And the Ass
Saw the Angel

Nick Cave
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Get *And the Ass Saw the Angel* delivered to your door! And the Ass Saw the Angel Nick Cave
400 pages
July 1992

Southern gothic: bitter tale of insularity, resignation, occasionally of redemption; mastered by the likes of noted Southerners William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor. Attempted here by-- an Australian?

Nick Cave, frontman and lyricist for the alternative rock band The Bad Seeds, paints a portrait of the American South as dark and disturbing as any I've seen. And the Ass Saw the Angel, Cave's first novel, is an hypnotically poetic tale of pain and madness, Vonnegutian in its early black humor and its barely-there plot.

And the Ass Saw the Angel tells the story of Euchrid Eucrow, a mute born to a viciously abusive drunken mother and a father obsessed with cruel traps and animal torture. An outcast in a valley of rigidly conservative religious sectarians, Euchrid bears silently his mother's beatings, his father's inturned indifference, and the hatred and loathing of an entire town. But while Euchrid's tongue may be silent, his increasingly fractured mind teems with words and his own horrible angelic visions. Raised to inevitable madness in this closed-off little world of inbreeding, moonshine and fanaticism, Euchrid will exact his terrible vengeance on the people who have made his life one of nearly unrelenting pain.

Cave's style is quite obviously that of a songwriter, full of rhythms and refrains that are the echoes of a young cripple's madness. And the Ass Saw the Angel is blackly beautiful, powerful and sharp. That isn't to say that it's without flaws. Occasionally words from a more British dialect jar the reader out of the story's South -- "torch" for flashlight, "bonnet" for a car's hood, "lorry" for truck. Still, the writing compels. The very dark humor in the book's early half becomes ever darker, until by the book's end you laugh seldom, and then only as a defensive measure, to keep up some thin barrier between yourself and Euchrid's lonely rage and pain. If you read this, you might want to have something a little lighter waiting on your bookshelf to balance the black. And the Ass Saw the Angel, not for the faint of heart, is troubling, powerful and well worth the read.

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