Read Second Skin by John Hawkes Jeffrey Eugenides Online


Skipper, an ex-World War II naval Lieutenant and the narrator of Second Skin, interweaves past and present—what he refers to as his "naked history"—in a series of episodes that tell the story of a volatile life marked by pitiful losses, as well as a more elusive, overwhelming, joy. The past: the suicides of his father, wife and daughter, the murder of his son-in-law, a bruSkipper, an ex-World War II naval Lieutenant and the narrator of Second Skin, interweaves past and present—what he refers to as his "naked history"—in a series of episodes that tell the story of a volatile life marked by pitiful losses, as well as a more elusive, overwhelming, joy. The past: the suicides of his father, wife and daughter, the murder of his son-in-law, a brutal rape, and subsequent mutiny at sea. The present: caring for his granddaughter on a "northern" island where he works as an artificial inseminator of cows, and attempts to reclaim the innocence with which he faced the tragedies of his earlier life. Combining unflinching descriptions of suffering with his sense of beauty, Hawkes is a master of nimble and sensuous prose who makes the awful and mundane fantastic, and occasionally makes the fantastic surreal....

Title : Second Skin
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780811216449
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 210 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Second Skin Reviews

  • Jimmy
    2019-06-14 05:08

    Yeah, what the hell. Why not? I love books about characters that morbidly exist in the wake of a loved one's suicide. I love misery. God, that sounds so typically melodramatic. Maybe I mean that I love light being made of human misery and suffering. Some days I wake up, and I can see nothing but the comedic aspect of life's ridiculous restrictions; poverty, biological disintegration, regret, doubt, illness, failure, humility, disappointment, etc. I want at least the delusion that I can exert any control over my own perspective, that I can giggle in the face of complete and total suffering. Or maybe I can just read a piece of fiction about it, and relate to this shared human condition. Blah, blah, blah, etc. John Hawkes is stylistic candy. As Mr. Gaddis once said "his sentences are events unto themselves".update:Seeing as how every time I picked up this book I was either hungover or drunk, I can't blame Hawkes for being too aimless or opaque. The story has its more engaging moments. Hawkes' blends dada absurdism and Lynchian ominousness together, and that combination seems to result in an awkward balance. Once again Camus's influence is probably stronger than it ever has been. And I must continue to stress the fact that whatever is seemingly omitted from Hawkes' stories is done so in a very deliberate manner. Even when he isn't at his finest, which Second Skin certainly isn't, he still manages to display a solid enough intention through his prose.Alright, I'm done. God, I'm not even drunk yet.

  • Jonathan
    2019-05-27 02:14

    " Overhead the dawn was beginning to possess the sky, squadrons of gray geese lumbered through the blackness, and I was walking on pebbles, balancing and rolling forward on the ocean's cast-up marbles, or wet and cold was struggling across stray balustrades of shale. At my shoulder was the hump of the shore itself – tree roots, hollows of pubic moss, dead violets – underfoot the beach – tricky curvatures of stone, slush of ground shell, waterspouts, sudden clefts and crevices, pools that reflected bright eyes, big smile, foolish hat. Far in the distance I could see the cold white thumb of the condemned lighthouse. "For Hawkes, words are as concrete a part of the Natural world as earth, rock, the shadows of spring light on winter trees, spreading dark veins across the pavements. His sentences have a physical presence I find nowhere else in literature. In the short passage above he uses all the common tricks of alliteration, assonance – blackness, balancing, marbles, balustrades – and all the rest, to create something somewhere between sound and script, you feel it in your mouth like Molloy's sucking-stones. I find with much of Hawkes' work, particularly in the earlier stages of his career, the first 20-30 pages are read through fog. I stumble, lose my bearings, until small points of clarity coalesce and cut a clearing, or reveal a plot. But I trust him, and I enjoy being constructively confused. I was, at times, reminded of Under the Volcano. Something is similar in Lowry and Hawkes' prose, though I cannot quite put my finger on what it is. Something about the weight of it, the density of each line.If I have a criticism it is a personal one - my own dislike of certain types of mythologizing that often orbit around desire and loss, and the performativity of it all. But this is a minor quibble, and one that did nothing to dampen my enjoyment of the text.The edition I had has a rather sweet preface by Jeffrey Eugenides, read at Hawkes' funeral, as Jeffrey studied under Hawkes at Brown. The back cover also contains a quote from Bernhard Malamud stating that he feels it to be Hawkes' best book, and a "magnificent work of the imagination". These points may have some persuasive power for you, or they may not. For me, I respect both these writers, though place Malamud significantly above Jeff, and was pleased to find myself in agreement with them. I would, without hesitation, label this a masterpiece. It deserves to be read.

