Brautigan > So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away

This node of the American Dust website (formerly Brautigan Bibliography and Archive) provides comprehensive information about Richard Brautigan's novel So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away. Published in 1982, this was Brautigan's ninth published novel and the last published before his death in 1984. Publication and background information is provided, along with reviews, many with full text. Use the menu tabs below to learn more.

Publication

Publication information regarding Richard Brautigan's novel So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away.

First USA Edition

1982
New York: Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence
5.5" x 8.25"; 131 pages; ISBN 0-440-08195-5
Hard Cover, with dust jacket
Lavender paper-covered boards with lavendar cloth spine; Silver facsimile Brautigan signature on front cover; Silver titles on spine

Covers

Front and back dust jacket color photograph by Roger Ressmeyer of a red couch and other household items beside a lake at night. Photograph dated 4 March 1981.

Back flyleaf photograph by Ressmeyer of Brautigan. This photograph was part of a series of publicity photographs dated 4 March 1982.

Proof Copy

Advance Reader Copy/Uncorrected Page Proof
New York: Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence, 1982
Printed cream-colored wrappers
Cover copy notes publication date as September 1982
Because of the small print run for this book, few proof copies are reported

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Background

First published in 1982, So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away was Richard Brautigan's ninth published novel and the last published before his death in 1984.

The novel focuses on the death of a young boy in a shooting accident in a western Oregon town on Saturday, 17 February 1948. Although he never confirmed or denied the connection, the story was thought to be autobiographical, built on an incident that happened to Brautigan at age thirteen.

The story in Brautigan's novel was created from two separate incidents. The first involved Brautigan, his best friend Pete Webster, and Pete's brother, Danny. The three were duck hunting in the Fern Ridge wetlands, near Eugene, Oregon. Brautigan was separated from the other two. Brautigan fired at a duck and a pellet from his shot struck Danny in the ear, injuring him only slightly. About the same time, Donald Husband, 14-year-old son of a prominent Eugene attorney, was shot and killed in a hunting accident off Bailey Hill Road. Brautigan's incident and that involving Husband became one in this novel (Bob Keefer and Quail Dawning 2H).

The novel sold less than 15,000 copies, and was ignored or dismissed by critics.

Dedication

This book is for
Portia Crockett
and Marian Renken.

Rebecca (Becky) Portia Crockett was author Tom McGuane's first wife. Following the end of their 12-year marriage during the 1992 filming of his novel 92 in the Shade, McGuane returned to Montana where he married actress Margot Kidder. They divorced after one year and Kidder returned to Los Angeles, California. McGuane then married Laurie Buffet, sister of musician Jimmy Buffet whom McGuane had known from Key West, Florida. Meanwhile, Becky married acter Peter Fonda and together they bought a ranch directly across the road from McGuane's ranch in Paradise Valley, Montana.

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Reviews

Reviews for Richard Brautigan's novel So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away are detailed below. See also reviews of Brautigan's collected works, and General Reviews for commentary about Brautigan's work and his place in American literature.

Anonymous. "Brautigan, Richard." Kirkus Reviews, 1 July 1982, pp. 743-744.

The full text of this review reads, "Fragemented, often haunting memories of a 1940s small-town childhood—all of them shadowed, fairly effectively, by the fact that this childhood will be jolted into adolescence by an accidental killing. The narrator—unnamed, wistful, a trifle arch—moves around in time, framing his recollections with one particular evening in 1947: it's summer, by a pond, and the narrator-as-a-boy visits an alcoholic recluse (source of redeemable beer bottles). . . while waiting for the nightly truck arrival of a strange, fat couple and all their furniture. ("They put the couch down on the grass right beside the pond, so they could sit there and fish off the couch.") But, while orchestrating this oddly affecting evening-at-the-pond, the narrator also fills in some other, earlier memories: his five-year-old fascination with funerals and dead children (the fatherless family, on Welfare, lived in an apartment that was annexed to the local funeral parlor); his edgy chumship with the undertaker's impassive daughter (she had cold hands and preferred Grand Central Station to Inner Sanctum!). And, throughout, there are flash forwards to 1948, when the narrator shot his new best friend—they told each other their dreams—on a pheasant-hunting expedition: though acquitted of criminal negligence, the scandal was traumatic, and the narrator became obsessed with research into hamburgers. . . because "If I had gotten a hamburger that February day instead of bullets, everything would have been different. . . ." Clearly, then, Brautigan's pretentious, whimsical tendencies—sometimes sliding into cuteness—peek up here and there in this slight fable, along with a stray sermonette or two. (On fast-food restaurants and the death of the imagination: "I sometimes think that even our digestion is a soundtrack recorded in Hollywood by the television networks."). But the central images here—the recluse's postcards and beer bottles, the child's eye view of funerals, the furniture by the pond—do add up to something sad and tender; and this little sonata on loss, loneliness, death, and nostalgia ("Dust. . . American. . . Dust") is Brautigan's most appealing work in some time."

