Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Hippie Lit

Revisiting a favorite writer from your youth is probably not a good idea. You're almost always bound to be disappointed. So it was with a little trepidation that I embarked on reading the early works of Richard Brautigan (Trout Fishing in America, In Watermelon Sugar, The Abortion, Revenge of the Lawn, and the poetry collections: The Pill Versus The Springhill Mine Disaster and Rommel Drives On Deep into Egypt) that had lain dormant on my bookshelf for over thirty years after I had deemed them "too hippieish" (it didn't help that the books all featured photos of the hippieish-looking author and/or his hippieish-looking girlfriends from the 60s). The books had been purchased in a fit of enthusiasm following my reading of Willard and His Bowling Trophies, The Hawkline Monster, and Sombrero Fallout which I found very funny at the time (I don't think I'll be re-reading them any time soon, so I'll stand by that judgment). Apparently, I surmised that those early books weren't going to provide the same amount of yucks. And now, after having read them, I can't say that I was wrong. Except for The Abortion (which spoils an interesting concept of a library composed exclusively of books contributed by its patrons with a dull and detailed account of a trip to Tijuana for an abortion) and the barely there poetry collection, Rommel Drives On Deep into Egypt, the books were mildly entertaining and only intermittently annoying. Trout Fishing in America is a bit gimmicky at times, but the observations are heartfelt and from a unique perspective. Think Thoreau if he were a hippie. In Watermelon Sugar had a surreal dreamlike quality that made it read like a Tim Burton screenplay (you know you're reading hippie lit when a character jumps into his overalls after making sweet, sweet love to his lady and there's not a pitchfork in sight). So was it worth it? I think so. At least I know now what I had missed out on then. It was like filling in a hole from my past.

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