to surrealism or dada or total nonsense. Instead it just feels like reading a novel by a writer who wants to eschew conventions but does it by just making the a straight forward story incomprehensible and putting some flowery paragraphs in here and there. But, maybe I'm to blame. I have all kinds of other things on my mind and maybe my real life trumps wanting to decipher a difficult book, but I don't think if I was in my most pretentious and open to difficult books I would have found a hook into this novel that I could have opened it up and found something that got me intellectually into it. But, also I haven't been having a lot of luck with experimental novels lately, so maybe my brain is calcifying and soon all I'll be able to read are Tom Clancy novels and memoirs by MMA fighters (MMA note, the submission by Stefan Struve in the UFC fight on Saturday was a work of art, I can only hope to read a book as perfectly executed as Struve's triangle, to triangle/arm-bar).

  • Nate D
    2019-03-31 21:22

    An elliptic cime novel, a deterioration, a dream (this last from Flannery O'Connor, so strange to think of her and Hawkes as peers in some way) which can only be suffered, endured.It seems inevitable, reading Hawkes, that I should reflect on is famous claim to care nothing for plot, character or theme. As with the other two of his novels I've read, this gives very little evidence that he actually cared nothing for these, but much evidence that he wished to elevated the raw uninterpreted image over all three as the basic unit of story construction. And so the book unfolds in a delirium of foreboding and horror caught in strange and isolating moments. Part of the black uncertainty the reader shares with the characters is that this is a novel by omission. We see only partial events, the story runs off the page before and after the book bindings. But our dislocation within its words is only apt the experience of extreme dislocation within their own lives that is experienced by the young couple at the center of the story, drawn into a horserace conspiracy whose implications and outcomes they can in no way anticipate. From initial mood and diffusion, this ramps up into a nightmarish intensity more focused in its blunt force than anything else I've run into in Hawkes.

  • Szplug
    2019-04-13 17:27

    Hawkes' ability to sculpt word images is incredible, and he makes use of that prowess to weave a tapestry of fractured nightmares herein—jarring sequences of confusingly textured existential upheaval in which nothing can be remotely classified as hale or good, but possesses itself of a sickly, manic sheen. In a manner of speaking, The Lime Twig is a fairy tale for benumbed grownups, a Hansel and Gretel in which the former is dehumanized and then murdered, whilst the latter has her innocence shown as madness ere she is raped and bludgeoned to death—and the witch ingeniously and fiendishly behind it all, having escaped an oven-wrought incineration for the nonce, absconds into the forest shadows pursued by vague intimations of portending justice. The ties that bind within the varying tiers of societal composition prove thin and ineffectual in the face of the brute power wielded by the substrates of terror and contingency in the folding and unfolding of life's fabric when Hawkes is at the wheel.It all makes for an absorbing, even mesmerizing read. It's also quite puzzling, filled with ricochet clauses, word clusters, snapping sentences, ideated avalanches that impede the reader's path through the actual plot. That is not, in itself, a too serious problem, for the set pieces comprising Hawkes' storied vision are daubed in hues and shadows that leave each such vignette capable of being both independently admired and slotted into its place within the whole. Three of them, in particular—the opening chapter on Hencher and the Blitz, the dockside transport of Rock Castle, and the slip-n'-shank within the steamy expanse of the resort bath—are immaculate realizations of dream dementia intruding upon a weakly resistant world. And the erotic hedonism of a doomed man's farewell fiesta in the latter stages, with its enigmatic gunnery, out-of-kilter villains, eggy wordplay and sensual saunter—stroked stockings and pinched cheeks amidst pearls and swine—just pulled me in and swung me about, all dizzy and admiring of the stair-struck panels. In toto, a worthy chain of dense and discordant images bearing a lacquer of insanity in service to a story not of any vital import, but possessed of a captivating impetus.I liked it. But really, that's about all I can say. It was neither necessary nor truly meaningful—if, in the course of making my way through its pages, it had transubstantiated itself from paper to viscous liquid run vaporous blue, inhaled upwards and digested within the beryl skies draped over Vancouver this glorious September, leaving my hands empty and free to roam, I'd not have missed a beat in selecting something else from the shelves. This may be due to the fact that The Lime Twig was read following right after Ice and The Blind Owl, books of similar structure and enigmatic intent, gorgeously garbed textwise but not particularly utile apart from reclining on a settee and looking beautiful. That Hawkes opted to take a Dick Francis staple to serve as the thematic purport for peeling away the quotidian world to reveal the lizard-brained lunarscape shimmering in frenzied colours and mutilated passages below; well, that's just fine with me. I'll enjoy it for what it is, stamp it with a trey, and move on to the next object coming down the line.

