Naked in Garden Hills
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A black jockey with a genius for horses and women ... his white master, a slave to the corrupt needs of his flesh ... an amoral Southern beauty queen, out to seduce and exploit them both.... From this twisted human triangle comes one of the sensational novels of our time—a revelation of passion, perversity and strange hungers.
"Absorbing and superb!"—Erskine Caldwell
“An unforgettable experience!”—Oregon Journal
“Macabre and slapstick, howiingly funny and as sad as a zoo, ribald and wry, Naked in Garden Hills lives up to and beyond the shining promise of Mr. Crews' first novel, The Gospel Singer. It is southern Gothic at its best, a Hieronymus Bosch landscape in Dixie.” —Jean Stafford, in The New York Times Book Review
“The stage is set with such minute perfection and reality that anyone trying to describe it can only be caught in vague inanities. Garden Hills is a carnival, a freak show that echoes all of life. It is a measure of Mr. Crews’ art that from this world unblemished truth emerges. Ruthless, cruel, blackly beautiful ... as simple and inevitable as sin-brings-punishment and as complicated and intense as human experience ..."—Harper’s
“Fine and furious, vibrant and alive ... an important new voice!”—Los Angeles Times
From Kirkus Reviews
You may remember the underground hymn of The Gospel Singer (1968). Mr. Crews again presents an existential freakshow that is delicately crafted and seems to be saying something. . . even if you're never quite sure what it is. He's kind of the Ingmar Bergman of the short novel presenting here Garden Hills, once site of the world's largest phosphate mine, abandoned now to twelve families and the "Fat Man," whose father accidentally became a millionaire. "Fat Man" is a five foot, five hundred pounder when first met consuming crates of Metrecal and still shooting slowly outward. He's taken care of by four feet of perfection, one Jester who was destined to be a jockey but lost his race with fear. "Fat-Man" lives in his castle, benign custodian to the twelve families who are convinced that the phosphate king Jack O'Boylan is going to reactivate the mine so that they can resume their presumably interrupted life pattern. But Dolly, back from New York, knows that O'Boylan isn't coming back and she has plans for turning Garden Hills into the most far out tourist trap ever conjured up by a distorted mind. The plan includes Go Go cages and one particularly sturdy one with trays of steaming food. Mr. Crews has one of the wildest imaginations around. . . you won't be able to put him down.
back, honey, and get a good look.” “I can see through the front,” said Fat Man. “You don’t mind if I get out and walk over there to the telescope, do you?” she asked. “It might help us if I can hear what they’re saying. Help us promotional- wise.” She didn’t wait for an answer, but got out. As soon as she was gone, Jester, without turning said, “Iceman say she a crazy bitch.” “When?” “This morning. Stopped to watch the horse.” “I’m not surprised.” “Said not to tell you.” “Okay.” Fat Man
hole one evening and his daughter, Wydalia, told him what it was all about. “You’re show biz, pa!” “I am?” Then he frowned. “Is that what you got out of that book?” “Show biz, pa! Show biz! She’s put you on the telescope.” But Wydalia could see he did not understand. “You in the hole so the tourists can look. She’s put you on the Directions. You number fifteen on the Directions.” “How come’d she do that?” “To double the take.” Wydalia had picked up all of Dolly’s ways of talking. “You
of the bathroom rattling his spurs. Fat Man stood naked, holding the robe. The television was blasting on the other side of the wall. The sound of hooves. A stampede, and the wild desperate cry of Hollywood cowboys. He looked back to the weight chart and remembered the two lonely swimmers in the drowning shadows and the kiss. It was a naked and vulnerable moment. And much later in the dark quiet room his lover had again shoved his face in close enough to kiss, but now his eyes, luminous,
the same. By giving deed and title to Fat Man, Jack O’Boylan had avoided the burden of taxes. And every year the enormous taxes ate into the fortune Jack O’Boylan had given him to start with. So that by the time Dolly came back with her plan, he had to use the last few thousand dollars he had to finance the plan, or face the inevitable loss of the ten square miles and along with it, Jester and the people in Garden Hills. If only he had not squandered so much of the money on Jester, or on the book
thing would crack into a thousand pieces. “Listen,” said the tourist. “I’ve got a wife and kids up there.” He pointed over the bank of dirt that partially hid the hole Wes was standing in. “And they’re not going to believe this.” He smiled apologetically. “I’ve thought it over and they’re not. And I’m just sitting here wondering … Do you take pictures with the public?” Wes didn’t know what in the hell he was talking about. His instructions didn’t cover it. “We can take it together,” said the