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Good Summer Fiction and God and Gospels on Trialby Catharine Hughes?
A few years ago, Richard Brautigan wrote a book called Trout Fishing in America; it was, title notwithstanding, a novel. Then he wrote two more, called A Confederate General from Big Sur and In Watermelon Sugar. Somewhere along the way, he became something of a cult hero, a sort of seventies Salinger?.
The Abortion - which, in fact, does feature an abortion, though it's almost incidental - will probably cement his standing, if not make it much easier to understand. Its hero is 31 and the librarian in a San Francisco library for "the unwanted, the lyrical and haunted volumes of American writing." Or, to put it another way, for unpublishable manuscripts. Then one day Vida comes along with her book, which has to do with her own voluptuous body, which makes everyone, especially Vida, uncomfortable. She settles in the hero's pad in the back of the library, bakes chocolate cookies and eventually becomes pregnant. Most of the rest of the book is devoted to a trip to Tijuana and the abortion she has there.
Contrary to what that may suggest, Brautigan writes with such style and insouciance that it all winds up surprisingly disarming, even engaging. Off on the edges somewhere there's s nice little allegory, but it never gets in the way of The Abortion being an almost pleasant little book.
June 12, 1971: 616-617