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Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Fan Man (1974) by William Kotzwinkle

The Fan Man is a semi-classic of the butt end of 1960's hippie culture in New York City.
Book Review
The Fan Man (1974)
 by William Kotzwinkle

  Perhaps because of the Kurt Vonnegut penned introduction to the edition of The Fan Man that I read, I became fixated on the idea that Kotzwinkle was somehow the "real life" inspiration for Kurt Vonnegut's fictional pulp philosopher Kilgore Trout.  That theory has no merit, but there is no doubt that Kotzwinkles ouevre which ranges from sci-fi genre work to the experimental bent of this book, is reminiscent of the plots described by Vonnegut on behalf of Kilgore Trout.

  Horse Badtories is the narrator, a down at the heels hippie/hoarder artist. He lives in a series of "pads," paid for by bad checks, where he accumulates garbage and tries to seduce under age girls (15 year old girls).  He also speaks in hippie jargon, liberally peppering his speech wit the ubiquitous "man."    To compare a work of 20th century experimental prose to Joyce and Beckett is simply to state that the work is experimental.  The idea of writing a book about a crazy perambulating low life in stream of consciousness format was perfected by James Joyce in Ulysses a half century before Kotzwinkle wrote The Fan Man.

   The value in The Fan Man is in the depiction of the butt-end of 1960's hippie culture, not the stream of consciousness narrative technique.   It's also worth observing yet another quintessentially "60's" work of fiction that was written mid way through the 1970's.

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