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Richard Brautigan | Sombrero Fallout: A Japanese Novelby A. Bednarczyk?
If Richard Brautigan's works are, as I have been led to believe, representative of what constitutes contemporary popular fiction, I can only say that, judging by his latest novel, the mentality of the general reading public is at a disturbingly juvenile level. Light reading is one thing, but this newest effort might be better described as light-headed reading.
Basically (and I mean that in its most literal sense), the plot follows three distinct yet communal lines. The main character is a very successful but nameless American humorist whose overriding personality trait is an almost neurotic lack of humor. He has just lost his Japanese lover, Yukiko, and a great deal of time and space is devoted to one night of turmoil over this loss. His anguish exhibits itself in sundry macabre ways, including anxious decisions about tuna fish sandwiches, soul searching questions about the lack of eggs in the house, and a brutally frantic search for a lost strand of Yukiko's hair. Along with this, Brautigan details Yukiko's dream life accompanied by a motorized soundtrack, courtesy of her cat, as the Japanese girl contentedly sleeps away the night at the same time her ex is having his emotional breakdown. Simultaneously, there is also the unbelievable account of a town which turns into a raging war machine dedicated to doing battle with the United States as a result of the appearance of a black sombrero with the unusual property of a 24 degree below zero internal temperature. Sounds confusing? Actually it isn't. The three story lines are kept quite separate throughout and even if they weren't, the language is so "Dick and Jane"-ish that a 5-year-old could not possibly get lost.
That's the problem with Sombrero Fallout. It is so simple that it approaches infantilism. There is neither imagination in the words nor coherence in the story. It is a loosely connected string of impressions and information each accorded its own chapter - sometimes not even using a full page. If for no other reason, the novel should be criticized as a disgraceful waste of paper and space. But that unfortunately is the least of what's wrong. The book has no reason for being nor, overlooking that, no interest to sustain its tenuous existence.
Sombrero Fallout is subtitled "A Japanese Novel," and the dust cover announces that it is also being published in Japan. There is a certain rhythm in the structure and phrasing which does not quite flow in English. Perhaps it will read better in the language of the Rising Sun.
Best Sellers?, 36
January 1977: 315