The Abortion is another Brautigan work. I'm sure that frequenters of this site are becoming quite familiar with Brautigan's work and if he were still alive today, perhaps he would be grateful for so much publicity. I digress...
Despite the controversial issue of a title, The Abortion: A Historical Romance 1966 is a sometimes light-hearted, sometimes pleasantly sad, mostly happy story about a couple traveling to Tijuana for an abortion in 1966. The woman, Vida, is a woman so beautiful, that men have been killed trying to stare at her. She hates her curves and good looks because she doesn't feel like she fits her own body. The man, whom Brautigan modeled after himself, I think, is one of the only men that doesn't stare at her lustily...so they fall in love. She finds out that she's pregnant and they make the decision to have an abortion in a very calm and cool manner and make a very non-regretful trip to Mexico.
They met at a library where the man (if they say his name at all in the book- it's not often and I don't remember it if it was indeed mentioned) is the librarian. He never leaves the library and has lived there every hour of every day for the past several years. The concept of this particular library is that all of the books in it were brought in at any hour of the day, by any author, and about any subject the author desires. One man wrote an entire book about the history of leather clothing on a leather bound book made entirely of leather, a five year old wrote a book about his tricycle, another teenage girl writes a book about her cat- and all are admitted into the library and placed on whatever shelf the author chooses. Once every few months, a man named Foster comes down from the desert in his van, picks up a number of books, and brings them to the "caves" for storage. None of the books are ever destroyed and the whole operation is funded by this organization called "The America Forever, etc.", which is never really seen.
The sketch is inspired by the opening chapter of the book, which introduces the kooky nature of the library. An old woman rings the doorbell at 3 in the morning to submit her book, "Growing Flowers by Candlelight in Hotel Rooms". She's described as old, approximately eight, and very shabbily dressed. She lives in a hotel and walked three hours all the way to the library as soon as she finished after five years of writing her book- in crayon, complete with illustrations. As she turns the book in and its registered, she tells a little story of her life and how she loves to grow flowers- but her hotel room has no windows. After a short chat, her book is registered, she places it on a shelf full of mostly children's works, and leaves at 3 am for her three hour trek back to her hotel home.
I think that this part of the story struck me for several reasons. First, I have a soft spot for old people, especially those that live alone. The old woman seemed to have such a sad life, living in a hotel room with no windows and whatnot. The book that she'd worked on for five years seemed like a sort of validation and a great triumph for her, even though probably no one would ever read it. Her book, like many of the others brought in to the library, was something that meant volumes to the author, but most likely wouldn't matter to any other person. The librarian's job is to make certain that it does matter, or at least make the various and quirky authors feel as though their work mattered. I think thats nice and fuzzy.
So, as the sketch shows, I pictured the old lady sitting all alone in a dark hotel room tending to her flowers growing by candlelight, feeling proud that she'd written an entire book about them. I think that the image inspired by the description of the old woman and her book set the tone for the entire story: a little bit sad, but pleasant and satisfying at the same time. I read the book from cover-to-cover in one sitting, as I've done with a couple of other Brautigan works. Having said this, I will declare this as one of my favorite Brautigan works. Then again I would probably say that about all of them. I will still declare it a favorite, however.