Friday, December 11, 2015

Richard Brautigan - The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966

When I first met Vida she had been born inside the wrong body and was barely able to look at people, she wanted to crawl off and hide from the thing that she was contained within.

Pocket Book edition 4th printing 1975
I guess, after a half century on this planet, it's about time that I would get around to reading something by Brautigan. I found this one in a used bookshop some time back, and remember someone once telling me about Trout Fishing in America. He didn't really sell Trout Fishing, nor Richard Brautigan, well enough to get my interest revved up. I was into the beats at the time and not really aware of hippie-lit as such. I was also going through a series of relationships with women who didn't know me beyond a surface level, which resulted in nothing except unread poetry. 

So I read this one on a single Friday several weeks ago and enjoyed it. Not really sure what the message is, or if there really is a message behind it. Is Vida's spiritual escape from the most gorgeous body in the world a symbolic abortion? Is the Librarian and Vida's leaving the womb of the library of unread books a symbolic abortion? Is their farewell to a life of lonely solitude an abortion? 

Simply, it's about a librarian working in a library of "unwanted" books written by anyone with the desire to create such a thing. One day a girl shows up at the library with about about her book about hating her own body. She's the most beautiful girl in the world, with hair as black as a bat's. She stays with the librarian and the two of them make love. Eventually she is pregnant, and she and the librarian agree to go to Tijuana where she can get an abortion. They enlist the aid of the librarian's associate who provides them the name of a doctor to see. They go to Tijuana and...

The novel is delivered in simple prose with no fancy tricks, no self-aware indulgence that writers often go for in novels about nothing. So you have a novel about nothing, where there exists a place for books that will never be read and two lovers who share a relationship of uncertain prospects. And they're fulfilled. 

I liked this book. I can see why people would be drawn to Brautigan's novels. But I have a hunch that novels like this one are now passe, considering the glut of pseudo-lit memoirs and zombie novels that clog the shelves in Barnes & Noble. I stopped going to Barnes & Noble a few years ago, when I noticed that they starting looking more like a Toys-R-Us than a bookstore. I wonder if your typical college lit major would bother with a novel like this one, or appreciate its simplicity. 

I also have In Watermelon Sugar on my stack of books to read next year. 

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