  • Brian
    2019-04-05 20:22

    I wish there was a better term than "experimental fiction" to describe those wondrous works that attempt to put the novel back in novel. LitCrit Leslie Fiedler, in his intro to this book, writes about the joys of reading Hawkes and the author's great success in the realm of experimentalism fiction. Just by definition the word experiment denotes the possibility of success / failure, which is why this is a poor tag to stick on this book. For this is then experimental fiction that works, and I mean that verb in the sense of effort, because this is the type of book that shows you its Do Not Resuscitate bracelet before it climbs up to the trapeze. There is no safety net. You just gotta believe.If asked to describe this book I would first probably give a nod to the way he describes Hawkes' writing:for the places [Hawkes] defines are the places in which we all live between sleeping and waking, and the pleasures he affords are the pleasures of returning to those places between waking and sleeping.and then I would say that in that cloudy place between wake-and-sleep Hawkes has created an important work fusing a love triangle of violence, terror and desire. It isn't by chance that Michael and Margaret Banks live on Violet Lane. When I say that street name aloud it sounds like the single word that foreshadows all that is about to happen over the next 115 pages.Thanks to Geoff, N.R., Jonathan, J. Ergo and all you other GR friends flying the John Hawkes banner high. Go Hawkes!

  • William1
    2019-04-12 15:22

    In The Lime Twig, as in a dream, the reader is never sure of his or her footing. One moves ahead tentatively, trepidatiously. It's rather astonishing the intensity of suspense Hawkes is able to sustain. There's also this bit of ventriloquism he pulls off, since he's American but writing about an English racing caper and the vocabulary is very British. Why, an Anthony Powell on psychotropic drugs might have written it! Hawkes's talent for picking out the most vivid details when, say, describing a track crowd is stunning. He moves with dazzling facility from one puzzling scene to the next. You're never quite sure what anyone wants. Only slowly is this revealed, and then elliptically, discursively. There are those with criminal motives, thugs, meeting up here with relative innocents who thought they might penetrate this rough world to make a quick buck. How naïve. How tragic. Hawkes's Wikipedia page calls him a postmodernist. This comment must refer to other titles. For this narrative does not resort to self-referential metafictional devices. The erotic penultimate scene I found harrowing, exhausting. William Styron once said that a great novel always leaves us slightly exhausted in the end. The Lime Twig does the job in a mere 175 pages. A literary thriller of a very high order. I cannot praise it enough.

  • AC
    2019-04-04 21:24

    I have no idea quite what I've just read - but that it gripped me somewhere deep inside....

