Another brilliant book by Brautigan. This book – although absolutely wacky – was not as crazy as some of his others.
The novel is set in 1902 and is about two professional hit-men cowboys who are hired by an Indian woman named Magic Child to accompany her from Portland, Oregon to Eastern Oregon. In Eastern Oregon they meet Ms. Hawkline, and find out what they will be paid to do.
When they arrive, they see a giant house that is completely surrounded by frost, even though it is the middle of July. As they get nearer to the house it gets colder and colder, and they notice that giant chimneys protruding from the house are billowing smoke.
Ms. Hawkline explains that their house is haunted by a monster that lives in the ice caves below the home [hence the frost and freezing temperatures], and she would like the two cowboys to destroy it.
The supernatural aspect of the book [i.e. a monster living beneath a home in some ice caves] suspended my disbelief. I mean, none of the things that happen are really plausible, but when you are dealing with a monster that can turn into whatever, alter the way you see things, and turn people into whatever it wants them to be… then you can just sort of go along with what may come next in the book. Most of which is completely outrageous.
You would have to be completely insane if you didn’t see how Brautigan is making fun of the Gothic genre. A typical Gothic novel would involve horror and romance, probably a virginal maiden, and maybe some stupid servants for a little comic relief. In Brautigan’s book you get two twin “maidens” who outright ask the cowboys to have sex with them both, multiple times, throughout the book. You have a monster who plays more practical jokes than anything that could be considered “horror”, and the “stupid” servant is a giant old butler who gets turned into a dwarf at one point.
Plus – a Gothic WESTERN? C’mon.
Brautigan is also a master at similes - here are just two of the them that he used in this novel that I loved:
"The road stopped like a dying man's signature on a last-minute will."
"The monster's mind, like a tree in an early winter storm, shook off the leaves of sleep."
It is a truly enjoyable read, just like every other Richard Brautigan book I’ve come across. Like I’ve said before [and undoubtedly will say again], that man was completely brilliant, and has never gotten the credit he deserves. Maybe The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western isn’t the BEST example of his brilliance, but if it’s the only thing you ever get to read by him, you’d still see that he is way more than people ever cracked him up to be.