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Fari?a evokes the Sixties as precisely, wittily, and poignantly as F. Scott Fitzgerald captured the Jazz Age. The hero, Gnossus Pappadopoulis, weaves his way through the psychedelic landscape, encountering?among other things?mescaline, women, art, gluttony, falsehood, science, prayer, and, occasionally, truth. A portrait of an explosive decade, sparkling with inventive writing and conveying the essence of a generation, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, as Thomas Pynchon writes in the introduction, "comes ...
Fariña evokes the Sixties as precisely, wittily, and poignantly as F. Scott Fitzgerald captured the Jazz Age. The hero, Gnossus Pappadopoulis, weaves his way through the psychedelic landscape, encountering—among other things—mescaline, women, art, gluttony, falsehood, science, prayer, and, occasionally, truth. A portrait of an explosive decade, sparkling with inventive writing and conveying the essence of a generation, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, as Thomas Pynchon writes in the introduction, "comes on like the Hallelujah Chorus done by 200 kazoo players with perfect pitch."
"A marvelous storyteller, Fariña is fit to join the company of Kerouac, Kesey, and Pynchon." —San Francisco Chronicle
Posted March 19, 2003
Richard Farina was a consummate songerwriter, poet and hopeful novelist, until his first and only novel burst onto the scene. Although a later book was released that was a compilation of some short stories, poems, and articles about him, this was the only book he had to stretch toward the literary heavens with. And it was indeed a smash! Unfortunately, Farina, who was married to Joan Baez' younger sister Mimi, with whom he had forged a folk duo that played and recorded some of his wonderful poetry put to music, never lived to experience his own wild success, as he fell off the back of a motorcycle on the way home from the publication party for this book, and was killed instantly. But the book lives, indeed it flourishes, and the paperback version has never been out of print in all this time, which is ample testimony to its continuing power, verve, and its timeless message, as well as to its beautifully written story. This is a wonderful book, one that has grown in reputation and stature over the intervening decades, and as another, much younger reviewer commented, it is one for everyone, not just for us greying babyboomers who were lucky enough to have discovered and experienced Richard in his prime. For all of us who have read his work, or listened to his music, or experienced his poetry, or for those of us who were lucky enough to see Mimi and Richard perform at the Newport Folk Festival, one can still hear the faint echoes of their haunting guitar harmonies and vocals, and we truly know that he is still with us. We know that he has truly left us a present, his evocative 'reflections in a crystal dream'. Although set in a time before the changes of the sixties started to roar, one soon recognizes teh signs and spirit of the times in his words and the storyline. Enter Gnossos, soul of the road, keeper of the eternal flame, and a pilgrim on an endless search for the holy grail of cool, and the college town of Athene (read Ithaca, NY, home of Cornell) will never be the same. Nor will you after digesting this wild, extremely readable parable. So, friend, don't hesitate; buy it, read it, but do so slllllloooooowwwwwllllly, savoring every gorgeous moment of it. It's all we have left of him, the only legacy of an incredible talent and a wonderful spokesperson for the otherwise indescribable sixties.
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Posted September 6, 2013
Been Down So Long... is a prologue to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Farina's protagonist, Gnossos Pappadopoulis, has a lot in common with Thompson's "Raoul Duke" but thanks to Ralph Steadman, Thompson's images are more vivid. Both Pappadopoulis and Duke indulge in alcohol and a variety of illegal drugs as they run wild through crowds of straight people without suffering any consequences for their illegal acts. As Chapter 2 comes to a close, Farina describes Pappadopoulis raping a woman he has met earlier in the day but, in the landscape of the 60's he isn't raping her (despite her protestations) he's just getting a little action. He tells her he has a condom but that turns out to be a lie. Gnossos lies constantly to himself as well as all the others in his world.
But, as Thomas Pynchon points out in his introduction to the book, Farina was a gifted writer at least in the sense of being able to put words together cleverly. Whether or not the story was worth telling is something each reader will have to decide.
Posted April 10, 2010
This is a kind of college story, about Gnossos Pappadopoulis, a student only loosely involved with his studies, but much with campus life, becoming involved with a group of weird characters who plot for a campus revolution, which is ultimately successful in replacing the president, which, however, does not pay off for Gnossos. Thomas Pynchon praises it, because he was with Richard Farina at Cornell, and admired Farina in his student days; Pynchon writes that the novel is based on events at Cornell in 1958. The book is less interesting for those who are not of that generation. Gnossos Pappadopoulis is certainly not `down', he enjoys his student life, sex, drugs, and intellectual pretentiousness, very much; he apparently never has to work.
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Posted May 10, 2001
I notice several people who have bought this book have also bought Cryptonomicon. Me too. But if you're thinking about what to read after Cryptonomicon, don't read The Big U -- read THIS. Stephenson's Big U was a huge disappointment, but I suspect because I kept comparing it to this, the ultimate campus send-up of all time, the Go Big Red Fan to end all Go Big Red Fans (Farina's novel is set, loosely, at Cornell -- erstwhile home of Go Big Red this and Go Big Red that, and plenty of Go Big Red Fans, OK?).Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 26, 2000
I was skeptical of this book at first and read it only based on a friend's recommendation. It is an entirely new and different world of language and expression. I only wish Richard Farina had lived long enough to write more, this book left me so hungry, I've never read anything remotely like it before. To me it exemplified what most books dream of being: cool, heartful, real, honest, hilarious, disturbing, and intensely smartWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 23, 2009
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Posted March 23, 2009
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