eighth strawberry

... goes to war

12 strawberries

I began to understand the mechanics
which mean that logic and reason fail
when war begins and illogic and insanity
reign as long as war exists.

  Richard Brautigan

»JAPS BOMB PEARL HARBOR« is for the six-year Richard Brautigan the first connection between reading and reality (Abbott, p. 89). The four following war years are an important part of his childhood. Punctually to the 200-year-celebration of the USA in 1976 he brings back war to America with »Sombrero Fallout. A Japanese Novel«.

The story begins quite harmlessly. In 1914 an Austrian couple travels to Sarajevo. Nö, sorry, that's another story. The Sombrero story begins with an American humorist, who begins to write a story, in which a black Sombrero falls on the main street of an American town. The mayor, his cousin and an unemployed person stand around the Sombrero, and that was it already; the storyteller, who remains nameless in the book, is overwhelmed by his grief over the loss of his Japanese girl-friend and tears up the story. Who's interested in an Austrian couple anyway, who drives in an open car through Sarajevo? Nö, that's really another story. What's the matter?

He was still staring at the torn pieces of paper in the waste-paper basket. He was staring very intently at them as they made friends with the abyss. They seemed to have a life of their own. It was a big decision but they decided to go on without him.

Richard Brautigan, Sombrero Fallout, p. 14, Rebel Inc. 1998

What occurs now is a slowly accelerating unleashment of insanity. Richard Brautigan renounce any logical or psychological action. More badly, the events are indecently told in a kind of comic-strip way.

The mayor was totally berserk.

He was no longer shouting at the two men to stop crying or threatening them with the police.

He was shouting things that had no meaning like the license plate number of a car he owned in 1947.

»AZ 1492!« he shouted.

»AZ 1492! AZ 1492! AZ 1492!« he kept shouting over and over again. Everytime he shouted his license plate number it seemed to provoke the crowd to a higher and higher state of agitation.

His license plate number was inciting a crowd to riot.


»I hate you!« a seventy-one-year-old woman shouted at a total stranger, somebody she had never seen before in her life, and then she punched the person, who was an elderly man, right in the balls. He dropped like a stone to the street but was able to open the package he was carrying and take out a lemon pie that he just purchased at the bakery and shove it into the old woman's knee.


In a few days when the bodies would be sifted through for burial, the old man's body would be unrecognizable. ... He was to be buried in a common grave with 225 other unfortunates who were not recognizable and did not have any identification on them.

Richard Brautigan, Sombrero Fallout, p.77-79, Rebel Inc. 1998

As if it wouldn't be already courageous to describe crazy human behavior in a crazy manner Richard Brautigan never leaves any doubts that this is an American story.

Three days later the town was captured.

Over 6,000 people were dead inside it, including 162 wounded children that were killed by a rocket that hit a temporary hospital in the basement of a public school. ...

The mayor sat dead in a barber's chair.

He had done his best.

It wasn't enough.

But still he was a brave man.

He had fought his hardest.

What else can you say?

He was an American.

Richard Brautigan, Sombrero Fallout, p.165/66, Rebel Inc. 1998

This small civil war is finally incorporated into the American myth. The president gives a godfearing speech, the small town is declared as a national monument and tourism booms. By the way, does anyone know, why 200,000 people let themselves be crushed in front of Verdun?

Parallel to the development of the mass insanity the story of the desperate American humorist continues, who emerges as a rather exerting personality. In other words: Richard Brautigan describes himself.

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»One of the more complex things about Richard was his moodchanges,« his girlfriend Siew-Hwa Beh commented. »There was no pattern. It could be hour to hour, it could be days. A lot of that was mediated by drinks, but it was very hard to deal with. He could go from being real exuberant to very dark and depressed, he could get mean and nasty, or nostalgic or sentimental ...«

»We were together for two years - it seemed like a decade, it was so intense.«

Keith Abbott, Downstream from trout fishing in America, S. 79 u. 81

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He allowed his moods to dominate him and they were very changeable. Sometimes he would talk too much and at other times he wouldn't talk at all. He always talk too much when he drank.

The humorist had taken an enormous amount of energy from her. She constantly had to feet his insecurity and neurosis with her security and mental stability. After two years of this, she didn't know who she was anymore.

Richard Brautigan, Sombrero Fallout, p.32 and p.25, Rebel Inc. 1998

»Sombrero Fallout« is published at the same time in Japan and the USA. In Japan the reception of Richard Brautigan's books is quite different from that in the west, but Japan is anyway something special or like someone said: Japan is differently different ...

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