Willard and His Bowling Trophies: A Perverse Mystery Hardcover – 1 Aug 1975
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The story involves two couples and three brothers. One couple has a very healthy, happy relationship. In their apartment is Willard, a bird sculpture, and some bowling trophies they purchased at a sale years ago. These are second-hand bowling trophies. The other couple's relationship isn't as happy. The husband is depressed, and the wife, in an attempt to make him happy, participates in his S&M fantasies though she doesn't enjoy them. The brothers, as the story goes, were once good, upstanding citizens from a good upstanding family. That is, until several years ago when their bowling trophies were stolen, destroying their faith in humanity. They made a pact to recover the bowling trophies, whatever the cost, and began down a road of violence and murder.
You either love or hate Brautigan's work. I'm in the former camp. I don't know any writer so unique. Part of the beauty in his work is in the depth behind the simplicity. But like a simple painting, one person might look and say, "My seven-year-old could have done that," while another, like myself, finds that pretty much all of Brautigan's work speaks to them in some way.
Along with SO THE WIND WON'T BLOW IT ALL AWAY and AN UNFORTUNATE WOMAN, WILARD is one of Brautigan's tragic novels. In fact, in one of my favorite parts of the novel, the husband reads from a book of bits and pieces of Greek tragedies because only bits and pieces have survived through the years. But he's fascinated by them because he can feel the tragedy of the whole in just a few words. In the same way, in Willard we are given a thin slice of the life of these characters, but we feel the tragedy of the whole.
two thumbs up and and two pointer fingers to make two guns to shoot off for this wonderful, fabulous book.
On the one hand, we have a world of realistic people. We get to know them and their personal problems a little too well, and they are presented as very 3-dimensional characters -- people we might know ourselves.
And there there are the Logan Brothers who are almost less than caricatures, completely 1-dimensional, absurd characters who serve as nothing more than a blatantly contrived plot-device that is fully disconnected from the real world until the very end of the book, when two stylistic worlds collide.
By the way, what makes this book such a delight is that it is so very, very clear and obvious that the contrivance of plot is absolutely meant to be recognized by the reader. It's almost like a moment of "Dues Ex Machina" you might find in other literary works as a kind of joke, but here it encapsulates the entire plot of the novel. The entire plot is a kind of "inside joke" for the reader. There is just no way that something like the Logan Brothers could ever actually exist (and they are portrayed thusly!)
This is a very experimental book, not to be read like any other. The Logan Brothers are unlike anything seen in any novel I have ever read, and this jarring approach to style, if nothing else, makes "Willard" worth reading.
Amidst all the humor and pure irreverence, the character's gain a humanity in that all their foibles are so human, if not taken to the extreme. Thus, when the disparate threads crash in a violent climax, the result maintains a tragic edge while still being appropriate to the tone and craziness of the story.
Think Dali in Print: everything is warped, twisted, and out of proportion to reality, but it somehow packs an emotional wallop.