October 25, 1982 12:00 PM

by Richard Brautigan

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. (Delacorte, $13.95)

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