Brautigan > The Hawkline Monster
This node of the American Dust website (formerly Brautigan Bibliography and Archive) provides comprehensive information about Richard Brautigan's novel The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western. Published in 1974, this was Brautigan's fifth published novel. Publication and background information is provided, along with reviews, many with full text. Use the menu tabs below to learn more.
Publication information regarding Richard Brautigan's novel The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western.
First USA Edition
New York: Simon and Schuster,
ISBN 0-671-21809-3; First printing September 1974
5.5" x 8.25"; 216 pages
Hard Cover, with dust jacket
Brown cloth-covered boards; Gold titling on front cover and spine; Tan endpapers
Two binding varieties: stiched (regular edition) and glued (Book Club Edition)
Front dust jacket color illustration by Wendell Minor
Back dust jacket photograph by John Fryer, Livingston, Montana, of Brautigan standing beside the mailbox of his Pine Creek, Montana home in 1974. This same photograph was also used on the front cover of the collection A Confederate General from Big Sur, Dreaming of Babylon, The Hawkline Monster. Fryer took several other photographs of Brautigan at his Montana ranch during the 1974 publicity photography session. LEARN more.
The Hawkline Monster was Brautigan's fifth published novel and the first to parody / combine literary genres. Subtitled "A Gothic Western," the novel was well received by a wider audience than Brautigan's earlier work.
As in earlier novels, Brautigan played with the idea that imagination has both good and bad ramifications, turning it into a monster with the power to turn objects and thoughts into whatever amused it.
This novel is for the Montana Gang.
Brautigan wrote The Hawkline Monster in 1972-1973(?) in a rented tourist cabin at the Pine Creek Lodge and Store in Pine Creek, Montana, in Paradise Valley, just south of Livingston. He went there at the invitation of writer Thomas McGuane (92 in the Shade). Living nearby were writers Jim Harrison (Farmer) and his wife, and William R. Hjortsberg (Falling Angel) and his wife Marian. Actors Peter Fonda and his wife Becky (Portia Crockett; McGuane's ex-wife), Jeff Bridges, and Warren Oates, film director Sam Peckinpah, cinematographer Michael Butler, and painter Russell Chatham also lived nearby. Other visiting writers (like Guy de la Valdene), artists, and musicians often visited. The group called itself "The Montana Gang." Brautigan was impressed with the machismo and the ability of some members to achieve financial security by turning their novels into movies.
Livingston, Montana, members of "The Montana Gang," and others were profiled in several newspaper articles, some of which mentioned Brautigan.
Robert Cross's article, "A Refuge in Montana: The Gossip-Column Set Slips Quietly into the Woods" (Chicago Tribune, 20 Sep. 1992. Travel Section, p. 1), focuses on Livingston, Montana, as the town near where author William R. Hjortsberg lives and writes. READ this article.
Phil Patton's article, "The Dude Is Back in Town" (The New York Times, 18 Apr. 1993, Sec. 9, p.10), focuses on the reemergence of popularity of Western style in furniture, furnishings, clothing, and collectables. Patton offers a time line "When Easterner Met West," detailing the history of the popularity of the Western style. He mentions Brautigan as part of Livingston, Montana, "Big Sky Bloomsbury." READ this article.
Toby Thompson's article, "Out There: Livingston, MONT: A Rumble Runs Through It" (The New York Times, 11 Apr. 1993, Sec. 9, p. 3), focuses on The Murray Hotel in Livingston, Montana, which has long been a watering hole for the rich and famous and otherwise noteworthy. READ this article.
In a letter dated 15 February 1967 to Robert Parks Mills, his literary agent at the time, Brautigan wrote about "plotting a Western novel that I will write this year. I've always wanted to write a Western and so that's what I'm going to do." LEARN more.
Hal Ashby, director of the movies Being There and Harold and Maude, purchased the screenplay rights to The Hawkline Monster. Brautigan wrote a screenplay for a movie adaptation but abandoned the project when asked to rewrite the first draft.
After Brautigan refused to write a second draft, Ashby asked writer Michael Dare to write additional scenes for the screenplay. Despite this new treatment, the project was never completed. Of the project, Dare said, "I worked with Hal Ashby on Tom Robbins' Another Roadside Attraction, Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Thomas Berger's Vital Parts, Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King, and Brautigan's The Hawkline Monster. When Richard wouldn't do a second draft, Hal asked for my input and I wrote several new scenes. I thought your readers might like to know he [Ashby] had Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman lined up to play the cowboys" (Michael Dare. Email to John F. Barber, 25 February 2008).
