Saint Sava (saint_sava) wrote,
Saint Sava

  • Music:

The reason Sava is nomadic.

Seattle. 55th Street NE at Ravenna. Somebody reclaimed a 7-Eleven that had at one time usurped somebody's house, so the view from the street was a return to zero. But inside, they took out the Slurpee machine, the cigarette display, and all the other trimmings of the faceless merchandizing conglomerate, and put in a couch, a table, some lawn chairs outside, a barista, and get this: they let college students run up a tab. (Credit. I was floored.) Later developments included a fledgling produce section, a humidor, and a small shelf of books for sale.

I have yet to figure out where these mom-and-pop shops get their books. Two of the five I picked up, true to form, had cancelled King County Library insignia inside of them, but the lineage of the other three remains unfortunately obscure: they're all fantastic books that could probably be found together nowhere else:
Lem, Stanislaw. Solaris.
Bierce, Ambrose. The devil's dictionary.
Brautigan, Richard. Trout fishing in America.
Brautigan, Richard. In watermelon sugar.
Masonry defined, hardback, printed 1925.
It is for finding books like the fourth one that I cannot become sedentary. Similar circumstances involve other life-altering titles falling into my hands, such as James. P. Carse's Finite and infinite games (at a curiosity shoppe where I pulled off the road because of a torrential rainstorm, Bellingham, Washington), Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros (garage sale, Colorado Springs), and Mihailo Dordevic's Anthology of Serbian poetry: the golden age (midnight street fair, Bakersfield, California).

Brautigan's poetry resembles extended haiku and is characterized by the juxtaposition of unrelated words, yielding phrases like "mischievous bacon" and "indirect popcorn", which, while entertaining, cannot be said to signify anything meaningful without pharmaceutical assistance. Brautigan's fiction also borders on absurdist, but there that is to say, revelatory; In watermelon sugar I regard as the zenith its class. It sheds no light on the outside world and makes no speculation to its order; Brautigan's attitude has always seemed to be, "F--k the universe." The narrative, while it cannot possibly be taken as a procession of events in a conceivable universe, carries unbelievable authoritative weight in its depiction of accessible characters doing their best to come to terms with one another without a firm comprehension of the nature of the context of their existences or their individual histories. All of their efforts, despite the fantastic world about them and the ludicrous events which they have witnessed -- are poured into the simple efforts understanding of one another and performing their daily chores. In watermelon sugar is, at least in part, a melange of Luigi Pirandello's Six characters in search of an author and Dylan Thomas' Under milk wood, but this doesn't completely capture its essence.

All of the action of In watermelon sugar happens in iDEATH, and is told from the perspective of an inhabitant without a name. (He does have a name, just not a regular name, he later explains: "My name depends on you.") In iDEATH, the sun shines a different color for each day of the week. The only resources are the trout in the streams running through iDEATH and the watermelons, which take their color from that of the sun on the day they were picked. The inhabitants of iDEATH, which number "about 375," spend their days in their shacks here and there about the forest that engulfs the area, working at the Watermelon Works and the Trout Hatchery, sculpting statues from the watermelon sugar that the Works produces, and remembering the scourge of the tigers that at one time threatened the existence of the villagers.

iDEATH is not without its detractors, drunkards, and rabble-rousers, and they confound the story in a most puzzling way. It is a very short book -- perhaps an hour's read, and written in a sparse, almost childlike, fashion. Brautigan's inimitable proclivity for throwing a single unexpected word into a sentence in such a way that you nearly drop the book appears when you are least prepared for it. I'm not sure that the book is published by itself anymore; it may now only be published in a volume that you should consider only after you know that you like Brautigan's style. Hit the library. Check it out.

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