Gary Scharnhorst's review of 'So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away'
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Brautigan Produces a Yawner: A Review of So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away

by Gary Scharnhorst?

Throw a pork chop into the garbage and you get garbage. Throw a pork chop into Marcel Proust? and you get Richard Brautigan. So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away, Brautigan's latest, is the sort of story that can only gain in translation. I heartily recommend it to all insomniacs. Its most redeeming quality is its length — only 131 pages. Unfortunately, each page costs nearly a dime. This may be they most overpriced book per page since Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Brautigan has spun the yawn from the gossamer threads of middle-age memory. His eccentric narrator reflects back upon his childhood obsession with death, upon the events that led to the day in the fall of 1947 when his childhood ended. At the age of 5, he stood on a chair to watch funerals from a window of an apartment annexed to a mortuary. Later, he recalls, a neighborhood kid died in a car accident and a girl who lived half a block away died of pneumonia. "When I heard she had died of pneumonia," he writes, "I really said my prayers that night. I promised to be so good that I would make a saint seem like a sack of coal."

At the age of 12, the narrator lost his innocence when he accidentally killed his best friend — note the heavy-handed symbolism here — as he shot rotten apples off trees in an orchard. In Brautigan's world, ambiguities masquerade as profundities. "Childhood thoughts of early death continue to unravel in my mind," his narrator explains, "perhaps unpeel is a better and more accurate way of looking at it, like peeling an onion into a smaller and smaller circle with tears growing in my eyes until the onion is no more, all peeled away and I stop crying." The image is too silly to be poignant, too precious to be funny.

In fact, this diagnosis is applicable to the entire "novel," Brautigan seems unable to decide exactly what kind of story he wants to tell. The tone of the story is jarringly discordant — too light-hearted for the theme. Its humor is forced, its wheezing prose labored and arthritic, its plot predictable even though it is not progressive. Its freeze-frame, flash-back and forward devices are shopworn. Brautigan fails to engage the reader in his characters' lives. We no more care about them than we care about the ink-and-dye caricatures in a Sunday morning cartoon. I've read Classic comics that were more compelling.

The Brautigan cult may hurry to local bookstores to purchase this indulgence. I would rather wear a clove of garlic around my neck.

Dallas Morning News
December 5, 1982

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