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CBR4 #18: The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western by Richard Brautigan

[Okay, so I am about 16 books behind in my blogging. I wish I had better excuses (you know, like "I was in a shipwreck!" or "I was kidnapped by a cult!" or "The zombie apocalypse happened and I was holed up in a grocery store without wifi!") but really it's just that work has been busy and by the time I get home I really don't feel like spending any more time staring at a computer. However, today is quiet, and I figured I should probably make an effort at catching up before the hole is so deep that the mere thought of trying to dig out is overwhelming. That means the reviews will probably not be very long, but at least there will be SOMETHING getting done around here.]

It's tough to describe The Hawkline Monster. I suppose that the author's view of it as a "Gothic Western" is not exactly inaccurate, but at the same time it's not very descriptive. Then again, I'm not sure there's a word (or even a group of words) that could have prepared me for this book.

The premise--at its most basic--is that two gun-slingers in the old west are approached by a young Indian girl who asks them to come out to the Hawkline mansion and kill a monster. They agree, and ride out to the solitary Hawkline mansion and meet the young Miss Hawklines (not a typo--there are two), who claim there is a monster under their house. The two gun-slingers investigate and discover there IS something odd going on, though it's maybe not what they were expecting.

This sounds pretty straight-forward when described this way, but it's really not. The plot doesn't flow neatly forward, and large chunks of the action don't exactly make sense. One character morphs into another and no one seems to notice. The Miss Hawklines are so alike they can't even tell themselves apart. Conversations wander, time is lost, and one of the shadows in the house is a little more active than a shadow should be. It's all very absurd, but at the same time the style of writing is so prosaic that the weirdness becomes even MORE disconcerting because the reader is the only one who seems to notice.

Another thing that might not be obvious from the description is how funny this book is. Some of that comes from the tone, which is hysterically dry. Utterly bizarre occurrences are narrated as though they are common daily habits. The chapters are all very short and precise. Many deal with a single event, or even a single thought process. The dialogue is often so surreal it's tough NOT to laugh.

On the whole, I am pretty sure I enjoy this book, though I found the plot a little lacking. There is plenty of bad language and sexual situations, so not for children or delicate adults. However, for those who enjoy some determined weirdness, this isn't a bad way to go.


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