Richard Fariña Fariña, Richard

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Fariña, Richard

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Fariña, Richard 1937?–1966

Fariña, an American songwriter, playwright, folksinger, and novelist of Cuban-Irish heritage, was an important figure in the folk music scene of the 1960s. Fariña, who espoused revolution in Castro's Cuba and fought with the IRA in Northern Ireland, was "one of the earliest protest writers to be lyrical as well," according to Lillian Roxon. His song "Pack Up Your Sorrows" is considered a folk classic. (See also Contemporary Authors, obituary, Vols. 25-28, rev. ed.)

The style of [Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me], which is its least appealing aspect, is derived heavily from J. P. Donleavy: it displays the same edgy levity, the same corrosive strain of guarded self-deception. But Gnossos Pappadopoulis (the hero, "furry Pooh Bear, keeper of the flame") is not simply a little Ginger Man; the flower of a later generation, he is gentler, less decisive, more overtly sentimental, and more innocent….

As a literary work, the value of Been Down So Long is slight; its interest as a chronicle of a certain lost hippie scene … is limited, if that is what the reader had in mind. But as an expression, highly personal and honest, of the outcome of those feelings of disinterested virtue and existential autonomy once encouraged (though not often proved) by universities, and later condemned as "apathy," Mr. Fariña's book deserves some serious attention. (p. 449)

Stephen Donadio, in Partisan Review (copyright © 1966 by Partisan Review, Inc.), Summer, 1966.

[Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me] mixes hipster-picaresque with a much more modish, campy style, and seems to be by, for, and about, what Leslie Fiedler calls the New Mutants, whose attachment to normal human attributes is extremely tenuous. There isn't much to it except for a forceful facility in the writing and a horribly accurate ear for the inanities of hipster speech…. Mr. Fariña keeps it all going wildly on, in the accepted manner of comic-strip fiction, with lots of way-out names to keep up the merriment: Louie Motherball, Juan Carlos Rosenbloom, Calvin Blacknesse, G. Alonso Oeuf, etc. For all its souped-up gaiety I found it depressing: a bright, cold, cruel, empty book. (p. 28)

Bernard Bergonzi, in The New York Review of Books (reprinted with permission from The New York Review of Books; copyright © 1966 NYREV, Inc.), October 6, 1966.

Long Time Coming and a Long Time Gone is haunted by a paradox. On the one hand, it displays an almost incredible mastery of moods and styles; on the other, it creates an impression of enormous talent lost in a blur of conflicting identities. In the title story Fariña speaks in the voice of a Southern poor white. Later on he becomes Irish, with strong overtones of Dylan Thomas; then somber Cuban, with echoes of Hemingway at his most pompous, and finally slick New York, in a glossy magazine piece about an encounter with some Birchers at a country fair. A few general themes—death, romance, lurking demons, socialism, the decline and fall of America—remind us that all the pieces were written by the same person…. Fariña was a brilliant posturer and a vibrant personality, yet the best work surviving him is his songs. One realizes after reading this book that as a writer of prose he never found a voice of his own. (p. 36)

Henry S. Resnik, in Saturday Review (© 1969 by Saturday Review, Inc.; reprinted with permission), July 5, 1969.

Whitman is legitimately associated with a tradition of optimism and occasional naïveté, but he also expresses a characteristic tendency to raise the highest hopes for the future of the country—and then to criticize it mercilessly when it fails to measure up to the standard. The idea of America as a New World Garden of Eden proposes so extreme a conception of society that its realization is almost inevitably doomed. The shift of the American mind to the other extreme is equally predictable, and it brings to the surface expressions of pessimism, determinism, and visions of apocalypse. Major...

(The entire section is 2,253 words.)