Richard Brautigan was one of the beat generation writers. He failed to have the impact of Ginsberg and Kerouac but many rate him higher. Certainly, if you’ve read Kerouac you’ll realise he’s pretty dull and his reputation significantly overshadows his talent. (IMHO).
The consequence of Brautigan’s far less lauded writing career, that spans 10 novels and 10 volumes of poetry, was his suicide in 1984.
However, rather like a diluted version of John William’s Stoner success Brautigan has been rediscovered by a later generation. This time at the hands of the rather wonderful Canongate Books‘ ‘The Canons” imprint.
Sombrero Fallout is trendily prefaced by Jarvis Cocker in a slightly gushy recollection of how the author impacted his younger life before, in around 200 pages, the story unfolds.
In fact it’s a story within a story.
The main protagonist, a humourless but highly acknowledged American humourist, aborts the task of writing his latest piece after only one page because he is in a state of distress having recently broken up with his beautiful Japanese girlfriend and is nearing hysteria.
Consigned to the waste bin the story of a Sombero that has fallen from the sky starts to write itself.
The novel flips, chapter by chapter, between the writer’s spiral into obsession about his ex-lover, her contrasting reaction, and the increasingly ridiculous consequences of the Sombrero’s completely inexplicable arrival into a small American town of some 11,000 inhabitants.
I am reminded in part of the whimsy of Ivor Cutler as I read this.
It has Gilliamesque/Pythonesque qualities too.
And, taken as a whole, it is highly reminiscent of the central section of Perfume by Patrick Susskind.
But it’s just too silly to love. Too sixth form. Too stoned possibly.
One word sums this short novel up. Odd.