[ LiKKRAL ClITl Ri: ]nThe ISottom LinenriiuriiiiTs ;IIKI their liki’ luw ;ilv;iysnIx-i-ii |T)|iiil;irl pi-ivi-ivcil U”- :i loklhloodal.nthk’k-skiniH’d j^roiip: lliitik ol’n>hl()ik. AtLoriliiij; lo ;i rt-ccnt iii-ws ivporl.n.1 J’J i-;ii-()klMi»ikhrr.Siicci:’!s. Mu’ };;iini.’d Mniiv (h:inn””IJ.OOO. Diirini;;! New ^ork pivr<> ion-nU-ri-ntf Mi”M. tTulii rcpiwlfill)’siiiil. •rninin I IK- piihlic oi- IIDW . . . Iiiil I pri-li-r tonh;iiik on inv hr:iins. not m looks ‘ Mu-nStraightforward enough. The narratornremembers his childhood recreation ofnshooting apples in an abandoned orchard.nHe bought the bullet that killednhis friend because he preferred then”dramatic” sound of “a .22 bullet turningnan apple into instant rotten apple sauce”nto the satislaction of eating a hamburgernin the restaurant next to the gun shop;nhe had only enough money for one ornthe other. He identifies bullets withn”aggressions,” hamburgers with thenpleasant eccentricity of the marriedncouple (“Take it nice and easy is mynmotto,” the husband says while cookingnone). Brautigan surely thinks of thisnhomey dichotomy as a choice Americansnalways have before them, and he leavesnno doubt that he prefers hamburgers.nAfter the shooting, his narrator developedna sad/comic obsession withnhamburgers (“I was a weird kid,” henconcedes; “weird” derives from a wordnthat meant fate, “unknown vectors”):nLooking back on it now, I guess I usednthe hamburger as a form of mentalntherapy to keep from going mad becausenwhat happened in that orchardn:ul(k-d. “W I- innst mainuin tin- fonsi-nanliw in)a}>i- of Wall Ma-t-l.” Om- snspivl.snihal llii- l>rains ii|ion wliidi Mrs. Ni-rolanbanks .in- not [oiinil WIK-R- IJK-V ri- iisualhnlocati-d. LJnwas not the kind of thing that causes anchild to have a positive outlook onnlife. It was the kind of thing that challengednyour mettle and I used thenhamburger as my first line of defense.n(Emphasis added.)nThis satfrical counterpointing of guiltnwith scoutmaster understatement-byclichenmust leave many readers strewnnlike apples shot by a weird kid. Thenproblem of tone reveals the problem ofnmeaning. The whole account sidestepsnthe fact that the accident could havenbeen prevented had the boy known notnto fire a gun if his friend could be standingnin the bullet’s trajectory. The narratornnever considers this, his imaginationnobscuring common sense even afl:er 32nyears. What of Brautigan?nOne can’t know. Whatever Brautigannmay think of his narrator, the tone providesncontrary signals, or signals one canninterpret variously with equal justification.nLike his narrator, Brautigan enjoysnindividuality, liberty, but not the responsibilitynthey force upon us. That goes fornimagination as well as for action. He detestsnthe mass imagination of today, pre­nnnferring the time when “people madentheir own imagination, like homecooking.”nThe result was more palatable,nperhaps, because however dotty orninjurious it was still on a human scale.nBut to what extent can an individual reallynmake his own imagination? Brautigannwill not or cannot delineate the limits,nor the complementary extent to whichnone must take his bearings from thingsnbeyond himself Responsibility, whichnmust be to something, or someone,narises there; Brautigan eludes it.nBrautigan presents the world of preadolescence,nomitting sexuality, thatncompUcation of love and friendship.nSeimett, in his imaginary memofr of anHungarian philosophy teacher namednTibor Grau, devotes only a few pages tonchildhood, many more to youth andnadulthood. Sexuality and politics matternhere. The notion that sexuality has to donwith liberty could be the reigning illusionnof today. Despite illustrated instructionnmanuals and copious experiences,nmany still contrive to overlook the factnthat sexual activity involves physicalnlinkage—however various—and notnunrestricted movement. As an act of liberation,n”sex” must disappoint. Reportedly,nit oft;en does.n1 ibor Grau does not share this illusion.nResented by his public-schoolnclassmates for his superior wealth andnintelligence, he wanted “to have them,nto conquer them”; his sexuality wasnbased not on the iUusion of sexual liberationnbut on the illusion that one’snenemies are worth “having,” an egalitariannpresumption that lies beneath much ofnwhat passes for power-hungry elitism.nAfter moving from teenage schoolboysnto young, displaced peasants who frequentednBudapest’s Municipal Park,nGrau’s “first steps” toward Marxismncame, he explains, “when I began to feelnsuch love for some of the older boys thatn1 wanted to stop paying them, imaginingnthat they would freely return my feelings.”nThey didn’t, of course, and Graunlearned early “how sordid life is,” andn”how sad and impossible it is to live.”nZ7nMay 1983n