  • Nate D
    2019-06-11 07:17

    A fugue of memory and loss, a series of episodes in spectral places that hover in the dark, suffused in sorrow and menace.While this drifts forwards and back through time like the fantastic Death, Sleep & the Traveler, and maintains the elegant unearthly stillness of Hawkes' descriptions of each place and action, real or perhaps slightly imagined, this one drifts in larger chunks, with less sense of momentum between sections (as each must build itself up anew). It took me a full 50 pages for the style to click, before I started to lose myself in its voluptuously desolate sense of place, before it fully cast its spell. Still, even more so than Sleep, Death, and the Traveler, there's a kind of distance from everyone here, even from the first person narrator. It's hard to connect, a ponderous lyricism intercedes and stifles, each faint outline of character is cut-off and isolated in the sucking void that sweeps in around everything here. Of course, Hawkes claimed not to care about plot or character at all. What did he care about, place and mood perhaps, or the little warm space a word can hollow around itself on the page? For all of these are where Second Skin excels, fevers, gleams darkly in the endless night.

  • Jamie Grefe
    2019-05-28 06:57

    I would give this five stars, but this book nailed me with its density. Hawkes is a master of grabbing by the hair and guiding the head around the room to the most spectacular details and oddities happening where I just wasn't looking (couldn't look). He's in control here and a large part of this book was just too verbally slick for me to imagine. My mind wanted to read on its own terms, but Hawkes wants us to play by his rules from the get-go. Well, that incapacity to escape is my fault, perhaps--not the best book to read on the bus and the train. Demands silence. Hawkes would be disappointed in me. So I finished the book and have read it, but I feel like I've read the skin of an onion and I know that when I read it again next year--yeah, already added it to my read again list--I will be moving one layer closer to these episodes. Or maybe its not an onion, but a body or an organ, or a layer of the finest skin.

  • Sam
    2019-06-17 00:13

    Linguistically unimpeachable. An excellent lesson in the line between the weirdness a reader can bear and the weirdness they can't, and how that line can be manipulated through language. I would argue, however, that you could read eighty pages of this book and understand the themes and the language as well as you would at two-hundred, and that Hawkes' manifest lack of interest in plot can make some of the dislocations in the prose needlessly difficult. Also, Skipper's blinkered narrative viewpoint robs some of the interest in the minor characters; it has that typical post-modern solipsism, in the sense that the first person language-heavy voice just swallows everybody else, as if the endless foraging of a hungry mind have digested all the color out of the landscape. Sometimes I raised my hand in a fist-pump for several pages, sometimes I felt as if the book were literally sucking the air out of my life through the holes in the prose. At the best of times I thought it was the greatest evocation of the sexual fears of authoritarian white (military) men I had ever read; at the worst of times I wondered if I really needed to know any more about the sexual fears of authoritarian white (military) men. I think I will read The Lime Twig next. I hear it's battier and not so blinkered. But this one is still recommended.

  • Ben
    2019-05-28 23:50

    Fascination/obsession and strangeness form the foundation of Second Skin. The structure of the novel is deconstructed to the very edge of nonsense and then pushed one step further passed the realm of hallucination into the soft substance of pure art. At no time did the writing feel self-indulgent or secretive. (Perhaps one of the most difficult tests of surrealist texts.) Rather, the prose is open and bold - "naked history" is the desire of the narrator. Oddly enough - despite Hawkes masterful adherence to experimental/post-modern constraints - something like a plot emerges, but as a reader, I found myself questioning my own need for a narrative structure and rather enjoyed the pure beauty and devotion that Hawkes dedicates to his writing on a word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence basis. I don't care to explore the argument as to whether what Second Skin arrives at is a type of hyper-realism; the book doesn't preoccupy itself with any doubts of its vision.That being said Second Skin is an inspiring book. The kind of book I hope to write someday. I would recommend it to anyone interested in frontier of fiction - the limits of what writing (and our perception of it) is currently able to achieve; it is truly a masterpiece.

  • Erik
    2019-06-07 04:11

    Wow, this is a motherf*&$er of a book. Why no one told me about this until I was 30 I have no idea. It's like they hid this one from you. As equally towering as the highest achievements of Delillo or Pynchon, those guys should pass the PoMo crown to Hawkes for a spell. I can't find sentences as perfect as the ones in this book pretty much anywhere. A solid gold wretched story about one man's beyond brutal life -- whether the brutality is from himself or from life is often debatable and his eventual (and earned) redemption. This is as good as it gets, people.

