Books: Harrowing Sex

THE PASSION ARTIST by John Hawkes

Harper & Row; 185 pages; $9.95

Novelist John Hawkes, 54, is a writer who has been read too little and interpreted too much. This is partly his own doing. His first two books came out of a writing class that he took at Harvard in the late 1940s, and his fiction has continued to radiate qualities dear to the hearts of academic critics: fractured narrative lines, surrealistic landscapes surrounded by the chiaroscuro of despair, irony, symbols galore and, most important, a self-conscious sense of being difficult. Small wonder that so much of his work has seemed to...

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