Douglas Avery adds these details. "Through Michael Dare and Hal Ashby's biographer, Nick Dawson, I discovered that Ashby had tried to get the movie made his entire career. The first incarnation, as Michael Dare said, would have starred Nicholson and Hoffman. Later versions had Nicholson and Harry Dean Stanton, and then Jeff and Beau Bridges" (Douglas Avery. Email to John F. Barber, 17 September 2009).
Brad Donovan, coauthor, with Brautigan, of the 1982 screenplay, Trailer, provides some additional details about Brautigan's involvement with the original screenplay. "Kate Jackson (the smart Charlie's Angel) was behind that project. Richard got a kick out of the association. He also received $30,000 for the option and first draft. Later, he tried to apply for unemployment in California and listed his earnings as a thousand bucks a day, just in case the state could find him suitable employment—a story he told with glee" (Brad Donovan. Email to John F. Barber, 29 October 2007).
Ackroyd, Peter. "Grotesquerie." The Spectator [London], 5 Apr. 1975, p. 411.
Reviews Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban and The Hawkline Monster by Brautigan. READ this review.
Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 5. Edited by Carolyn Riley. Gale Research Company, 1976, pp. 67-72.
Adams, Phoebe-Lou. "The Hawkline Monster." Atlantic, Oct. 1974, pp. 119-120.
The full text of this review reads, "The author calls his novel 'A Gothic Western,' and perhaps one should leave it at that, rather than trail him through Jungian symbolism or protests against technological civilization, for it looks as though Mr. Brautigan himself never quite decided where he was headed."
Agapow, Paul-Michael. "Review of The Hawkline Monster." The Linköping Science Fiction & Fantasy Archive, 16 Oct. 1997.
Anonymous. Anatomy of Wonder. A Critical Guide to Science Fiction. Third Edition. Edited by Neil Barron. R.R. Bowker Co., 1987, p. 234.
The full text of this review reads, "A pair of professional killers are hired to get rid of a monster created by an eccentric scientist. A funny variation of the Frankenstein theme, written in the author's typical mock-naive style, which works better here than in the hippie-utopia story In Watermelon Sugar (1968)."
Anonymous. Anatomy of Wonder. A Critical Guide to Science Fiction. Second Edition. Edited by Neil Barron. R.R. Bowker Co., 1981, p. 162.
The full text of this review reads, "In a remote laboratory—house of prostitution in Oregon at the turn of the century, Professor Hawkline of Harvard combines chemicals that generate a powerful and dangerously mischievous life form. He is victimized by it. The twin Hawkline daughters hire professional killers, Greer and Cameron, to solve the problem. They do. An SF/fantasy hybrid by an enormously popular writer among American undergraduates—and many others. Very funny, with intimations of wisdom about the human condition as well."
Anonymous. "Books." Playboy, 21 Sep. 1974, pp. 22, 24.
Says, "[T]here is a real plot and a thread of continuity that runs through chunky, one-page chapters containing passages that run the gamut of style from [Edgar Allan] Poe to Zane Grey, from Ian Fleming to George V. Higgins. This is certainly Brautigan's most simultaneously unified and eclectic work." READ this review.
Anonymous. "Brautigan, Richard." The Booklist, 15 Sep. 1974, p. 70.
The full text of this review reads, "With just the right blend of cowpoke humor and touches of the macabre, Brautigan hilariously spoofs the traditional Western as well as the classic horror tale. Involved are two damsels in distress who engage a couple of young hired killers to rid their lives of a malevolent spirit, the Hawkline Monster."
Anonymous. "Brautigan, Richard." Kirkus Reviews, 1 July 1974, p. 695.
The full text of this review reads, "More Brautigan: smug, clever, silly, short and sweet. . . . metaphysics reduced to the evil intent of a light inside a jar of chemicals vs. the benevolence of its guilt-ridden shadow, and you expect that happy ending, with a catch . . . The Western part of this collaboration consists of a pair of soft-hearted hired killers who are almost indistinguishable; the Gothics are the identical Misses Hawkline who engage them to dispose of a monster who has already metamorphosized their scientist father into an elephant-foot umbrella stand and after striking down the giant butler, mischievously transforms him into a dwarf while the Westerns and the Gothics are conjugating in an upstairs bedroom. Even without a Harvard education, those gunslingers figure out the problem lies sat the bottom of a leaded crystal jar in the lab. A glass of whiskey turns the evil chemicals to diamonds, restores father, butler and order to the Hawkline household . . . but in a postscript wealth, the double-ring ceremony and the sense of finality to the adventure dissolves into mundane divorce, petty criminality, accidental death and obscurity. Along the way, those particular Brautigan apercus ('Just like a short history of men, there were two towns in the county'), punctuating emphatic chapter heads that make no sense till you've read the chapter, minor characters that seem sprung from tall tales of the Far West, that spareness of image, succinctness of dialogue, one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary fiction, here or anywhere, like him or not."