  • Adam
    2019-06-11 05:11

    Papa Cueball seems to have lived in all that darkest most desolate regions where sea meets land, his recollections an absurd collage of snowball fights, car chases on beaches, abandoned lighthouses, mixed with incest, suicide, and murder. Dark but humorous in very disconcerting way.

  • Vit Babenco
    2019-06-02 00:55

    Second Skin is a dark nonlinear story modeled on the Greek tragedies.“For it is time now to recall that sad little prophetic passage from my schoolboy’s copybook with its boyish valor and its antiquity, and to admit that the task of memory has only brightened these few brave words, and to confess that even before my father’s suicide and my mother’s death I always knew myself destined for this particular journey, always knew this speech to be the one I would deliver from an empty promontory or in an empty grove and to no audience, since of course history is a dream already dreamt and destroyed.”The hero is surrounded by death… He abides in an utter desolation and is thoroughly unhappy… “Anyone who has gotten down on his knees to vomit has discovered, if only by accident, the position of prayer. So that terrible noise I was making must have been the noise of prayer, and the effect, as the spasms faded and the stomach went dry, was no doubt similar to the peace that follows prayer. In my own way I was contrite enough, certainly, had worked hard enough there in the rubble to deserve well the few moments when a little peace hung over me in the wake of the storm that had passed.”But gradually, bit by bit, his twisted confessions begin to reveal secrets and it becomes obvious that his misery is an effect of his own monstrosity… And eventually he finds happiness in the utopia of fantastic delirium… And he hides behind the second skin of paranoia.I suppose his madness plays a role of Deus ex machine.

  • Nathanael
    2019-06-04 06:57

    for all the extent novels that explore the hidden but ever present wonder and greatness of humanity, there needs to exist a book like this. Know that sinking feeling you get in your stomach when you see a parent at a mall smack their kid in public and know its not gonna be any better for the kid at home? Reading second skin is like that to the 100th degree, only Hawkes drags you with him into the home as well. The impotence of the main character is often sympathetic, but disheartening as well. Actually "disheartening" would probably be the best way to describe this novel. A stylish, moving, gut-wrenching brain-wringing disheartening novel. Read with care.

  • Andrew
    2019-06-26 07:15

    This is basically the greatest novel I've read in about 15 years - the writing is like the greatest parts of Pynchon and Coover tempered with the beautiful glissandos of Kathryn Davis - just that dazzling firework proze that never feels flashy or pomo.

  • Nia Nymue
    2019-06-14 00:03

    Did not finish the second chapter. Too bizarre. The narrator described a woman in excruciating detail and interacted with her as though she was his lover and the woman calls him her boyfriend, but they turn out to be father and daughter. Very hard to read. Not finishing the book.

  • Jocelyn
    2019-06-01 02:19

    After much thought, the first book I decided to read from Tom and Wendy's collection...

  • Jonathan
    2019-06-09 07:20

    How to express this? Not quite like the book I will write, but a book I might -- and maybe will -- read again and again. Beautiful, terrible, odd, rich, sweet and uncanny. A work of art.

  • Chuck Bento
    2019-06-09 01:03

    This book was my introduction to Hawkes, who is to literature what the great surrealists are to art. Yet his writing is so vivid and the images so sharp, I will never forget some of these scenes, like the tattoo parlour and the snowball attack and the lighthouse. Hawkes deserves to be far better known and, hopefully with this edition and preface by the wonderful Jeffrey Euginedes, will go some way to remedying this situation.

  • Sean
    2019-06-02 01:06

    Skipper, hapless and seasick Navy man, bumbles around plagued by closeness of death since childhood, while infantilizing his daughter Cassandra (compare to Greek namesake), whose faith in him hovers at a lukewarm tolerance, until it becomes something sharper. Skipper yearns to always do the right thing, but always falls flat. Suicides abound in his life but he still keeps pasting a smile on his face. The action is primarily juxtaposed on two islands: one a cold gothic rock of impending doom peopled by human predators, where Skipper experiences his final crushing loss (yet that also frees him); the other a bizarre benevolent white father warm-water paradise situation where Skipper finds solace as a giver of the 'seeds of life', thus eclipsing his previous role as perpetual witness to the 'seeds of death'. Story is refracted through a kaleidoscopic lens of time, in shortish segments, keeping the pace moving along at a good clip. Hawkes' prose is earthy and visceral but never overbearing, scraping dread up in the reader's mind, where knowledge of final outcomes appears up front and the telling of the how stretches its lean muscular limbs out to the end.I was an old child of the moon and lay sprawled on the night, musing and half-exposed in the suspended and public posture of all those night travelers who are without beds, those who sleep on public benches or curl into the corners of out-of-date railway coaches, all those who dream their uncovered dreams and try to sleep on their hands.

