John Hawkes (novelist)

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John Hawkes
BornJohn Clendennin Talbot Burne Hawkes, Jr.
(1925-08-17)August 17, 1925
DiedMay 15, 1998(1998-05-15) (aged 72)
Alma materHarvard College
Literary movementPostmodernism
Notable works

John Hawkes, born John Clendennin Talbot Burne Hawkes, Jr. (August 17, 1925 – May 15, 1998), was a postmodern American novelist, known for the intensity of his work, which suspended some traditional constraints of narrative fiction.[1][2]


Born in Stamford, Connecticut, Hawkes was educated at Harvard College, where fellow students included John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, and Robert Creeley.[3] Although he published his first novel, The Cannibal, in 1949, it was The Lime Twig (1961) that first won him acclaim. Thomas Pynchon is said to have admired the novel.[4] His second novel, The Beetle Leg (1951), an intensely surrealistic Western set in a Montana landscape, came to be viewed by many critics as one of the landmark novels of 20th-century American literature.

Hawkes took inspiration from Vladimir Nabokov and considered himself a follower of the Russian-American translingual author. Nabokov's story "Signs and Symbols" was on the reading list for Hawkes' writing students at Brown University. "A writer who truly and greatly sustains us is Vladimir Nabokov," Hawkes stated in a 1964 interview.[5]

Hawkes taught English at Harvard from 1955 to 1958 and English and creative writing at Brown University from 1958 until his retirement in 1988.[6] Among his students at Harvard and Brown were Rick Moody, Jeffrey Eugenides, Jade D Benson/Denice Joan Deitch, Alex Londres, William Melvin Kelley,[7] Marilynne Robinson,[8] Ross McElwee,[9] and Maxim D. Shrayer.[10]

Hawkes died in Providence, Rhode Island; his papers are housed at Brown University.


  • "For me, everything depends on language."
  • "I began to write fiction on the assumption that the true enemies of the novel were plot, character, setting and theme, and having once abandoned these familiar ways of thinking about fiction, totality of vision or structure was really all that remained."[11]
  • "Like the poem, the experimental fiction is an exclamation of psychic materials which come to the writer all readily distorted, prefigured in that inner schism between the rational and the absurd."
  • "Everything I have written comes out of nightmare, out of the nightmare of war, I think."
  • "The writer should always serve as his own angleworm—and the sharper the barb with which he fishes himself out of blackness, the better."


  • Charivari (1949)
  • The Cannibal (1949)
  • The Beetle Leg (1951)
  • The Goose on the Grave (1954)
  • The Owl (1954)
  • The Lime Twig (1961)
  • Second Skin (1964)
  • The Innocent Party (plays) (1966)
  • Lunar Landscapes (short stories) (1969)
  • The Blood Oranges (1970)
  • Death, Sleep, and the Traveler (1974)
  • Travesty (1976)
  • The Passion Artist (1979)
  • Virginie Her Two Lives (1982)
  • Humors of Blood & Skin: a John Hawkes reader (1984)
  • Adventures in the Alaskan Skin Trade (1985)
  • Innocence in Extremis (1985)
  • Whistlejacket (1988)
  • Sweet William (1993)
  • The Frog (1996)
  • An Irish Eye (1997)

Awards and nominations[edit]


  • Ferrari, Rita. Innocence, Power, and the Novels of John Hawkes. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.
  • Hryciw-Wing, Carol A. John Hawkes : a research guide. New York : Garland Pub., 1986
  • Hryciw-Wing, Carol A. John Hawkes : an annotated bibliography /with four introductions by John Hawkes. Metuchen, N.J. : Scarecrow Press, 1977

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Greiner, Donald J. (1985). Understanding John Hawkes. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 9780872494602.
  2. ^ Barth, John (1998-06-21). "BOOKEND; The Passion Artist: Recalling John Hawkes". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-08-07.
  3. ^ "Arts Spectrum - OFA". Retrieved 2019-08-07.
  4. ^ Hawkes' author page.
  5. ^ "John Hawkes: An Interview. 20 March 1964. John J. Enck and John Hawkes" Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature 6.2 (summer 1965): 144; see also Maxim D. Shrayer, "Writing in Tongues," Brown Alumni Monthly September/October 2017; "Bez Nabokova" [1] 2 July 2017.
  6. ^ NY Times: John Hawkes Is Dead at 72; An Experimental Novelist
  7. ^ Nine Brown alumni to receive honorary degrees[2]
  8. ^ This Life, This World: New Essays on Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, Gilead, and Home. BRILL. 2015-09-25. ISBN 9789004302235.
  9. ^ MacDonald, Scott (2014-10-01). Avant-Doc: Intersections of Documentary and Avant-Garde Cinema. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199388738.
  10. ^ "Writing in Tongues" Brown Alumni Magazine September/October 2017
  11. ^ Bradbury, Malcolm. The novel today: contemporary writers on modern fiction. Manchester University Press, 1977, p. 7.