Monday, October 7, 2013

The Last of the Beatniks

It's been a slow couple weeks here in The Ringer Files but I managed to get in a pretty interesting read in John Trinian's The Savage Breast. Unfortunately it wasn't in a format found in a cramped used bookstore in a forgotten corner of town. But that's the purist in me. Instead I discovered it via e-book thanks to Prologue Books.

This was an opportunity to read something by an author I wasn't familiar with. I selected it from a handful of writers that were new to me. Some years back, after I was finished with college, I was into a Beat Lit phase thanks to one of my English professors promoting them in a scholarly tome that only his students read. The Savage Breast falls into this movement, in a way. It's a study of a young, wealthy, and appropriately impulsive young woman, referred to throughout as D.B. D.B. is bored, rich and probably none to bright, having gotten herself roped into a drab marriage with another young man of means named Gordon Fitzroy. D.B. has dumped Gordon in a whirlwind of drinking and hooking up with a bohemian crowd out of North Beach. Enough hints are dropped that it's the early sixties, but it could easily be the height of the Beat Movement judging by the semi-artistic pursuits of the characters, namely tempestuous composer Harry Dazier, who D.B. sees in a dive bar one night. D.B. and Harry fall for each other among the ruins. Harry, following the tormented artists creed, wants nothing to do with D.B.'s money. D.B. doesn't want her wealthy father's interference with her life. Gordon Fitzroy, D.B.'s husband, decides that he'll get even with everyone through a flimsy attempt at blackmail. And out there in the fringes is Harry's weird brother, Sandro, depicted on the cover above. And yes, he's handy with a whip.

It's an entertaining book, being not quite a crime novel, and not quite a beat novel. It has some interesting observations and moves like a pre-psychedelic artflick in the mind's theater. And, thankfully, there is no excruciating dialog that so often turns up in books of this sort. It's not the great lost beat novel, but it's a decent visit to the scene for a couple hours on a rainy weekend.

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