The Hawkline Monster (Richard Brautigan)

Brautigan is the Hawaii of American novelists, an anomolous island floating off the main body of the nation. Every one of his novels is utterly unique. Subtitled “A Gothic Western,” this novel is a cross between the horror, western, and comedy genres. A typical passage:

Gompville was the headquarters of the Morning County Sheepshooters Association that had a president, a vice-president, a secretary, a sergeant at arms and bylaws that said it was all right to shoot sheep.
    The people who owned the sheep didn’t particularly care for that, so both sides had brought in gunmen from Portland and the attitude toward killings had become very casual in those parts. (22)

Although the book doesn’t entirely succeed as a horror due to the amount of comedy, it’s a clever, fun, inventive parody, with more imagination than much of the generally formulaic genre. There are some truly disturbing moments but as the novel progresses and the nature of the monster is revealed it’s not possible for Brautigan to sustain any form of suspense. It’s just too silly a monster.

Not his best novel, but certainly one of his oddest, and quite fun.


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