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Adam Carr's review of Sombrero Fallout
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Mexican Hats Miss Their Mark | Sombrero Fallout

by Adam Carr?

When I was young, Brautigan's books were somewhere between Borges and Hesse on the new-fangled rotating book-stand by the till on the way out of the English Lit department. The same principle is applied to racks of crisps and/or chewing gum in supermarkets.

I had put down failure to succumb to these blandishments, in Brautigan's case, to a youthfully fastidious distaste for a man who allowed pictures of himself plus latest girlfriend to grace the covers of his books. I now think, after reading one, that a mysterious instinct for literary self-preservation may have been at work - now, sadly, atrophied by age - and over-exposure to rotating bookstands.

What is Sombrero Fallout about? It may well be that it is about cold Mexican hats falling from the sky and the inexplicable reluctance of the natives to pick them up. Certainly this happens at the beginning of at least four chapters (2-3 pages with a lot of blank space either end). However, the significance of this motif is lost to me.

Nevertheless the book is shot through - not to say down in flames - by a number of themes bordering on obsessions. Namely sex, and sex and Mr Brautigan. The author's treatment of himself is too cringe-making to go into in much detail. There is a character modestly described as "a well-known American humourist" who "reaches into the typewriter as if he were an undertaker zipping up the fly of a dead man in his coffin".

As to sex, if you're lucky without the participation of the well-known American humourist, I wondered whether my reaction of profound visceral loathing to these passages was peculiar to myself. So I read them to a roomful of young ladies. The appalled silence that greeted this catalogue of cliché-ridden, spine-chilling chauvinism exceeded all expectation. Worse still he writes with a botched pseudo-Hemigwayesque? brevity complicated by a point-blank refusal to put words in sensible order. "Revolutionary" according to his publisher - also absolutely infuriating.


The Times
May 30, 1987: 19


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