Top critical review
A Bit Broken
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.