Betsy Kline's review of 'So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away'
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Gentle Wind Stirs Up Tragic Boyhood Memory

by Betsy Kline?

"I wish I had been hungry for a hamburger instead of bullets." writes the 47-year-old narrator of Richard Brautigan's newest novel, So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away.

Having uttered this riveting pronouncement, the wistful, nameless protagonist rolls back the clock to the late 1940s. He interweaves spellbinding vignettes of an earlier life, when the innocence and imagination of his youth pierced the bleak postwar daze and took pleasure in the simple gifts of nature not yet obscured by the glare of the TV tube.

Like a benign Johnny Appleseed, Mr. Brautigan scatters the tidbits of his story, meandering through time and several locations, sowing the slightly askew but insightful commentary of a 12-year-old boy whose deprivations have made him more keenly aware of the value of the basic human being.

The author will not be rushed into explaining how, in his fateful 12th year, his purchase of a box of bullets instead of a hamburger brought that innocence to a tragic end. All in good time, he tells us gently. Memories must be laid to rest respectfully — so the wind won't blow it all away.

Mr. Brautigan is in beautiful form in his latest novel. The barebones simplicity of his storytelling — as he has demonstrated repeatedly in books such as Trout Fishing in America, In Watermelon Sugar, A Confederate General From Big Sur, The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 and The Tokyo-Montana Express — goes directly to the heart of the matter.

His delivery in So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away is that of an older and wiser man with the unmuddied vision of a child. A bicycle left out in the rain after its young owner dies, the tiny casket at the funeral of an unknown child, the stigma of a cruddy pair of tennis shoes — all are weighty reflections tinged with emotion.

As a fatherless boy sharing a welfare existence with his mother and sisters, the young boy/narrator re-creates the sights, sounds and smells of small Pacific Northwest towns that drift in and out of their meager lives.

So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away is an eloquent elegy for rustic simplicity, childish pursuits and harmless fantasy. Just before the tragic accident that will alter his life, the young boy/narrator remembers:

"I was 12 years old, and nobody paid any attention to a kid with a rifle standing in front of a filling station, drinking a root beer.

"Needless to say, America bas changed from those days of 1948. If you saw a 12-year-old kid with a rifle standing in front of a filling station today, you'd call out the National Guard and probably with good provocation. The kid would be standing in the middle of a pile of bodies."

Played against the backdrop of this happy-sad nostalgia is an amusing scenario that Mr. Brautigan advances haltingly, frame by frame. The boy is fascinated with a curious couple who drives a pickup truck down a· dusty, rutted road to the fishing pond every evening and carefully unloads furniture — couches, lamps and National Geographics — in a wall-less approximation of a living room.

"I sat there watching their living room shining out of the dark beside the pond. It looked like a fairy tale functioning happily in the post-World War II Gothic of America before the television crippled the imagination of America and turned people indoors away from living out their own fantasies with dignity."

Kansas City Star?
August 29, 1982: 10L

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