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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Willard & His Bowling Trophies", tragic surrealism

Willard and His Bowling Trophies: A Perverse Mistery
Richard Brautigan

Two couples. Three brothers. A bird sculpture surrounded by bowling trophies. Sex. Depression. Sadomasochism. Greek tragedies. Violence. A fated destiny. Who else other than Richard Brautigan could create a novel with that material?

"Willard and His Bowling Trophies" is surreal again, a trademark than everyone who has read any of the works from Brautigan should expect. But this time surrealism is not in the stories per se, as they are (even it is oddity) credible, but in their connection. Willard and the trophies are the elements, the objects that links the stories. A bird and trophies that seem to be alive, that can be the symbol of many things, or nothing else than (silly) objects.

It is also pure Brautigan in what refers to style. Odd poetic prose, a disarmingly simple yet affecting writing, with bombastic turns of phrase. You'll find yourself saying what?, or laughing, or feeling completely appalled.

And that's what makes "Willard" different from other Brautigan's books I have read. I found this novel really sad, even depressing, very close to "An Unfortunate Woman" in that sense, or like "In Watermelon Sugar", but without any utopia. The forthcoming tragedy, even if surreal, is almost evident from the very first page, and its focused on the masochistic couple. The husband is a pathetic character, and his suffering (also literally) wife, a silent mourning, frustrated one. Sex, that should pleasant and the best expression of love between the two, is not enjoyable anymore. The Logan brothers turn their stupidity, but also innocence, that at first might be hilarious into a violent seek that reveals an evil side, some sort of anger against humanity developed by such a trivial fact (getting their trophies stolen). It's a novel about fate, in which circumstances, and people, are weird, and tragedy is the end of the road.

To me, and this is the fifth book I read from him, Brautigan's work is always fascinating, because he is a unique writer, a counterculture icon, with an unparalleled view for literature, and an extraordinary braveness in the stories he penned. But despite much more linear and less confusing than “In Watermelon Sugar”, "Willard" is, again, not a book for everyone. Being such a straightforward novel, I personally think the lack of humour harms it. Everything is quite absurd indeed, but its depressingly absurd this time.

SCORE: 6/10

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