  • Adam Floridia
    2019-04-08 14:22

    Another book I only discovered thanks to Goodreads, The Lime Twig is one I approached with trepidation. After reading the introduction, I worried that it might be a little too avant for my garde: “[Hawkes provides] daylight access to those waste places of the mind from which no one can be barred at night, which the least subtle visit in darkness and unknowing…for the places he defines are the places in which we all live between sleeping and waking” (ix) and “[The Lime Twig] finally avoids the treacherous lucidity of the ordinary shocker” (x). Ut oh, I better prepare my mind, get some type of firm footing before jumping into this nightmare—the word that kept coming up to describe his work. So I did what I normally don’t do: I read others’ reviews before starting the novel proper. Finally, feeling fully equipped to foray into a nightmare, I started the book.The first chapter (or the unnumbered chapter before “Chapter 1”) is great. The narrator/protagonist addresses readers in the second person which makes for a very intense start. We learn about William Hencher’s childhood, spent in penury being thrown from squalid flat to squalid flat with his mother during WWII. This chapter is completely absorbed in/with/by fire and has some wonderfully grotesque imagery. Throughout reading that whole chapter, I had the famous (and famously spoiled on the dvd) scene from Barton Fink running through my head. Hencher himself is such a creepy character—he reminded me of Humbert Humbert at times—who sneaks in to watch his landlords sleep while entertaining thoughts like “I saw that on his thin icy cheeks Banks had grown a beard in the night and that Margaret—the eyelids defined the eyes, her lips were dry and brown and puffy—had been dreaming of a nice picnic in the narrow St. George’s Park behind the station…Could I not blow smiles onto their nameless lips, could I not force apart those lips with kissing?” (26). And then there is my absolute favorite scene in the entire book shortly after when the Bankses leave for the day and Hencher “prowl[s]” through the flat and “found her small tube of cosmetic for the lips and, in the lavatory, drew a red circle with it round each of my eyes. I had their bed to myself while they were gone” (27). What perfectly sickening characterization!Then “Chapter 1” begins, the voice switches to third person, and Hencher is only a bit player for only another couple dozen pages. Thus began my disappointment. The writing was not nearly as esoteric as I had feared, and the only thing “nightmarish” about it was the structure—like a dream, one scene flowed into the next without transition so that, when taken as a whole, the book is a collection of short pieces of one major event, and each piece does have a nightmarish quality to it in that it’s unclear exactly what is going on (or what has just gone on), characters are rushed and mobbed and suffocated and just out of sorts, and there are some truly horrific happenings all at the pace of a “long downhill deathless gliding of a dream” (171). Fog, darkness and squalor (I know I already used that word, but I can’t think of a more fitting adjective) abound. Nevertheless, to me this just wasn’t as gripping as that first pre-chapter 1 chapter, perhaps because its focus was on character. None of the other characters are developed as well as Hencher is in that first part, and nothing grabbed me like his character.Finally, some motifs I noticed that I'd like help making sense of: the colors white and silver permeated the pages, and I noticed bees/wasps mentioned more than once. Anyone?

  • Vit Babenco
    2019-04-10 20:37

    The Lime Twig is a story of horse races and the sinister machinations behind them. The story is dark, graphic and pitiless.At first John Hawkes seems to be nearly tongue-tied but soon enough his phrases coalesce into surreal wordscapes and the tale becomes enthralling.“Beyond the lights of crossings it was dark, the trees bent away from the train, and Margaret felt the wobbling tracks running over the ties, and each tie crushed under the wheels became a child. Children were tied down the length of track: she saw the toads hopping off their bodies at the first whisper of wheels, the faint rattling of oncoming rods and chains, and she saw the sparks hitting the pale heads and feet. Then the steam lay behind on the tracks and the toads returned.”It is like The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel…Reality slowly disintegrates and on the way it takes along human lives.

  • Robert Beveridge
    2019-04-23 18:26

    John Hawkes, The Lime Twig (New Directions, 1960)A friend of mine once said of the film Eraserhead that it was as close as cinema came to capturing a nightmare onscreen. (I disagree, but the parallel is useful.) The Lime Twig, in that sense, is the rough literary equivalent of Eraserhead; it's a Dick Francis novel edited by Jean-Paul Sartre with finishing touches added by Aime Cesaire. The whole contains a marked nightmarish quality; for once, I was actually grateful for the blurb writer at New Directions explaining some of the basics to me as I went along.The story revolves around one of the oldest plots in horse racing; a team of small-time crooks buy an old racehorse to enter in a stakes race, the Golden Bowl at Aldington Race Course (being a Neanderthal American, I've no idea whether there actually is an Aldington Race Course in England). The horse in question won the race a number of time previously, but in the days before lifetime past performances, few bettors had memories stretching back five and six years. The crooks alone are enough to make the nameless rabble in Reservoir Dogs look like competent professionals, but things get worse when a big-time operation decides it wants in on the deal. (This is the part where the blurb on the back saved me; I figured out that others were getting in on the action, but they seem just as disorganized as the first lot, only more savage about it.)Everything is presented as a kind of pointillist painting; pieces float in and out, some disappearing altogether, some being tied up at the end. Hawkes relies on the reader perhaps more than any other mystery writer here to fill in some blanks. This is in no way a bad thing; when has an author been criticized for OVERestimating the intelligence of his audience? However, readers of more mainstream mystery novelists may feel as if pieces are still missing by the end. (Jessica Fletcher Mr. Hawkes is not. There are no neat pages of explanation at the end.) A couple of re-reads of the most relevant passages will suffice to tie things up, and unlike most mystery authors, Hawkes does very little in the way of stopping the reader from recognizing the major foreshadowing or clue-dropping as it happens. And yes, despite all that, the book still reads as if the reader has taken a rather large dose of laudanum before sitting down.As with most New Directions books, there is a core of critics who feel John Hawkes is the best thing for the mystery genre since, and perhaps before, sliced bread. This may well be the case. There's no denying the effectiveness of Hawkes' literary style and his ability to keep the reader turning pages despite it. However, it's one of those cases where it almost seems too much of a good thing. To draw another film parallel, Alejandro Jodorowsky, who holds much the same core-of-critics role in film as Hawkes does in letters, created a few masterpieces of exactly this sort. His most famous film, El Topo, just goes way over the edge, and its style eclipses its substance too far. I got that feeling more than once while reading The Lime Twig, and while I'd certainly recommend it for fans of the ubiquitous British Horse Racing Mystery™, it should probably come with a "warning: literary writing ahead" sticker. *** ½

