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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 11 May 2001
Sombrero Fallout is a truly origional book. The story starts with an author who is devastated at having just been dumped by his beautiful Japanese girlfriend. He tries to write a story about a Sombrero that falls out of the sky but he is too sad and begins crying and throws the crumpled piece of paper into his bin. However, the story about the sombrero decides to go on without him in his wastepaper basket while he pines away for his ex. As we read this book we are told by Brautigan not only about the author and his despair for his lost love, but about the story of the sombrero falling out of the sky and the havoc it brings. These two stories occur simultaneously in alternating chapters, which in pure Brautigan style, are only a few pages long each.
This book is funny (how often does a sombrero fall out of the sky and wreak havoc where you live?), sad, and at times disturbing. It is also very truthful. Anyone who has ever had their heart broken will relate to the author who becomes obsessed with his Japanese ex and desperately searches his house for a strand of her hair, that finding something left of her in his life becomes the most impoortant thing in the world to him.
This book is written in Brautigan's unique style. Short sentences, a sequence of words that roll of the tongue in the most beautiful way.
Anyone who has read Brautigan will love this book and anyone who hasn't, should.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Much as Jarvis Cocker probably does, (based on his introduction), I judge a bookshop on whether it stocks any Brautigan or not. If it doesn't, shame on them. If it does, I'll spend a little longer; after all, if they stock Brautigan, what else might they stock of an similar ilk that I don't know about...

Brautigan is the funniest, most irreverent , most eclectic writer I've ever come across. He writes free-wheeling joyful little stories with a bittersweet strain. They're mad, zany, fun. They strike off on tangents, make fun of a life, people, language. They breathe their philosophy (whatever that is) on every page.

Sombrero Fallout is particularly good (not quite my favourite, that's The Abortion). It tells the story of an American humourist writer with no sense of humour, his sleeping Japanese ex-girlfriend, and a story he begins but abandons and throws in the bin. This story, however, takes on a life of its own and creates itself from the wastepaper basket it finds itself in.

Beneath the wackiness, beneath the humour, beneath the stretched-credulity and deadpan humour, Brautigan's lessons are wise ones, and his strories are shot through with seams of sadness that are their only uniting theme. I would have loved to know this chap. I recommend everything he wrote.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 26 April 2011
I can't recommend this book more, it is fantantic, sureal, and just wonderful. As a massive reader (I'm 42 and have been reading 60-200 books per year of all genres except the horrible sci fi)- so to say this is my undisputed number 1 is saying a lot. If you even like a tiny bit of plot, surealism or just fantastic read - then buy this and treasure it as mine is falling apart!

PS - if anyone else is interested my other favorites are War and Peace (brilliant), 100 years of solitude, the laughing policeman (best detective ever written), the bell jar (best coming of age book)and also love more recent novels such as escape from amsterdam; Indridson's morbid icelandic series; ...
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2001
An American humorist who doesn't have a sense of humour, just heartache and lament for a lost love. A simple story about an unusual event - a unidentified fallen sombrero - that becomes unleashed into chaos. These two parallel stories hold you entranced from the first page (the only time they ever actually meet). His prose often runs like poetry. His characters are so endearing, in all their neurotic splendour, and I can't help but think that his hero has an autobiographical edge . I truly love this book and have done since I first read it ten years ago. I'm delighted it has been re-published - no more trawling through flea markets in a vain hope of chancing an old copy - and I highly recommend it to anyone with an appreciation of absurd with soul. This is one that you'll want to share with others ... and own forever.
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on 14 October 2013
A sombrero falls out of the sky. The sombrero is not from Mexico but it does have an owner, although that owner is far away. The sombrero falls from nowhere, for no apparent reason. The sombrero is cold and its arrival will have a tremendous impact on the three men who saw it land and on society in general. The three men are the Mayor, the Mayor's cousin and an unemployed man. For two of these three, the opportunity to pick up the cold sombrero will appear life-changing.

All of this sombrero related action is taking place in a dustbin in the apartment of a well-known American humourist (with every bookshop carrying at least one of his titles). The American humourist is feeling very depressed. And hungry. His beautiful Japanese girlfriend has left him. There are absolutely no hamburgers, tins of tuna, eggs or avocados in the apartment. To distract himself, the American humourist sits at his typewriter and begins to write a story. It is the story of a sombrero that falls out of the sky. Not knowing where this story is heading, the American humourist takes the paper from his typewriter and throws it away. And cries.