Anonymous. "Paperbacks: New & Noteworthy." The New York Times Book Review, 12 Feb. 1984, Sec. 7, p. 34.

The full text of this review reads, "The narrator of a caustic, elliptical novel by the author of Trout Fishing in America recalls life circa 1947, when he and his mother wandered in the Pacific Northwest, encountering a variety of eccentrics. 'The style is disconnected, chaotic, redolent of alienation,' Eve Ottenberg's review said, and the book's climax, 'a horrible event,' retrospectively accounts for 'the flat shell-shocked meaninglessness that precedes it.'"

Anonymous. "So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away." People Weekly, 25 Oct. 1982, p. 18.

The full text of this review reads, "The narrator of this brief novel is in his 30s, and he's still trying to make sense of a gun accident that happened when he was 12 years old. Mostly he is fascinated by his memories of a fat couple who drove their truck down to a pond and unloaded a rug, a sofa and lamps, creating an outdoor living room while they fished for catfish. Brautigan is of the post-Hemingway, less-is-more school. His sentences are short and so are his paragraphs. "I had almost albino white hair" is one paragraph. "There is no freshness to the sun" is another. At arbitrary moments he repeats the title of the book, followed by "Dust . . . American . . . Dust." While these things seem precious and annoying, the story itself is packed with odd, fresh and striking details of a little boy's life, and there is growing suspense as the reader is led toward a moment of shocking violence. Brautigan has written 10 novels (Trout Fishing in America, The Tokyo-Montana Express), nine volumes of poetry and one book of short stories. Rarely have the distinctions between the three genres been less clear—or more fascinating—than in this work."

Anonymous. "So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away." Playboy, Oct. 1982, p. 30.

The full text of this review reads, "If you came of age in the late Sixties, Richard Brautigan was one of the staples in your pop-culture diet. He was the good angel on your shoulder, the counterculture's answer to Walter Cronkite. Today, we tend to greet the arrival of a new Brautigan work the way we greet the announcement of our 11th class reunion: nothing historic but nice enough if you can fit it into your calendar. His latest, So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away, is a deceptive charmer. The protagonist of this novella is a young boy who kills his best friend in a hunting accident. Brautigan takes his normal style—that slightly astonished, awestruck voice we attribued to altered states— back to his childhood roots. It works. The story is deft, moving, almost elegant in its indirection. Add it to your collection, if not for old-time's sake, for quality's."

Atchity, Kenneth. "A Refrain along Brautigan's Oddpath." Los Angeles Times Book Review, 19 Sep. 1982, p. 8.

What Brautigan refers to as "the oddpaths of imagination" are not as odd, nor even as pathlike, here as they are in his best novels. READ this review.

Bannon, Barbara A. "So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away." Publishers Weekly, 25 June 1982, p. 108.

The full text of this review reads, "The narrator in Brautigan's new novel is a melancholy 47-year-old man who looks back on the events of the year when he was 12 years old (1947-48: "post-World War II gothic . . . America"), and on the dramatic circumstance which, he repeatedly tells us, ended his childhood. Growing up in a series of small towns in the Pacific Northwest as part of a chronically poor, fatherless family, young Whitey (he has an albino's coloring, symbolizing his outcast state) is drawn to eccentric characters in each community. He is a boy obsessed with death; from the time he was five and lived next door to a mortuary, he has seemed fated to be an instrument of mortality. Brautigan indulges in relentless foreshadowing to alert readers to the doom to come. The pervasively portentous, elegiac tone is employed in a style whittled to banal simplicity, albeit loaded with heavy symbolism. The result is a flat, listless narrative, enlivened fleetingly by Brautigan's bizarre imagination, but pretentiously self-important and contrived."

Brosnahan, John. "Brautigan, Richard." The Booklist, Aug. 1982, p. 1482.

The full text of this review reads, "Brautigan's latest novel—almost an extended short story, really—is a quiet, muted, and captivating portrait of a young boy who grew up in the 1940s and who remembers the tender, doomed past that now lives only in his imagination. While uncharacteristic of Brautigan at his most extravagant (despite the presence of a few eccentric characters), the novel is a treat for the writer's fans and for readers who prefer their Brautigan in small doses. Brautigan's last novel was The Tokyo-Montana Express."