Bannon, Barbara A. "The Hawkline Monster." Publishers Weekly, 5 Aug. 1974, p. 50.
The full text of this review reads, "Brautigan has his following all right (Trout Fishing in America, A Confederate General from Big Sur, The Abortion: An Historical Romance) but whether that youthful clique will line up avidly to pay $5.95 for a hardcover edition of this little pastiche is a question. We doubt it. It all takes place in the Old West (Oregon, 1902) where a couple of mean hombres (good at heart, of course, but better in bed) encounter a strange pair of sisters, one of whom passes for a time as an Indian lass. The ladies tempt the men to shack up with them and try to rid the moldering family mansion of the monster that lurks in the ice caves beneath the house (the monster and his 'shadow' as well). It all harks back to daddy's scientific experiments gone awry and, although some of it is funny satire in a very obvious way, much of it is just plain silly. Maybe somebody could make a 'Blazing Saddles' wild movie out of this but its hard to see it as much of a book. 40,000 first printing, major campaign."
Reprinted / Excerpted
Publishers Weekly, 16 Aug. 1976, p. 122.
Publishers Weekly, 4 Aug. 1975, p. 59.
Barnes, Julyan. "Kidding." New Statesman, 4 Apr. 1975, p. 457.
Says, "The latest twee offering from Richard Brautigan is a 'gothic western' set in Oregon in 1902. Two topline gunslingers are hired by two indistinguishably beautiful sisters to kill a monster which has transformed their father, Professor Hawkline, into an elephant foot umbrella-stand. The monster, it turns out, is an illusion created by a mutated light which lives at the bottom of a jar of chemicals and is followed around by a shadow. The shadow is very cut up when the light does wicked things to the inhabitants of Hawkline Manor, like changing their thoughts around and making their clothes fall off. Some of the chemicals are not too happy either: indeed, one little chemical feels just awful 'because it had wanted very much to help mankind and make people smile. The chemical now cried a lot and kept to itself near the bottom of the jar'. Virtue, beauty and the gun, however, eventually triumph, the fiendish light is destroyed, and the Professor brought back to life. He is not the only one in need of revival by this time: Mr. Brautigan's arch little chapterettes, laid out with the prissy self-importance of a WI flower arranger, certainly take their toll. The watered style and paper-thin narrative leave so much of the mind free that it zooms hopefully around looking for possible allegory, symbolism or even (cutting its losses) straightforward hidden depth. One returns to base fatigued and empty-handed."
Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 5. Edited by Carolyn Riley. Gale Research Company, 1976, pp. 67-72.
Barnett, Richard J., and Robert Manning. "Books Briefly." Progressive, vol. 39, Jan. 1975, p. 55.
The full text of this review reads, "There ought to be a law against the exuberance of book jacket blurbs which describe relatively modest literary efforts as 'major novels.' Brautigan himself might decry this term found on the jacket of his latest work. The Hawkline Monster offers bearable suspense about a monster that dwelled in the ice caves below a Gothic mansion in Oregon seventy years ago along with poetic imagery, a dash of sex, and some comic effects. It has its moments but one is not likely to remember them. A pleasant hour of reading, it qualifies as a minor entertainment rather than a major work."
Bloodworth, W. "Literary Extensions of the Formula Western." Western American Literature, vol. 14, no. 4, Winter 1980, pp. 287-296.
Mentions Brautigan in connection to a larger study of Western literature. Says, "This paper proposes to define the relationship between the so-called Formula or Popular Western and a still-emerging tradition of American writers which draws upon the Formula Western for setting and characters but which does not sit easily under the rubric of popular culture. . . Somewhere within the tradition I am trying to describe there may even be a place for such idiosyncratic works as Richard Brautigan's The Hawkline Monster (1972)—subtitled "A Gothic Western"—or Tom Robbins' Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1976), provided that they are accompanied by several question marks (287, 286).
