Daily Planet review of 'A Confederate General from Big Sur'
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A Confederate General from Big Sur

Remember how sometimes you'd get stoned and start giggling? I mean, sometimes you'd hear something that sounds funny and you'd start chuckling ... then you'd start giggling, and it would seem so funny ... you'd seem so funny that you'd really start generating, and you wouldn't be able to talk or walk or even sit in a chair. Helpless, you'd be snickering, laughing and cracking up so hard that you'd fall on the floor and hold your sides for interminable lengths of time with only thirty second breaks for air. Has it happened to you?

Well, you might laugh like that when you read Richard Brautigan's A Confederate General from Big Sur.

Big Sur is mostly a big redwood forest growing down to the cliffs of California's Pacific Ocean. There is an attitude of happiness that exists there which attracts only the most together freaks who goof with life with an air of mastery that takes all the downs out of being hip.

There is of course, actually, no Confederate General anywhere in Big Sur or the book. However the character of Jesse thinks that his friend Lee thinks he is ... or at least fantasizes that Lee thinks he is ... when actually he knows that during the Civil War there was nothing but Digger Indians in Big Sur. People who didn't wear clothes, didn't have fire, shelter, culture, didn't grow anything, didn't hunt or fish, didn't bury their dead or give birth to their children, but simply lived on roots and limpets and sat pleasantly out in the rain.

As a matter of fact, Richard Brautigan is prepared to arm you with an abundance of antidotes and extracted wisdom.

There is always someone around who will go to bed with a fat broad, you'll read.

You'll meet the world's ugliest waitress, but understand that Helen of Troy would have looked out of place.

You'll go down to wake up Lee in the sack with a young girl ... their feet sticking out of one end of the sack; their heads out of the other. At first I thought they were fucking, and then, I could see that they weren't. But I hadn't been far behind. The room smelled like Cupid's gym.

You'll meet Elizabeth with the beauty and grace of a swan who lived nine months out of the year at Big Sur. She wore her hair long and loose about her shoulders, and on her feet she wore sandals, and on her body she wore a rough, shapeless dress and lived a life of physical and spiritual contemplation.

The other three months she went to Los Angeles ... a hundred dollar call girl who specialized in providing exotic pleasure for men who wanted a beautiful woman to put out with some weird action.

And, maybe, if you're at least literate and can identify Albion moonlight you'll laugh and understand that in this great big world ... and wide ... there's not much else to do.

Daily Planet? [Coconut Grove, Florida]
September 21, 1970: 28

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