A Feast of Snakes (1976)
The setting is Mystic – a small town in southern Georgia, not far from Florida. Mystic is the kind of town, has the kind of people, and considers the same themes that were prevalent in Crews’ essays. So, this is more like it.
Still, the homophobia and misogyny begin to wear. The women seem to come in two flavors, either beaten down (and beaten on) wives with babies on their hip, or versions of cheerleaders, baton twirlers, or beauty contestants. Take your pick. Some of the latter are not necessarily ‘weak’ women, but they know their Southern roles and how to play them.
The main character in A Feast Of Snakes is Joe Lon Mackey. His father is a broken down drunk, a vicious, mean spirited pit-bull breeder whose wife so loathed him that she ran off with a traveling salesman (of course). When Big Joe (Joe Lon’s father) tracks her down, and brings her back home, she puts a bag over her head rather than live any longer in the squalor and abuse. She pins a note on her body to the effect of ‘come get me now you son-uva-bitch’. His sister found the body and has never been the same, watching tv all day with the volume turned to the max. Rarely, if ever leaving her room.
Most of the characters, including both men and women, are damaged – not only psychologically, but physically. The glory days for these people, like the glory days for the South, are long gone. The town sheriff has a peg leg, the result of Vietnam. He arrests women and rapes them in his jail cell with impunity. Every one knows this. The attitude seems to be, well I wouldn’t do that, and it’s a shame, but they are only women after all. Joe Lon is a former high school hero football star with bad wheels. His fate seems sealed to mirror his father’s. Somewhere, he seems to have a sense of this and his tragic fate.
The time is the Annual snake hunt and round-up (featuring of course a bikini beauty contest). Running the event is now the inherited responsibility of Joe Lon – Boss Snake himself. On the day of the event, every thread, every emotion, every perversion merges. A violent ending to a violent story concerning a violent sub-culture. Not a place you want to hang out too long.