"Whereas it is difficult to find a Literary Western that successfully explodes popular attitudes towards landscape, it is uncommonly easy to cite examples which seem to revise or eliminate the traditional character traits of the western hero. Much in line with modern literature, the protagonists of the Literary Western tend to be antiheroes, non-heroes, or—at the very least—unsuccessful heroes. At one end of the spectrum are the characters whose bravery exceeds their ability to survive . . .. At the opposite extreme [are] . . . Brautigan's two killers in The Hawkline Monster . . . (292)."
Cabau, Jacques. "Western dans un Château Hanté." L' Express, 1 Aug. 1977, p. 17.
Calls Brautigan, "one of the most original of the counterculture writers. . . . He makes little marvelous creations, half novel, half poem, little loafings of the imagination which give off a light perfume of hashish."
Cook, Bruce. "'A Gothic Western,' He Calls It, and He's Right." The National Observer, 14 Sep. 1974, p. 23.
Cunningham, Valentine. "Whiskey in the Works." The Times Literary Supplement [London], 11 Apr. 1975, p. 389.
Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 12. Edited by Dedria Bryfonski. Gale Research Company, 1980, pp. 57-74.
Davis, Robert Murray. Playing Cowboys: Low Culture and High Art in the Western. University of Oklahoma Press, 1992, pp. 60, 64-71, 154.
In the chapter titled "Gothic Space and the Disintegration of the Hero," Davis says Brautigan is one of novelists who embodies "the countervision of the West in which the plains, without obvious forms of definition, threaten the mind because they give it nothing to reflect on or perhaps they reflect nothing to the mind and thus expose its emptiness" (60).
Defines Westerns as the obvearse of gothic, which usually takes place "indoors in large, complex, and ancient structures that embody as well as house aristocratic authority, always presented as decayed and usually as decadent (60)."
Notes Brautigan's The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western as an example of a more playful use of gothic to explore the psyche, outlines and critiques the plot, and concludes "what is left is modern, not Western, space, not imaginative or invigorating space" (71).
"The gothic world of The Hawkline Monster is seen from the outside; contrasted with conventional Western, if desert, space; and subjected to rational or at least conventional control" (71).
Davis ultimately concludes that the danger with playing cowboy is staying in the role too long, "as in the case of Brautigan's gunmen," and becoming bewildered, "without any direction or role to play or an audience to play to" (154).
Brown, Jeffrey P. "Playing Cowboys: Low Culture and High Art in the Western." The Historian: A Journal of History, vol. 55, no. 2, Winter 1993, pp. 379-380.
Says, "Davis notes the incorporation of the Western into fantasy gothic themes through such works as Richard Brautigan's Hawkline Monster, E. L Doctorow's Welcome to Hard Times, and John Hawkes' Beetle Leg. He observes that Western experiences can easily be incorporated into contemporary interpretations of a mad, self-destructive world" (380).
Dommergues, Pierre. "Richard Brautigan et le Western Gothique." Le Monde les Livres, 24 June 1977, p. 26.
Says the book is "an enchantment and a farce."
Downing, Pamela. "On the Creation and Use of English Compound Nouns." Language, Dec. 1977, pp. 810-842.
Collects and analyzes "non-lexicalized compounds" (noun+noun combinations) from Trout Fishing in America and The Hawkline Monster.
Grubber, John. "Meanwhile—Back in the Jar." Vortex, vol. 1, no. 5, May 1977, pp. 47-48.
Kaye, Sheldon. "Brautigan, Richard, The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western." Library Journal, Aug. 1974, p. 1980.
The full text of this review reads, "Brautigan has a real talent for understatement. In addition to creating complete situations in few words, his economy achieves a sensitive kind of dry humor and wisdom. Unfortunately, he is unable to create the living characters it would take to make this 'Gothic Western' more of a story and less of an idea. The basic plot is that two gunmen are hired by two sisters to kill a monster who inhabits the lower reaches of their Victorian house. The isolated location of the house and the fact that it is built over an ice cave make it a crazy dwelling. The monster is suggestive of the underlying mythological elements of the story: a journey to a wasteland where a descent into the underworld restores life to the region. These meanings, however, are untrue to a work which mainly strives to avoid profundities. This book is fun to read and it has some substance besides. Recommended despite shortcomings."
"Brautigan, Richard." Library Journal Book Review 1974. Edited by Janet Fletcher. R.R. Bowker Company, 1976, p. 593.
