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John Hawkes, according to Tony Tanner, is perhaps the most "disturbing" contemporary American writer. Many people would agree with this commentary on Hawkes, a man whose work has moved from the surreal in The Cannibal (1949) toward the more realistic, a movement predicted by Albert Guerard in his introduction to The Cannibal. As this movement away from the surreal has occurred, then why does Tanner find Hawkes' "disturbing" in a review of his most recent novel, Travesty? Perhaps because this movement was not from the surreal to the realistic as we generally use the term, but rather a movement from extraordinary, confusing distortion toward novels which are more orderly and less difficult to read. The '*disturbance," then, lies in the intrigue generated by the content.

Hawkes's early novels are indeed puzzling. The Cannibal is a hallucinative vision of wartime Germany. In it Hawkes's nightmare of war is sustained, an unrelenting vision of the grotesqueries of war. The novel is difficult to follow on the first reading because Hawkes uses a dream-like structure to support the nightmarish content.