After pilfering a book from my schools library (shh) that was deemed by its back cover to hit the reader like the Hallelujah Chorus being played by 200 kazoo players with perfect pitch, I realized that what I was hiding underneath my jacket wasn’t just your usual mediocre Highschool library book but something special. Usually we hear of the “author that dies before his prime story” and half the time that is written about a middling writer who would have never reached his prime even if he had lived, but Richard Farina was a brilliant author and it is truly a tragedy that he did not have the opportunity to show the world all that he was made of.
Reading Farina’s Been Down So Long Looks Like Up to me one may find it reminiscent to Joyce’s Ulysses. Farina’s prose rolls and jerks from word to word, staggering at times like the town drunkard and hovering at times like an angel in heaven. This is what some may consider the downfall of his writing, I must admit that it took me several readings to understand it fully but after I did I appreciated it even more.
Been Down So Long Looks like up to me is the story of a rogue college student during the merge from the Beat generation into the Love Generation, the sixties, and his quest for love and its meaning. In doing so he has run-ins with the police, local drug dealers, revolutionists in Cuba, and activists at college.
When I hear of influential authors of the epoch coined “the Beat Generation” (Kerouac, Ginsberg, etc.) I wonder why Farina is not on the top of the list. Been Down so Long is the beat generation encapsulated inside a book about an inch thick. It has all the makings; the wondering, rebellion, drug use, etc.
Having only a cult status among the literary community Been Down So Long deserves more recognition. Readers who want to read an excellent book should do anything (steal, borrow, buy) to get their hands on this book.
When I first picked up this book I was not an avid reader but after completing it I realized that reading was perhaps the void that I felt in my life. I can say personally that this book changed my life, for better or worse.