Kincheloe, Henderson. "The Hawkline Monster." Masterplots 1975 Annual. Edited by Frank N. Magill. Salem Press, 1976, pp. 144-146.
Survey of Contemporary Literature. Vol. 5. Revised Edition. Edited by Frank N. Magill. Salem Press, 1975, p. 3302.
Kušnír, Jaroslav. "Reconsideration of Nature, Myths and Narrative Conventions of Popular Literature in Richard Brautigan's Novel The Hawkline Monster: a Gothic Western (1976), or Gothic Novel and Western in One." American Fiction: Modernism-Postmodernism, Popular Culture, and Metafiction. ibidem-Verlag, 2007, pp. 55-63.
Kušnír is a faculty member at the University of Prešov, Slovakia. READ this review.
Feedback from Jaroslav Kušnír
"I highly value your bibliographical work on Brautigan because I still think he is quite a neglected author in the USA."
— Jaroslav Kušnír. Email to John F. Barber, 14 May 2008.
Lee, L. L. "The Hawkline Monster." Western American Literature, vol. 10, no. 2, Summer 1975, pp. 151-153.
Locklin, Gerald. "A Loony Treat from Brautigan." Independent Press-Telegram [Long Beach, CA], 22 Nov. 1974, p. A21.
The full text of this review reads, "This book is in a sense Gothic—it is replete with spirits, ice caves, a manor, and an allegory of the limitations of science—and it is in a sense Western—a pair of tough-but-tender gunmen are hired to exterminate the titular Monster—and it is, for better or worse, Brautigan.
"What is Brautigan? This is Brautigan: 'The voyage . . . had been even more terrible than the time they shot a deputy sheriff in Idaho 10 times and he wouldn't die and Greer finally had to say to the deputy sheriff, 'Please die because we don't want to shot you again.' And the deputy sheriff had said, 'OK. I'll die, but don't shot me again.' "We won't shoot you again,' Cameron had said. 'OK. I'm dead, and he was.'
"That's Brautigan. And I must admit I like his work, in spite of the obvious excesses of obscurantism, sentimentality, and the banal, which flaw, respectively, Trout Fishing in America, In Watermelon Sugar, and a good deal of his poetry. I consider A Confederate General from Big Sur a contemporary classic. This present work, however, while still fun, is by far Brautigan's most disciplined use of his abundant talents.
"I mean nothing negative when I say that this is not an impressive work. We are treated to occasional metaphorical bursts of the sort we have come to associate with the author but overall the book proceeds in inconspicious ways. Everything about the book is brief: the words, the sentences, the chapters, the volume itself. It is made up of a little killing, a little loving, and a little talk: small talk, tall talk, Harvard talk, and frontier talk. It is a marriage of the commonplace and the surreal, the past and present, genre and innovation.
"I'm not going to give away the story—which is loony anyway. I'm going to urge that you read the book. You can do so in a couple of hours, and they may turn out to be the best investment of your time that you've made in quite a while."
Nordell, Roderick. "American Gothic Comes of Age." The Christian Science Monitor, 8 Nov. 1974, p. 10.
The full text of this review reads, "Mr. Brautigan's first novel, Trout Fishing in America, was called "a slender American classic" by London's austere Times Literary Supplement and "a really good book" by the gum-chewing checkout girl at the college bookstore where I picked up a copy.
"Recognition by both such sources remains understandable. For Mr. Brautigan's sophisticated rusticity was couched in simple but innovative prose. And, apart from a few sensationalized passages, the book's succession of seriocomic vignettes freshly dramatized the idyllic America of clear waters and pheasants 'fat with summer' against 'the fickle wind of the Twentieth Century,' the overcrowded campsite complete with 'dehydrated beef Stroganoff' and various other things ripe for the mockery of a back-to-naturalness generation.
"Lacking such pointed overtones, the new Hawkline Monster seems a thin example of Mr. Brautigan amusing himself. It parodies Gothic melodrama in the Oregon of 1902, with two laconic hired gunmen cast as the traditional innocents summoned to the haunted manor, gorgeous twin sisters as their beleaguered employers, and seduction scenes in language unprintable at the time.
"But it's still Brautigan, which means drolly turning fantasy into the everyday, and the everyday into fantasy. In Trout Fishing, American enterprise produced a store selling lengths of used trout stream at $6.50 a foot ('for the first hundred feet'). In Hawkline, the amorphous monster 'was hiding on the pool table, near a side pocket,' and its shadowy alter ego 'lay on top of the gravy pretending that it was gravy.' A supposed dead man has merely been changed temporarily into an elephant's foot umbrella stand.
