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Trips | Willard and His Bowling Trophiesby Duncan Fallowell?
The first thing to be said about Richard Brautigan is that he is a bad value for money. His chapters begin half way down one page to end half way down the next. Sometimes they are very short and begin and end in the middle of the same page. Occasionally they are a squit longer and run on to a third page - just - resulting in almost one and a half pages of hiatus before you come to a few more words. It's like trying to trace a north west passage through ice fields. He has always arranged his work in this way, giving it the appearance of a stocking rampant with ladders. In the past it was because he was spaced out. Now it is because he is self-important.
Willard and his Bowling Trophies is a humorous downtown fantasy and might strike someone not au fait with post-colonic literature as unusual, disgusting even. This is not so. Brautigan couldn't split an infinitive to save his life. In the manner in which he handles his God-given culture he could be the nearest America comes to producing an updated P.G. Wodehouse?. But his originality, let alone longevity, has suffered from an overdose of small beer exacerbated by a material lack of concentration. The most concentrated sentence is 'After he came his penis would slowly soften inside of her and their bodies would be very quiet together like two haunted houses staring across a weedy vacant lot at each other.' A minor planetary system spirals inside that sentence. He used to be throwing them up all the time.
Stretched beyond endurance, with these big gaps all over the show, the book is finally embarrassed by the exaggerated attention brought to bear upon its whimsy. 'They would tear a nice hole in you and provide you with enough death to last forever' - ugh, coy, and it is often like that. Even the basic idea is forced, a Caesarean attempt at lunacy. The Logan Brothers are nice boys until one day their bowling trophies are stolen; they hit the road to recover them in an anti-social frame of mind, and end up committing murder on a peculiar couple called Bob and Constance who are trainee sado-masochists innocent of theft.
The funniest episodes observe this couple's entanglement with venereal warts. Here is the most concentrated sentence from that theme. (Bob examining his urethra): 'The warts were like an evil little island of pink mucous roses.' I find such writing quite extraordinarily delicious, it makes a direct appeal to my synapses. But Willard is rarely so expressive, a shame because Mr Brautigan can arrange substantial treats when he is properly wired up.
May 29, 1976: 30
Note: The above is an excerpt from a longer article which includes reviews of The Poisoned Kiss by Joyce Carol Oates and Willard and His Bowling Trophies Richard Brautigan.
Reprinted in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 12. Ed. Dedria Bryfonski. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1980. 57-74.