Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Pounding at the Gates of Literature

After yesterday's posting (which I'm afraid turned into something of an essay) I reread a story by an American writer who seems to be little known here in the UK. Richard Brautigan was big at about the same time as Crosby, Stills and Nash and in my longhaired youth he seemed to be the literary voice of my generation. His short story ⅓, ⅓, ⅓ is set in 1952 and is about a kid who owns a typewriter and is therefore employed by a ‘trailer trash’ couple to type up the novel that the man is writing and the woman is editing. The plan is they will each get a third of the royalties from the novel. The story ends like this:

There were about twenty-five or thirty pages of writing in the notebook. It was written in a large grammar school sprawl: an unhappy marriage between printing and longhand.

“It’s not finished yet,” he said.

“You’ll type it. I’ll edit it. He’ll write it,” she said.

It was a story about a young logger falling in love with a waitress. The novel began in 1935 in a cafe in North Bend, Oregon.

The young logger was sitting at a table and the waitress was taking his order. She was very pretty with blond hair and rosy cheeks. The young logger was ordering veal cutlets with mashed potatoes and country gravy.

“Yeah, I’ll do the editing. You can type it, can’t you? It’s not too bad, is it?’ she said in a twelve-year-old voice with the Welfare peeking over her shoulder.

“No,” I said. “It will be easy.”

Suddenly the rain started to come down hard outside, without any warning, just suddenly great drops of rain that almost shook the trailer.

You sur lik veel cutlets dont you Maybell said she was xxxxx holding her pensil up her mowth that was preti and red like an apl!

Onli wen you tak my oder Carl said he was a kind of bassful loger but big and strong lik his dead who ownd the starmill!

Ill mak sur you get plenti of gravi!

Just ten the caf door opend and in cam Rins Adams he was hansom and meen, everi bodi in thos parts was afrad of him but not Carl and his xxxx dad they wasnt afrad of him no sur!

Maybell shifard wen she saw him standing ther in his blac macinaw he smild at her and Carl felt his blod run hot lik scallding cofee and fiting mad!

Howdi ther Rins said Maybell blushed like a xxxxx flouar while we were all sitting there in that rainy trailer, pounding at the gates of American literature.

One of my favourites!


Tom said...

Hi, Paul.

I was just surfing around cyberspace and came across your excellent blog (actually, I know that Andrew McGuinness knows you from U of K days). Anyway, have you read Brautigan's "The Abortion"? It's great too, lots of fun, and he plays around with the notion of creative writing and getting books published etc. Good luck with the writing...it seems to be going pretty well.

Bow wow caio,
Tom http://www.andrewmcguinness.blogspot.com

Paul said...

Cheers, Tom (and Andrew).

Yes, I read 'The Abortion' back in the seventies, I think. I had a pal who owned a second-hand bookshop and he loaned me a copy. It's about time I tracked down a copy and read it again . . .