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From my blog :D


Well, where to begin with this one? It is bonkers, but also brilliant. The first chapter describes a sombrero falling from the sky and landing in front of three men. There is no reason for the sombrero to fall from the sky. No building nearby, no plane overhead. The three men stare at it, each attaching their own obscure importance to the event. 


In chapter 2 we discover that the sombrero story is just that, it has been penned by a novelist trying to work through the grief of having been dumped by his Japanese girlfriend. From this point forward we follow the author as he obsesses through the night thinking about his ex-girlfriend, the prose interspersed with her dreams, as well as following the sombrero story as it develops its own storyline in the wastepaper basket, where the author discarded it. 


So far, so trippy. The thing is that these two stories are utterly compelling. The poor author’s thinking becomes more and more unhinged as he focuses on what the love of his life is doing, to the point where he is scrabbling around on the floor looking for a strand of her hair. By contrast the Japanese lady is happily asleep. In the parallel story, the events which follow the sombrero falling from the sky escalate as the thinking of the three men who have witnessed the sombrero’s appearance become more and more bizarre, resulting in the whole town becoming involved. 


I know this all sounds a bit odd, and in some ways it is, but both threads of this book highlight how warped and exaggerated thinking can have some very strange, and dangerous outcomes. 

Edited by Nellie
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I loved Brautigan's work in my early twenties, and he was much loved by hippies in his native California in the 1960s and 1970s, for reasons that Nellie's description of this book should make apparent. He eventually committed suicide in 1982 at the age of 49, as his sales dwindled and his life fell apart. On this side of the pond, he's now fallen into obscurity, unfairly, IMHO, as he was an utterly original writer.   

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Great summary of Brautigan's life, i hadn't realised he had committed suicide, that's very sad. You are right when you say he was an original writer, I have never read anything quite like Sombrero Fallout before. Would you recommend any of this other books in particular?

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I think his best-known work is Trout Fishing in America, which I think I have read, but have no memory of.  I think I've read it because his name sounds so familiar and that was the name of the book that sounds the most familiar to me.  It's an odd enough book that I doubt I heard people talking about it, which is what makes me think I might've read it.

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I suspect Binker's reaction is a common one. When I was first introduced to him in an English class I took whilst studying in the USA in the early 1990s, his work was out of print in the UK and not that easy to track down in America when I decided i needed to have some for my own bookshelves.


I still have that copy of Trout Fishing in America. The back cover is red and printed with the single word mayonnaise. Supposedly, this is because when asked about the inspiration behind the novel, Brautigan responded that he wanted to write a book that ended with that word. In that sense, I believe it was a success, and also tells you something about him.       

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    • By sebastian melmoth
      Isnt it about time for a Richard Brautigan revival? This unique writer was hugely popular in the 60's and 70's but seems largely forgotten today. If he is remembered at all its for Trout Fishing In America but my own personal favourite is The Abortion which - despite the title - is a frequently hilarious portrait of a man's solitary sojourn in what must be literatures most bizarre library!
      Whimsical, absurd, surrealistic, phantasmagoric... Richard Brautigan's novels and short stories are suffused with a melancholy wit and wisdom all his own.
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