Sombrero Fallout was written during the time when Richard Brautigan's work was experiencing a downturn in popularity. Depressed that his novels were no longer selling in any great numbers, Brautigan was to commit suicide in 1984 and the seeds of his depression can be seen in the tortured (or should that be torturing?) imagination of the American humourist. Despite his success and apparently current popularity, the American humourist is plagued with self-doubt and, obsessed with what and who his ex-girlfriend might be doing without him, is unable to complete any new work.

Despite the obvious dark tones, Sombrero Fallout is, however, really a true black comedy and there are some hilarious moments. In his introduction to this edition, Jarvis Cocker suggests the Ghost chapter (and its speculative "ghost-like energy force with a penis) to be among the best of Brautigan's humour but arguably the antics concerning the sombrero are even funnier than the traumas occurring within the mind of the American humourist. While a lot of it is undeniably bonkers, there is something strangely compelling about the paranoia of the American humourist and of the story within a story that is playing out in his dustbin.

Sombrero Fallout is a wickedly funny and highly original tale and is every bit as good as Brautigan's better known books, Trout Fishing in America and Watermelon Sugar. Perhaps at its heart a poignant story of lost love and a heart-rending exploration of what it means to be alone, Sombrero Fallout is a wonderfully surreal novel in which Brautigan celebrates the joy of the mundane and the strange twists and turns that life can take.
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on 5 August 2013
'Sombrero Fallout' bears stylistic comparisons to Brautigan's earlier, and in my opinion, more successful work, 'In Watermelon Sugar'. It employs the same structure of short chapters and is written with the same easy, spare, poetic confidence of the earlier novel.

However, for me, the substance is missing. The novel is effectively split between two unrelated, threadbare stories which do, admittedly, exhibit Brautigan's quirky and surprising writing, but fall short of offering a cohesive and compelling whole.

In character too it bears resemblance to 'In Water Melon Sugar' - the first person narrative of a writer preoccupied with his romantic life, shot through with unexplained, violent, destructive episodes.

However, where in 'In Watermelon Sugar' the violence and destruction is contained within a couple of startling passages casting a sinister and mysterious shadow over the fictional town of iDEATH, here it composes the majority of one of the two stories. It runs riot. (Yes, it is, in fact, a riot that is being depicted - that is the sorry irony.) It's not that I am squeamish about the mindless, chaotic violence - it just doesn't manage to anchor itself to anything meaningful in the novel.

In the same way, the narrator's obsession with his Japanese ex (in the other story) never quite transcends itself. Yes, it's sometimes intriguing but remains, for me, a dawdle, a sketchy self-parody.

The discipline and plotting structure of the earlier work has been largely abandoned. Sadly, it feels like an idyllic, modest writing shack, out in the countryside where the setting sun reaches in to light a scribbled page laying on an ink-blotted desk beneath the open window, has grown slightly derelict. And on returning, one afternoon, after some time away, the owner, without remorse, has smashed it up a bit.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Richard Brautigan wrote beautiful books, of which this is one of the best; honest, real, tormented, fantastic, witty, visionary. I was saddened to hear of his apparent suicide in 1984. It adds poignancy to re-reading this book, as I realise now just how much of himself may be in it. May he rest in peace.
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on 11 October 2014
Firstly, I had better admit I only read this book because of an article in The Guardian with Jarvis Cocker, but I really don't see why people are raving about it? I did not find it funny in the slightest, if anything it was just really surreal but obviously not my sense of humour.
Beautifully written though, the story of the American humorist & his Japanese ex-girlfriend was heartbreaking & the frozen sombrero & massacre of a peaceful village, very hard to get me head around. See, where's the humour in that?
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on 12 June 2013
I discovered this book through listening to an old edition of DESERT ISLAND DISCS with Jarvis Cocker.
It certainly is unlike anything I have ever read before.
2 stories running side by side, focussing on how our imagination can run away with us!
NOT laugh out loud but certainly entertaining with very short chapters, which could be read in a couple of days.
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on 23 January 2014
I borrowed this book off of a friend back in the summer when we were indulging in the beautiful work of Brautigan. I had to own my own copy. The forward by Jarvis Cocker is pretty neat too. I love the author and this is a great example of his work. Ever impressed how descriptive he is with so few words. A very quick read (two and a half hours, easy)
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