  • Axolotl
    2019-04-04 18:21

    This is more of a fever-dream than a novel. Moving through the fog of its pages, just when you think you've got a handle on where you are, who is present and what is going on in story, your comprehension is frustrated in some way--this happens time after time and, as others have noted, makes following the book rather a challenge. I liked how this fog-like effect was made literal in the "Baths" chapter, truly marrying form and content. If the ostensible genre this story is couched in--the crime thriller--and its episodes were the appendages of a comfy sweater, Hawkes subtly tugs on the narrative threads of each appendage, making it unaccountably unravel (Hawkes is hiding behind that tree over there, he's subtle see?). I don't think that it is really important to understand everything that went on--if that were even possible, which I don't know. Themes in this novel are just as slippery; indeed, several times I thought "I have it, I know what this novel is about!", only for such hubristic notions to end up dashed upon the rocks of the book's own irresistible momentum. This momentum is primarily generated through Hawkes's use of language; his skill as a writer so evident that reading his book is a pleasure, even if you can get swept up in it (I remain confident that this is by design). There is more skill in the brief Sidney Slyter vignettes which open each chapter (feel very real at first only become increasingly "dream compressed" with each successive chapter), than in many whole novels. The word "singular" pops up more than I would expect in GoodReads reviews (this is a bit odd I think, b/c it is pretty old fashioned-sounding and often makes the writer employing it sound pretentious), however this book/reading experience can be pretty well summed up by the word. Good luck to the Violet Lane detectives who, at the end, drive "separately through vacant city streets to uncover the particulars of this crime".

  • Cody
    2019-04-22 16:20

    There are some writers that obviate themselves from my lame quips (see: pretty much every other review I write) by virtue of their greatness. John Hawkes is one of them. When he was on, which he certainly is here, he was one of he best. Reading him is like divining cigarette smoke: it’s malleable, shifting, there but only to vanish. Or, in his own words, “the whiteness that was solid and rolling and solid again all at once.” His anti-realism allows views at the elliptical and spectral nature of life by removing much of the functional blah and elevating the simplest of images, phasers set to 'Haunt:'“And while they were gone I prowled through the flat, softened my heart of introspection: I found her small tube of cosmetic for the lips and, in the lavatory, drew a red circle with it round each of my eyes.”or:“Beyond the lights of crossings it was dark, the trees bent away from the train, and Margaret felt the wobbling tracks running over the ties, and each tie crushed under the wheels became a child. Children were tied down the length of track: she saw the toads hopping off their bodies at the first whisper of wheels, the faint rattling of oncoming rods and chains, and she saw the sparks hitting the pale heads and feet. Then the steam lay behind on the tracks and the toads returned.”I couldn’t tell you why Hawkes’ prose and imagery moves me the way it does, but its illusiveness is one of the great gift to letters in my estimation. A lot of people complain about his lack of narrative structure, a libel equivalent to complaining that John Coltrane played too many notes (fact is, they were all the right ones). Sometimes, you have to forego the thoughts being connected for you and just lose yourself to the current. It’s electric, I can tell you that much, and I am thrummed by its ohms.* * * *[Fearing I may have disappeared up my own ass, I ask you to please now picture a monkey masturbating a chicken.]