Campbell, Patty. "The Young Adult Perplex: A Review of Deadeye Dick and So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away." Wilson Library Bulletin, Dec. 1982, pp. 334-335, 365-366.

Reviews Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., A Midnight Clear by William Wharton, and So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away by Brautigan. READ this review.

Cohen, Joseph. "Fulfillment Elusive, Brautigan Reminds Us." New Orleans Times-Picayune, 5 Sep. 1982, Sec. 3, p. 12.

READ this review.

DeMarinis, Rick. "Brautigan's Stylish Touch Turns a Grim Story into a Fairy Tale." Chicago Tribune, 3 Oct. 1982, Sec. 7, p. 3.

READ this review.

Durrant, Digby. "So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away." London Magazine, June 1983, pp. 102-103.

The full text of this review reads, "Brautigan's latest novel, in its familiar laconic fashion, sounds its usual plangent note of nostalgia for the loss of American innocence. From the first artful page you know the forty-four-year-old man did something appalling in 1944 when he was twelve; only in the last few pages do you discover that he had accidentally killed his only friend, David, by taking a careless shot at a stray pheasant. The Court absolves him; the community does not. He and his mother are obliged to move. He reflects miserably that if he'd bought a hamburger instead of bullets his friend would still be alive. He becomes obsessed with hamburgers, reading everything about them he can lay his hands on. He even fakes an interview with a Mexican cook on the subject. Only when he finally destroys all his notes does the healing process begin.

"Nicknamed Whitey because of his albino hair, he'd always been a loner, mooning around the ponds and sawmills of the dreary town in Oregon where he lived on Welfare with his mother, usually between stepfathers. At five he liked to get up early and in his pyjamas stand on a chair watching hearses being loaded; he particularly liked to see the coffins of other children. He seeks the company of spooky older people: the alcoholic who watches over a sawmill and whose empty beer bottles he wheels away in a baby buggy to sell; the old lady who can't forget her husband who died thirty years before and whose face she can't remember; the old man who lives in a shack made of packing crates and whose beautiful hand-carved pier disguises a complete distaste for fishing. But above all what captures his imagination is the fat, middle-aged couple who arrive at the pond every evening at seven bringing a large couch, lamps, chairs, sidetables, wood stove and framed photographs. They arrange their outdoor living-room carefully, settle themselves in it, cook and fish. Once they say hallo to the kid dangling his own desultory line, drowning worms rather than catching fish.

"Thirty-two years later Whitey sees this mysterious couple as brave and eccentric, choosing to pursue their own fantasies rather than conform to the plastic values of a TV society. He would like back the America that encouraged people like this to flourish. Where has it gone? But how much more innocent, too, was that America, caustically observed by Dickens and Trollope, whose dark underside was always more influential than the simple outdoor society so dear to Whitman and Melville. Brautigan's sentimental elegy makes no such inquiries."

Hackenberry, Charles. "Walden Reworked." Thoreau Society Bulletin, no. 165, Fall 1983, p. 3.

The full text of this review reads, "Richard Brautigan's recent novel, So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away, borrows freely from Walden to help paint a quiet, muted portrait of a young boy who grows up during World War II. Readers of Thoreau's masterpiece will recognize several images drawn directly from Walden and infused into the modern work.

"The artist of the city of Kuru from the "Conclusion" becomes, in Brautigan's novel, an old man "who was disposed to strive after perfection by building a perfect dock and rowboat"—instead of a staff. A chief link between the similar characters is the degree to which each manages to work himself out of the normal framework of time.

"Thoreau's description of his furniture set out-of-doors in the "Sounds" chapter undergoes a radical transformation in So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away. A husband and wife often come to Brautigan's fictional pond where the youthful narrator fishes, and they bring all their living room furniture along in their pick-up truck—which they unload and set up before starting to fish themselves.

"Brautigan's practice of using Thoreau's imagery in his own strange ways may be disturbing to readers who reserve for Walden a very special place in their minds and hearts. But if those who are disturbed by Brautigan's piracy will closely examine Thoreau's own use of literature of the past, they will find a striking similarity of method—if not result.

"If nothing more, Brautigan's newest novel serves to remind us that Thoreau's prose still has the power to stir the imagination of a modern writer who is working a very different vein of ore with very familiar tools."

Hunter, Timothy A. "Brautigan's Latest: 'Gentle, Brief, Slippery'." Baltimore Sun, 5 Sep. 1982, p. D5.