  • Joshua
    2019-05-26 22:54

    Hawkes has an unusual style. His sentences range from inscrutably fragmented, to lushly poetic, to jarringly succinct. I believe that Hawkes employed most of the syntactical strategies present in Second Skin much more effectively in The Lime Twig. In addition, Hawkes' commitment to writing disconcertingly original sentences lags off towards the middle of this short novel where the author's prose degenerates into a mediocre (though much more readable) imitation of Faulkner.That said, the novel had several memorable moments. I particularly enjoyed the scene with the iguana. The belly-bumping contest at the high school dances was amazingly absurd.Ultimately, I have to admit that I am not quite sure what Hawkes is up to - I just don't quite get it. I'm willing to accept, however, that this is simply a matter of taste.

  • Koz
    2019-06-16 02:00

    I was between 2 and 3 stars on this one, and I was going to bump it up to 3 because the writing - that is, the sentence to sentence writing - is quite beautiful, really. But all of those sentences put together became a slog of a story that starred a sad sack narrator who wasn't just kind of lame, but also kind of creepy. Whenever I feel this way about a book, my first inclination is to assume that I wasn't reading it smartly enough or that I missed something in the text, so if that's the case, someone let me know. In the meantime, I'm glad I don't have to read about any of these characters any more, because they were really starting to get on my nerves.

  • Bryce
    2019-06-13 01:20

    Current read. I feel sorry for this poor man from the beginning. I am enjoying Hawkes writing style very much. More upon finishing...This was a fantastic read. The sorryness of the character's life is increased with each chapter and apparently extreme lows in life are pushed even lower the longer this poor man lives. Somehow Hawkes put one man's near constant misery into an enjoyable package that isn't simply depressing nor tear-jerking. Rather, engaging, only semi-emotional and dare say it, entertaining.

  • James
    2019-06-22 02:53

    Overwrought, self-consciously weird but only occasionally interesting, and utterly racist. Hawkes's prose is always great, and so I sometimes pick this one back up when I can't fall asleep or need to take a break from whatever I'm reading at the time... but I've never been able to finish it. If the silly "belly-bumping contest" scene doesn't get me, the asinine "sunbathing woman with a kimodo dragon attached to her back" scene will.

  • Leroy
    2019-06-24 03:03

    Hot damn! I can't say enough about professor Hawkes here. This book has become something of an obsession for me. How freakin lush can you get? Every single passage is edible. You can literally peel Second Skin open to any page and find something that will make you swoon. It took me an extraordinarily long time to finish the first time through. I simply couldn't keep myself from back tracking to reread line after line, paragraph after paragraph.

  • Pete Camp
    2019-06-24 23:55

    Really enjoy reading Hawkes. Wonderful prose and a little more accessible than the Cannibal or the Lime Twig. However made me feel a little more misanthropic at times than I normally like to. There was a nice little gem in there too: wake with a loving thought work with a happy thought sleep with a gentle thought. Hawkes should be more widely read

  • Justin
    2019-06-13 23:11

    Hawkes is an author that writes sentences that you want to read a hundred times. Each read reveals new meaning within the sentence and adds to the novel's building beauty. At times the plot or action may not make much sense, but it doesn't really matter. Just reading the next sentence keeps you going.

  • Rachel Kendall
    2019-06-13 02:04

    Oh I am loving this book. Favourite quote so far: 'So, the naked soldiers. White shoulder blades, white arms, white shanks, white strips of skin, white flesh, and in the loins and between the ribs and on the inside of the legs soft shadow. But white and thin and half-starved and glistening like watery sardines hacked from a tin.'

  • Mark
    2019-06-08 23:56

    Passages were incredible, and the whole has a sinuous movement that is beyond evocative. I feel like I missed something, which is perhaps because the central character feels as if he missed something... which he did, of course, but I missed what exactly it was.

  • Stashu
    2019-06-17 05:19

    engrossing tale of chumpness, resulting in bliss at last...elusive meanings, never quite understood what the author was trying to say...left me transformed, nite quite sure how.

  • Chris
    2019-06-16 05:18

    Hawkes is very difficult, but very good, the book follows the turgid life of Skipper and all the tragedies life throws at him.

  • Thom Dunn
    2019-06-11 04:11

    {Dallas Wiebe, Contemporary American Lit, circa 1968}

  • Jackson
    2019-06-02 02:20

    Book-length prose poem with some beautiful moments but often confusing and dull. The good chapters (The Brutal Act in particular) are outweighed by the chaff.

  • Leslie
    2019-06-11 01:13

    Beautiful story where our hero Skipper survives never-ending bad and sad luck to find peace in the jungle as an artificial inseminator of cows.