"American Gothic has obviously come a long way since the country's first professional author, Charles Brockden Brown, disposed of a mysterious character by spontaneous combustion in an 18th-century example of the genre."
Olderman, Raymond M. "American Fiction 1974-1976: People Who Fell To Earth." Contemporary Literature, vol. 19, no. 4, Autumn 1978, pp. 497-530.
Says American fiction published between 1974 and 1976 shares a number of concerns: male-female and racial relationships; personal, sexual, racial, political, spiritual, and cosmic betrayal; mutations; synthesis; and re-valuation of work and business. Established writers of this period include James Baldwin, Donald Barthelme, Saul Bellow, Thomas Berger, Kay Boyle, Carlos Castaneda, Samuel Delany, Don DeLillo, E. L. Doctrow, Stanley Elkin, William Gaddis, John Hawkes, Joseph Heller, Jerzy Kosinski, Ursula Le Guin, Marge Piercy, James Purdy, Ishmael Reed, Tom Robbins, Ronald Sukenick, Kurt Vonnegut, and Richard Brautigan. Their characters are "the people who fell to earth after The Thing That Happened in the Sixties" (498).
Brautigan's The Hawkline Monster is briefly noted, along with Ratner's Star by Don DeLillo, JR by William Gaddis, 98.6 by Ronald Sukenick, The Exile Warning by Vonda McIntyre, and Floating Worlds by Cecelia Holland, as an example of fiction dealing with mutation during this period, but not a mutation leading "happily into the future." Instead, these novels are "extreme extensions of a given negative direction in contemporary culture. They are altered to demonstrate that a path pursued too long becomes a route to death. They are not necessarily literal mutants, but they serve the function of a mutaion because they represent possible directions of our future" (509-510).
Prescott, Peter S. "Monster in the Cellar." Newsweek, 9 Sep. 1974, pp. 82-83.
The full text of this review reads, "Imagine Zane Grey trying to spruce up Book I of The Faerie Queen to make it accessible to readers west of Wichita and you'll have some idea of this fable's disarming appeal. All the ingredients of A Good Old Myth are present: (1) a remote Gothic house that maintains its own freezing temperature in the summer heat of the Dead Hills of eastern Oregon; (2) a monster said to thrash about in the ice caves beneath the Gothic house; (3a) an unmarried woman threatened by the monster; (3b) her sister, an identical twin; (4) their father, an alchemist consumed by his search for (5) the proper mix of chemicals that will solve the ultimate problem of mankind; (6) two professional killers.
"Now for the recipe of the plot. Set aside (4) while (1) freezes in its simmering container. Separate (3a) and (3b), removing (3b) to (6). Bring (3b) and (6) to (1), then blend (3a) and (3b). Let (5) boil over until (2) is overdone. Apply (6) to (2). Allow (3a) and (3b) and (6) to scramble; spice with dirty words. (The sex is inevitable once you have unmarried women troubled by a monster thrashing in their cellar.) And there you have it. The result, I assure you, is as cute as a bucket of oyster stew: you can suck it right down before you remember to put it in your mouth.
"Like Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Brautigan is beloved by college kids. Each is admired for his tenderness toward human vulnerability, for his pose of the faux naïf, for his air of sweet inexpressible sadness. The difference between them is that Brautigan is a singularly careful writer; unlike Vonnegut, he has not yet succumbed to portentous postures, gravid with sentimentality. Brautigan is a miniaturist who broods about death, who builds his novels from small self-contained blocks. He cannot entirely avoid coyness or dead-end digressions. Yet he conveys a sense of spare economy, of humorous or graceful lines eased in almost imperceptibly: 'Finally they came across something human. It was a grave'; 'The accident barely killed her and she was quite beautiful in death.'
"The Hawkline Monster is rather more of a pastiche, more of a parody than any of Brautigan's other fictions. It lacks the complexity, the many evanescent refractions of his best book, Trout Fishing in America, which taps a central metaphor of American literature and deserves to survive the time in which it was written. Never mind. There are enough oppositions here (heat/cold; light/shadow; sex/death) to keep freshman instructors fueled for a decade. And I like the subtitle. Little old ladies waiting in libraries for Cashelmara to be returned to the shelves may pick it up, unwittingly. And then won't they be surprised."
Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 5. Edited by Carolyn Riley. Gale Research Company, 1976, pp. 67-72.
Pétillion, Pierre Yves. "Des Fjords Pluvieux du Nord-Ouest." Critique: Revue Géneéale des Publications Français et Etrangères, vol. 31, no. 338, 1975, pp. 688-695.
Review of Revenge of the Lawn and The Hawkline Monster from a French perspective.
Quintana, Juan. "Monstruo de Hawkline: Un Western Gotico" [The Hawkline Monster: A Western Gothic]. Nueva Estafeta [New Courier], May 1981, pp. 102-103.
Sage, Lorna. "The Edge of Hysteria." Observer, 6 Apr. 1975, p. 30.
Reviews The Goddess and other Women by Joyce Carol Oates, Child of God by Cormac McCarthy, Women in the Wall by Julia O'Faolain, and The Hawkline Monster by Brautigan.
The full text of the reference to Brautigan reads, "Both Joyce Carol Oates and Julia O'Faolian have a grudge against innocence, and refuse to believe in it. Cormac McCarthy plays at it. But Richard Brautigan has, somehow, kept his: The Hawkline Monster, subtitled 'A Gothic Western,' is disarmingly funny, cross-breeding two improbabilities to produce a bizarre, engrossing nonsense. A line of Brautigan's from Trout Fishing in America, about a Negro lady, always seemed to encapsulate his attitude to the ready-made categories lying in wait for him:—
"She used the word yes to its best advantage, when surrounded by no meaning and left alone from other words.
"And with this book he's still making space for himself, nimble, quizzical, enthralled by sheens you get when you introduce mad scientist to hired gun, or for that matter tea to cowboys. Perhaps most characteristically, he has contrived his own asymmetrical arrangement out of the irritable old polarities—right and left, evil and good . . . Susan and Jane."
Sale, Roger. "Fooling Around, and Serious Business." The Hudson Review, vol. 27, Winter 1974-1975, pp. 623-635.
The full text of this review reads, "We can move rather quickly through some other novels, all by people who have done good things in the past, and who now seem to be just fooling around. Richard Brautigan, for instance, still young, the only writer of the sixties recommended to me by students whom I enjoyed, author of the charming Trout Fishing in America, and author, alas, of The Hawkline Monster, which is decidedly uncharming and literary, obvious, empty, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid stuff:
"'They had some fried potatoes and steaks for dinner and biscuits all covered with gravy at Ma Smith's Cafe, and the people eating there wondered why they were in town, and they had some blackberry pie for dessert, and the people, mostly cowboys, wondered what was in the long narrow trunk beside their table, and Magic Child had a glass of milk along with her pie, and the cowboys were made a little nervous by Greer and Cameron, though they didn't know exactly why, but the cowboys all thought Magic Child sure was pretty and they'd sure like to fuck her and they wondered where she had been these last three months. They hadn't seen her in town. She must have been someplace else but they didn't know where. Greer and Cameron continued to make them nervous but they still didn't know why. One thing they did know, though. Greer and Cameron did not look like the kind of people who had come to Billy to settle down.'
"This is followed by two short paragraphs, one about more pie, the other about gunshot in the hills, and that's it for a chapter called 'Ma Smith's Cafe.' There are maybe a hundred such chapters in The Hawkline Monster, all as edgeless and pointless as this one. When Brautigan tires of gunmen he writes about identical women named Miss Hawkline whose father made a monster, and when he tires of that he has the Miss Hawklines see the dead butler in the hall and say 'I'd like to get fucked.' It's a terrible book, deeply unfunny, in no need of having been written."
Sarcandzieva, Rada. Precistvastijat Smjah Na Ricard Brotigan. Cudovisteto Hoklan; Edno Sombrero Pada Ot Nebeto. [The Purifying Light of Richard Brautigan in Monster and Sombrero.] Sofia: Narodna Kultura, n.d.
A review from a Bulgarian perspective.
Slethaug, Gordon E. "The Hawkline Monster: Brautigan's 'Buffoon Mutation'." The Scope of the Fantastic—Theory, Technique, Major Authors: Selected Essays from the First International Conference on the Fantastic in Literature and Film: Culture, Biography, Themes, Childrens Literature. Edited by Robert A. Collins and Howard D. Pearle, III. Greenwood, 1985, pp. 137-145.
Tani, Stefano. "L'Esperimento del Professor Hawkline: Case Stregate e Sogno Americano da Brown a Brautigan." Miscellanea, no. 5, 1984, pp. 45-79.