  • Sean Masterson
    2019-04-07 17:20

    Just realized this was not on my list and leapt to correct the oversight. This is one of my all-time favorite novels. Between its covers you will find the germ of much that came after: Pynchon, Lynch and many more who deign to turn from the light and confront the sickness, the fear that resides in us all. Hawkes presents a grotesque of what it means to be heroic, to be in love and finally to die. Continental readers will recognize a heavy dose of the French avant garde. I started the author's oeuvre here, though he had published a number of other works prior to this one. The Lime Twig is still my favorite and represents a turning point in his style. I often tell people who are timid about reading the moderns and postmoderns that they should be encouraged by the Brobdingnagian portions of humor in the pages of Joyce, Pynchon et al. We cannot avail ourselves of similar encouragement when it comes to Hawkes. These are stark, unfunny pages.(Excuse the verbosity. Been reading a lot of Bill H Gass.)

  • Kobe Bryant
    2019-04-05 15:21

    This book is like a puzzle where youre trying to figure out what the hell is going on in each scene before it ends

  • Jon Scott
    2019-03-31 21:25

    I bought a copy of The Lime Twig online and when it arrived, I saw that there were three novels collected between the covers. I was only interested in the LIme Twig. I had read about Hawkes recently in a biography about Flannery O'Connor. I was intrigued by the descriptions of Hawkes' work as "experimental." I jumped right into the reading prepared to grapple with the density of the prose, but I was surprised by the writing. I'm sure that I could go back and re-read The Lime Twig and have a better understanding of its plot and characters now that I read it once. That's a good thing as far as I'm concerned. I get bored with cookie cutter plots and traditional narrative approaches at times.As I was reading The Lime Twig, I kept on having distinct visuals which correspond to the images I associate with film noir, of which I am a devotee and have viewed and viewed repeatedly many of the primary texts of the genre. The richness of language of this novel was a sweet treat indeed and worked to create a mood that virtually transformed the black images of the text and the white paper on which it was printed into the moody environs of the bleakest of film noir sets. I loved how Hawkes incorporated the images of fog as a metaphor of density and mystery. Hawkes' word choice too was superlative. It seemed like every object described was greasy or filthy or decrepit. The sense of decay and an ambience of subterranean degradation infested not only the sense of place but also character and built a quality of impeding doom and foreboding into the essence of the story. The characters mingled base human brutality with ignorance, stupidity and greed to create a violent and chaotic world, a dark labyrinth of psychosis, self defeating promiscuity, and primal greed. Like classic noir, there were no winners only losers. The stylized prosed worked to create a world where noir elements thrive, a fertile garden for the fetid and base desires of humans is played out to their self destructive ends. Just like the fog bound atmosphere, the interior state of minds of the characters, their motives and actions, were unexplained, unclear, tainted, and constantly shifting to reveal and obscure the reasons why so many people had to get fucked and die.

  • Paul Gleason
    2019-04-02 21:42

    For my money, The Cannibal is a much better novel than The Lime Twig. While featuring Hawkes' incredible prose, The Lime Twig left me feeling kind of cold, perhaps because it seems so insular.I could be missing the point here, but the book reads like a creative writing exercise, with Hawkes' teacher giving him an assignment to write an unconventional, postmodern heist novel. Well, Hawkes, being the writer he is, accomplishes this mission in spades. The prose is wonderful, and the traditional heist story is told is an unconventional way.But what's the big deal?If the story were about something other than its own structure, then I would have appreciated it more. The Cannibal, of course, deals with war, atrocities, etc. - and is simply brilliant.The Lime Twig is about itself.Also, unlike Hawkes' giant contemporaries - Coover, Barth, Pynchon, Gaddis - there's not a laugh to be found. This isn't to say that books need humor. But books that are this insular need something to save them.I have a gut feeling that The Cannibal is the best Hawkes I'll ever find.