READ this review.

Ives, George L. "Brautigan, Richard." Library Journal, vol. 107, no. 14, Aug. 1982, p. 1478.

The full text of this review reads, "Brautigan's latest novel should please both old fans and new readers. His admirers will relish the familiar style—broken chronology and fragmented characterization—which carries the reader on a verbal rollercoaster. But the tighter thematic development in this narrative should widen Brautigan's audience. From a mid-life perspective, narrator Whitey recalls his impoverished youth and a fatal choice: whether to buy .22 shells or a hamburger. In his 12-year-old innocence he decides on the bullets, and the choice leads with Sophoclean inevitability to the death of an admired playmate. Confronting death, Brautigan successfully moves his readers to an awareness that life is not an outgrowth of pure randomness but the result of choices willfully made. A fine addition to fiction collections."

Kane, Jean. "Naive Tone Perfect for Brautigan Novel." Indianapolis Star, 19 Sep. 1982, p. F4.

READ this review.

Kenny, Kevin. "Brautigan, Richard." VOYA [Voice of Youth Advocates], Feb. 1983, p. 32.

The full text of this review reads, "At its core So The Wind Won't Blow It All Away is a story which details a tragic shooting and death. the narrator, an impoverished but resourceful 14-year-old, pulled the trigger which fired the bullet that could have as easily gone unsolf. Led by a narrator who is "lost in the geography of time," Richard Brautigan's latest work is a sometimes wandering, but always touching, salute to an era and way of life (particularly early life) forever gone. The first antenna, hints Brautigan, was the death toll for the imagination which marks childhood, the force which "turned people indoors and away from living out their own fantasies with dignity. Given the dignity and animation of the characters recalled herein, this is both a sad and cogent analysis.

Like his past novels (Trout Fishing in America, In Watermelon Sugar, etc.), this is both subtle and perceptive. At work at many levels, better readers, particularly at the high school level, should have the perspective necessary to enjoy this treat. For adults, it's a bittersweet must."

Kline, Betsy. "Gentle 'Wind' Stirs up Tragic Boyhood Memory." Kansas City Star, 29 Aug. 1982, p. 10L.

READ this review.

Lippman, Amy. "The New Brautigan: A Silly Pretension." San Francisco Chronicle, 2 Sep. 1982, p. 55.

Says, "Brautigan intends So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away to be an American Tragedy, but the novel is too inconsequential to make his design for it little more than a silly pretension." READ this review.

Montrose, David. "Death of the Dream." The Times Literary Supplement [London], 22 Apr. 1983, p. 399.

READ this review.

Reprinted
Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 42. Edited by Daniel G. Marowski and Roger Matuz. Gale Research Company, 1987, pp. 48-66.

Morley, Patricia. "It May Not Be Literature But It's Still Entertaining." Birmingham News, 26 Sep. 1982, p. 6E.

READ this review.

Myerson, Jonathan. "So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away." Books & Bookmen, Aug. 1983, p. 35.

Says, "This delightful, gentle novel evokes memories almost, but not quite, out of reach. . . . It is . . . Brautigan speaking, Brautigan the Fantasist, regretfully summing up his childhood and his America." READ this review.

Ottenberg, Eve. "Some Fun, Some Gloom." The New York Times Book Review, 7 Nov. 1982, Sec. 7, pp. 13, 47.

Reviews Christmas at Fontaine's by William Kotzwinkle and So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away by Brautigan. READ this review.

Reprinted
Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 42. Edited by Daniel G. Marowski and Roger Matuz. Gale Research Company, 1987, pp. 48-66.

Pfaff, William. "Briefly Noted." New Yorker, 13 Sep. 1982, pp. 172-173.

The full text of this review reads, "On August 1, 1979, the narrator sits with his ear 'pressed up against the past as if to the wall of a house that no longer exists' and recalls the summer when he was twelve (in 1947) and was living (courtesy of the Welfare Department) with his mother and his sisters in an Oregon auto court: fishing in a pond and getting his sneakers wet; watching a gigantic man and woman set up and then fish from a truckload of living-room furniture on the pond's far side; collecting empty beer bottles from a night watchman at a sawmill up the road; and visiting a one-lunged veteran of the Great War in his pond-side shack. He also recalls a series of previous addresses, including the annex of a funeral parlor, where (in the spring of 1940) he watched hearses come and go before breakfast, and a dingy apartment where everyone sat around and wished there was a radio. All these dreary memories forestall, for a while, the story of a terrible accident hinted at in the opening sentence and then, a few pages later, given a date: February 17, 1948. A weary little dirge. (The title, followed by the words 'Dust . . . American . . . Dust,' heads every chapter.) Only Mr. Brautigan's hard-core fans will mistake its slightness for subtlety."

