Friday, October 20, 2017

So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away, by Richard Brautigan

Staff review by Chris Saliba

Richard Brautigan's last novel - a dreamy, hazy work of autobiographical fiction. 

Richard Brautigan is best known for this novels Trout Fishing in America and In Watermelon Sugar. Born in Tacoma, Washington in 1935, he eventually moved to San Francisco and became a part of the counter culture scene. Afflicted with alcoholism and mental health issues, he took his life at the age of forty-nine. During his short life he published many volumes of poetry and ten novels.

So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away was Brautigan’s last published novel. A dreamy, hazy work of autobiographical fiction, it’s set in 1979. The narrator (who is never named) reminsces about several major personal events that happened in 1947, when he was twelve-years-old. The narrator’s troubles can all be traced to a single decision he made. Weighing up whether to spend his money on buying a burger from a local diner or on a box of bullets from a gun shop opposite, he settles on the latter. The narrator then invites his secret friend, named David, to an apple orchard where they can shoot at the apples. The secret friend is enormously popular at school and has a beautiful girlfriend. It’s almost tempting to think that he may be a figment of the narrator’s imagination, seeing no one knows about the friendship. While out shooting in the orchard, a terrible accident occurs, leaving the narrator to curse the day he decided not to buy a burger.

Having set up the plot’s teaser, the novel takes a while to get to the denouement, and inbetween we learn of various odd happenings in the narrator’s young life. Indeed, he several times admits that he is quite odd himself. Brautigan builds a nostalgic and idiosyncratic patchwork of his youth: a war veteran with only one lung who lives by a pond, the irrational fears of his mother, who continually fears seeping gas in their apartment, the eerie funeral parlour he lived next to as a child. The novel ends with a truly magic description of an unusual couple who bring their loungeroom furniture on a truck and set it up beside a pond. It’s all wonderfully surreal and hallucinatary. Brautigan is a master at evoking that time in our childhood when we are uncritical and imaginatively free, when the world around us imprints its every fleeting image onto us.

Witty, poetic, simply told and vividly imagined, So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away is a deeply affecting original.

So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away, by Richard Brautigan. Published by Canongate. ISBN: 9781786890467  RRP: $19.99

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