I have just finished reading The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 by Richard Brautigan. It struck me throughout the story of how lovely (and yes the word lovely was floating through my head like a grandmother’s approval) it would be if more people read it, or saw this as a major motion picture. I am compelled to write a little on it and the problem of this kind of moral message in mainstream America.
Brautigan is the author best known as the last of the Beats, an unofficial title stemming from his works in the 60’s and 70’s, most notably Revenge of the Lawn and Trout Fishing in America. These works are bizarre and funny stories taken out of seemingly daily ritual and mundane life to reveal the deeper pains and joys of the human experience in modern time.
The Abortion (published in 1971) is a relatively simple narrative about extraordinary events being tasked in routine and measured ways. The main character is a librarian and caretaker in a unique library in San Francisco. This library accepts all books by their authors, though none of the books have ever been published. And they’re never borrowed out. Our narrator attends to this depository 24 hours a day, accepting works throughout the night and recording the entries with a love and dedication. His compatriot, Foster, lives in the hills of Humboldt, where books that no longer fit the small space are transferred and interred in the caves there. These two odd men are perfect foil for one another, and the narrator’s new girl, Vida.
The events of the book evolve around the new relationship and Vida’s eventual pregnancy. The couple decide, on advise from Foster, to have an abortion performed in Tijuana, Mexico. The potential for disaster and a strong anti abortion stance is available, but the story is told directly and calmly, yet with an emotional undertone (just not a hysterical one). At no point is there a terrible tragedy or misfortune. The Mexican doctor is a gentle and professional man, their trip to Mexico is eventful but never dangerous or scary. The procedure is completed and the couple return to San Francisco, albeit at the sacrifice of the librarian postion our narrator held. (Read it.)
All through the book, I wanted to see this related as a film. I think the anti abortion comedies and the pregnant while coming of age movies had their chance, why not the pro choice films? I am trying to think of a film that tells the story of a woman thoughtfully going through with a procedure, all the while dealing with the consequences to her own life and her future in an adult manner. Films like Juno, Knocked Up, even the general pro lifeness of Away We Go all take the idea of having children as a mystery we all want to solve and experience, a task that will only benefit the family and the world.
Juno walks into a terribly outdated and offensive representation of a clinic, complete with a teenage receptionist? What? And one protestro, who is the only minortiy in the film and a weirdo to boot. She takes exactly 45 seconds to decide she’d rather have this baby then fill out those damned forms already!
Away We Go has a couple confirming that they’re fuck ups upfront and then traveling cross country (who’s paying for those flights?) to find the right home for their baby. I don’t think the idea of abortion ever crosses their mind. Though the idea of them fucking up everything else in the life is acknowledged. Hmmm. And even Sarah Palin admitted she considered abortion, if only for a fleeting moment.
Knocked Up has a professional and intelligent(?) woman foregoing her new lifelong dream career and assured personal happiness to go through with a pregnancy that erupted from a night of irresponsibility with a stranger who happened to be Seth Rogen. What a family line to get involved with. His dad looks like Egon, and he looks like, well, like Seth Rogen. What chance does that kid have?
All I’m saying is that Hollywood has no problem telling us a teenager can cope with high school, personal life and a child with wit and charm, not to mention a never ending line of family and friends to support her. Why not do the same with the other side of the coin?
Oh, yeah. They probably don’t want to get shot.