Last of the Summer Reads: Richard Brautigan’s In Watermelon Sugar
Emily Rizzo introduces us to the curious wonder of In Watermelon Sugar and outlines why it’s a perfect fit for the transition from summer to autumn.
The presence of the summer is slowly waning and nothing can stop the days from decidedly ticking towards the busy term-time lifestyle that September plunges us into. The final few days of carefree fun and thoughtless relaxation are punctuated by reminders that autumn is on its way, shattering the peaceful illusion we’ve created for ourselves.
One book which captures this feeling perfectly is Richard Brautigan’s In Watermelon Sugar, a utopian fiction set in a world where the sun is a different colour every day and where everything is made from watermelon sugar. The whimsical world is never fully described by our nameless narrator, who gives us little to no details about how this post-apocalyptic world came to be and about the uncanny society that has flourished there. At first glance, the fantastical atmosphere makes for a playful and fun experience of the novel, but we’re often made to second guess this quaint community when something odd happens and we’re left with no explanation. The short chapters and minimalist narration create a lyrical, poetic feel, which is constantly undermined by the jarring dark moments, making this a conflicting read.
a utopian fiction set in a world where the sun is a different colour every day and where everything is made from watermelon sugar
The strange feelings created by Brautigan seem to fit the fading comforts of August perfectly when moments of ease and fun are constantly tainted by a bittersweet knowledge that the end is in sight. Still, there’s no reason why the eccentric concept of a world where tigers teach you Maths after eating your parents, and where the sun is grey on Wednesdays and blue on Saturdays, shouldn’t just be enjoyed for the pure fantasy of it. So, if the end of summer puts you in the mood for a postmodern, post-apocalyptic novel, then look no further than In Watermelon Sugar, whether it be your pool-side read, or the entertainment for your journey back to normality.