Reprinted
Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 42. Edited by Daniel G. Marowski and Roger Matuz. Gale Research Company, 1987, pp. 48-66.

Ronald, Ann. "So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away." Western America Literature, Aug. 1983, pp. 164-165.

READ this review.

Sage, Lorna. "Gone Fishing Again." The Observer, 17 Apr. 1983, p 32.

Reviews The Wandering Unicorn by Manuel Mujlca Lalnez, The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde by Peter Ackroyd, and So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away by Brautigan. READ this review.

Scharnhorst, Gary. "Brautigan Produces a Yawner." Dallas Morning News, 5 Dec. 1982, p. 4G.

READ this review.

Strell, Lois A. "Brautigan, Richard." School Library Journal, vol. 29, no. 3, Nov. 1982, p. 105.

The full text of this review reads, "Brautigan's novel is a nostalgic look at 1947 through the eyes of a 48-year-old man, recounting the significant (and not so significant) moments of his childhood while trying to sift some meaning from his life. The story follows the events in the life of an odd 12-year-old boy who moves with his mother and sister from one welfare apartment to another. He is fascinated with death—he was friends with an undertaker's daughter, enjoyed watching funerals, recounted the deaths of young people he knew and finally, inadvertently killed a friend in a hunting accident. Brautigan leads up to this significant event many times, then turns away, so that when readers finally get there, they're exhausted from foreshadowing. The narration travels from first-person 12-year old to first-person 48-year old, with intermittent stream-of-consciousness passages. Every recollection is colored by the older person's memory, and each sentence tries to be fraught with symbolism. Brautigan is often brilliant at capturing the moment in metaphor, but at other times, his writing drags. This novel is a mixture of imagination and overkill."

Stuewe, Paul. "The English in India . . . Entertaining Advice . . . Words To Wow With." Quill & Quire, Nov. 1982, p. 29.

The full text of this review reads, "The author's penchant for combining radically experimental techniques with equally mundane material has attracted a host of imitators, but he still holds the patent on the most effective blend of these ingredients. His latest novel takes a 1940s American family through the random disasters and ominpresent commonplaces of the normative Brautigan opus: it's also typical in its relentlessly straight-faced handling of the most nonsensical situations. This works for just as long as it takes a reader to begin anticipating the against-the-grain results, which in this case is most of the way through a slight but entertaining story."

Traub, Nancy. "Brautigan Writes It Down before It Becomes American Dust." Oakland Tribune, 1 Apr. 1984, The Tribune Calendar, p. 7.

Says, "It's as if the narrator is compelled to tell this story, to understand his part in it. . . . The reader brings his or her own meaning to the story; we benefit from Brautigan's search." READ this review.

Wagner, Joe. "Books in Brief: So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away." Sunday Advocate [Baton Rouge, LA], 24 Oct. 1982, Magazine Sunday Advocate, p. 15.

Says, "There is no argument that Brautigan can write, and write very well; only it's time he began to write something worthy of his talent."

The full text of this review reads, "One of America's most prolific popular writers, Richard Brautigan, adds book #21 (the number is more memorable) to his fast-growing list of fiction and poetry with the release of his gothic novel, So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away.

It is the story of a young boy in a small town after the end of World War II, whose childhood suddenly is brought to an end by the kind of tragedy that usually rates space on Page 4-B of the daily newspaper.

The tightly constructed work inexorably drags the reader toward the climax, by which time one not only has guessed what is going to happen, but no longer cares. Concurrent with the action, such as it is, Brautigan includes a nostalgic look at a small group of people whose way of life, he mourns, is destined to end when "television crippled the imagination of America and turned people indoors and away from living out their own fantasies with dignity."

I enjoy nostalgia, too. I seem to recall, as a boy in the "post-World War II gothic of America," writers who turned out real books and didn't attempt to palm off long stories at exhorbitant rates on groupies and dilettantes. There is no argument that Brautigan can write, and write very well; only it's time he began to write something worthy of his talent.

Warren, Eric. "Brautigan's Latest Novel." Christian Science Monitor, 8 Aug. 1984, p. 28.

Says, "In this book Brautigan has uncovered a vivid, memorable character who engages our sympathies in a way few of his people have done before. His latest novel is surely one of his best." READ this review.

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