  • Kerrie
    2019-04-07 17:30

    I usually don't review the books I read for college back in the distant mists of time, but this one stuck out as being horrible. Not only did the time/setting hold no interest for me, but I had no idea what was going on, didn't care, and neither did the class. :D

  • John
    2019-04-22 16:40

    John Hawkes stuns w/sensuality, whether his subject is quotidian greasy-fingered tinkering -- the material of this bruising fantasia on the British crime story from 1961, more or less about fixing the races & destroying a marriage --or a spectacle that comes along about as often as the Burning Man. Indeed, you could say THE LIME TWIG brings Burning Man to the drip & drear of postwar London, so that even the beating of a kidnapped woman fascinates, w glinting humor & indirections that prove, always, just revealing enough. The torturer's truncheon, coming down, "made a sound like a dead bird falling to an empty field," & the scene overall proves one of the great Hawkes set-pieces. He conceived of dramatic combinations beyond all but the nerviest of storytellers, & brought them off w/an unmatched passionate grit, over nearly half a century of nasty but delicious, cool but empathetic renderings of those who seek to escape the norms. Thus, while THE LIME JACKET represents an early peak for Hawkes, his genius never went fudsy, as evidenced by later outrages like the early-'80s VIRGINIE (orgies of magnificent idiosyncracy) & the late-'90s WHISTLEJACKET (more racehorse scamming & muscle). I consider him the greatest natural prose stylist of the American generation now passing on, undeservedly in the shadow of colleagues w/ more obvious brands of dazzle (including, ironically, his longtime champion John Barth). Indeed, nearly of Hawkes' more famous contemporaries owe him a debt; for instance, GRAVITY'S RAINBOW reads like Pynchon thumbed endlessly through Hawkes' THE CANNIBAL, also set in the devastated Germany following the War. But THE LIME TWIG has my heart, for its sorry humanity, its beauty suffused w/ both groaning & silliness.

  • Ned
    2019-03-28 16:22

    I enjoyed my first by Hawkes, but suspect this is not his best. It most certainly reminded me of Greene's Brighton Rock, what with the unsavory English underground characters and the gritty life of amateur gangster life. The writing was strong, and for 1960 it certainly was part of the "experimental" novel movement. The penultimate chapter was strongest, where the seemingly besotted protagonist endures a night of surrealistic pleasure and ultimately finds his destiny. The plot was obscured throughout, in dream-like reveries and events, like Greene's. This I did not mind, and the characters and life of late 40's / 50's poor English life was excellent. Ultimately, thought, the blending of reality and fantasy was a tad distracting and not entirely worth the cleverness. And I could barely find the Lime Twig anywhere till the end, where it seemed to be a throw-off fantasy unrelated to the rest of the story. I'll be curious now to see what others say about this and find out if I missed the key points by careless reading. But I always believe that if my reading was not sharp it has something to do with the novel itself. I'll try Hawkes again - any experts out there care to direct me?

  • Marc Nash
    2019-04-12 17:24

    I don't get Horror. I mean I read House of Leaves and enjoyed it as a work of experimental literature without a serious inkling that it could also be pegged as horror until I read some of the reviews here on GR. Same thing with "The Lime Twig". Apparently it's a book about the terror that lurks behind everyday life. Or just what I call everyday life...It's language and overall stylistic tone of blurry/shadowy/nebulous reality are what appeals. The plot has its own build up of tension. But what I really honour is that an American author could so expertly capture a Britain just emerging from wartime rationing & austerity but before it attained the swinging 60s. The book has been compared with Graham Greene, but actually the writer it most reminded me of was the playwright Harold Pinter. His world of boarding houses and lodgers, suppressed fury and violence, for me that was all here too. It read British not American and to sustain that over the length of a novel I thought admirable.But horror? No, just a good read.

  • Nathan
    2019-04-07 20:28

    ". . .something they couldn't show on films."That William Gass has named Hawkes' The Lime Twig one of his Fifty Literary Pillars is reason sufficient to read this little crime story. For my money, the more interesting contribution by Hawkes to the High Modernism of the 1950's is his The Cannibal.

  • Sarahjanet
    2019-04-07 13:22

    A surreal, avant-garde novel melded with pulp crime fiction. (Many a review describes it as something like Dick Francis meets David Lynch.) The basic story—a race horse heist gone horribly wrong—is told in nightmarish, impressionistic sequences. The cover of the book, featuring a grainy, blurry mess of images that only come into focus when you really concentrate, is a pretty apt translation of my experience of the book.