Discusses the haunted house theme in American literature.
Turner, William O. "An Acid-Rock Western." Seattle Post Intelligencer, 15 Sep. 1974, p. F10.
The full text of this review reads, "A warning, naive though it may seem to previous Brautigan readers, is necessary. Except in an ultratechnical sense, this book is NOT an example of the mestizo genre known as the gothic western, Its subtitle is as Aprilcious as everything else about it. Any reader expecting (as he might from the dust jacket) that Richard Brautigan is about to provide an evening of entertainment in the combined traditions of Mary Roberts Rhinehart and Ernest Haycox is going to want his money back.
"Lovers of salacious nonsense may be happier. The Hawkline Monster is an acid-rock fairy tale in the currently popular manner, replete with sex life and Anglo-Saxon gutturals. It concerns a pair of professional gunmen who are hired by two attractive sisters to exterminate a magical monster that lives in the caves beneath an isolated Victorian mansion. Coolly and with plenty of time out for love-making, the characters drift through whimsically recounted preliminaries and eventually get around to exterminating.
"Actually, the story doesn't matter much. It is without substance as either fantasy or satire. Whimsy is probably as good a label for it as any. It is simply a takeoff point for a sometimes clever writer who has nothing to write about. Brautigan is like a musician who chooses a familiar melody as background for a demonstration of virtuosity that too often degenerates into mere finger exercises.
"The author is billed on the dust jacket as a 'gifted innovator.' To an aging philistine who remembers when short pieces in the same vein were big in Esquire in the 1930's and 40's, this description seems generous. The principal difference is that Brautigan has access to vocables that were taboo in those days. He is devoted to one in particular, using it in contexts where, even in this day of front-parlor Billingsgate, it is unexpected. The device is amusing enough the first half dozen times or so. After that, the effect becomes that of a small boy who has learned a new cussword and structures his entire conversation around it.
"Another difference is that the Esquire pieces were short. In this novel-length effort the author's limitations become all too apparent. He writes cleverly, but he is hardly versatile and we find him repeating the same old irreverence and obscenity. He runs out, it might be said, of innovation."
Willis, Lonnie L. "Brautigan's 'The Hawkline Monster': As Big As the Ritz." Critique, vol. 23, no. 2, Winter 1982, pp. 37-47.
Notes concern with failed American dreams and illusions that have distorted the national vision and examines a sense of futility shared with Scott Fitzgerald's "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz." Says, Brautigan and The Hawkline Monster, "[I]nvestigates the failure of the American experience to harmonize expectation and reality, and it calls attention to illusions that have distorted the national vision. . . . Brautigan's reader, being aware that Professor Hawkline's dream is the dream of America will perceive how unlikely the prospect is of maintaining the harmony of expectation and reality when Hawkline's monster's shadow falls between them." READ this review.
Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 42. Edited by Daniel G. Marowski and Roger Matuz. Gale Research Company, 1980, pp. 48-66.
Wordsworth, Christopher. "Cassandra Syndrome." Guardian Weekly, 12 Apr. 1975, p. 21.
Reviews The Goddess and other Women by Joyce Carol Oates, Women in the Wall by Julia O'Faolain, and The Hawkline Monster by Brautigan.
The full text of the reference to Brautigan reads, "A summary of Richard Brautigan's The Hawkline Monster, described as a Gothic western, would run roughly thus: two professional gunmen with hearts of gold are propositioned by an Indian cutie named Magic Child to lay a ghost in the Oregon Dead Hills. After being layed herself expeditiously, Magic Child dies, which hardly matters, since her double materializes who is also the double of the Chatelaine whose manor is built above a labyrinth of ice, whose giant butler is magicked into a dwarf, whose father has been turned into a hat-stand by the resident monster which sounds like a combination of waterfall barking dog, and drunk parrot, but is really—enough.
"Of the Brautigan who wrote Trout Fishing in America little is left by now, just a cute Cheshire-kitten smile and that ubiquitous monosyllable coyly dimpling every page. Not so much artless as pointless, and whatever it is that a cult figure has to do to embarrass the faithful, it has surely been done with a thud."
Yohalem, John. "Cute Brautigan: The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western." The New York Times Book Review, 8 Sep. 1974, Sec. 7, pp. 6-7.
Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 5. Edited by Carolyn Riley. Gale Research Company, 1976, pp. 67-72.