Richard Fariņa.
Long Time Coming and a Long Time Gone.
New York: Random House, 1969.
Introduction by Joan Baez; notes by Mimi Fariņa.

Reviewed in:
Booklist v. 66, Sep 15, 1969.
Kirkus v. 37, Mar 1, 1969; Apr. 1, 1969.
Library Journal v. 94, June 1, Sep 15, Dec 15, 1969.
Nation v. 209, Jul 29, 1969.
Publishers Weekly v. 195, Feb 24, 1969.
Saturday Review, vol. 52, July 5, 1969.
Wall Street Journal v. 174, Jul 22, 1969.

Click on covers to enlarge.

NOTE: For information on the musical, Long Time Coming and a Long Time Gone, click here.


Jack of Diamonds [untitled and not listed in table of contents]
Forward: Child of Darkness, by Joan Baez
Long Time Coming and a Long Time Gone
Harry and the Celluloid Passion
Bold Marauder
The Writer as Cameraman
Little Nothing Poems
Poem for a Woman Who Loved
The Passing of Various Lives
Two Irish Stories
        With a Copy of Dylan under my Arm
        An End to a Young Man
The Flax Long Ripe
The Monterey Fair
Let's Choose Up Sides and Play the Game of Life
The Good Fortune of Stone
Celebration for a Grey Day
Baez and Dylan: A Generation Singing Out
Waiting for News
Returned from England (Along the Quai des Orfevres)
American Afternoon
The Priest that from the Altar Burst
The Vision of Brother Francis
The Field Near the Cathedral at Chartres
Reflections in a Crystal Wind

Published in 1969, while interest in Fariņa was still high, this volume is comprised of poems, lyrics, stories, and essays, some of which had been published in magazines while others appeared here for the first time. Added to the mix are notes by Mimi (from a recorded conversation with Christopher Cerf), a few brief extracts from Fariņa's diary, and Joan Baez's essay on Fariņa, originally published as a glossy spread in Esquire and later reprinted as a chapter in Joan's autobiography, Daybreak (see the page on Daybreak for more info).

The arrangement appears at first to be haphazard, with stories, poems and essays jumbled together, but upon finishing the book one finds a certain thematic arrangement which ties together the disparate styles of the young writer. One is struck by the recurrence of themes familiar from Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me and from Fariņa's recorded songs. The obsession with death, the illusion of exemption, the fear of demons, the contempt for bourgeois conformity, the Romantic yearning for an unspoiled nature, all re-appear here, making one realize that his complete works must be taken as whole, as each story, poem, and song illuminates the sum of his work. In some cases entire stories reappear: "The Good Fortune of Stone" is another version of the hunting story that Gnossos tells Kristin in Been Down So Long, and the epigraph he uses to head the story, a verse by Michelangelo that attended his statue Sleep, also appears in the novel, when Gnossos quoted part of it to Agneau at the frat party (chapter two). Pynchon reports in his introduction to the novel that Fariņa told this story many times; it obviously meant a great deal to him, so much that one must wonder if perhaps Fariņa had a near-death experience like the one told in the story. The tale is reminiscent of Hemingway, particularly "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," with its preoccupation with imminent death and its concluding hallucination, or mirage, or epiphany, or whatever it is.

Even more revealing is the story "An End to a Young Man," which tells of a young man who performs a mission for the IRA, planting a bomb onto a British patrol boat. He finds out the next day that five people died in the explosion, although he had been led to believe that the boat would be unoccupied. There has been much speculation about the possible autobiographical dimenion of this story. Although Eric von Schmidt says that Fariņa told this story with many conflicting variations, Carolyn Hester believed that Fariņa had actually undergone a similar experience, and that it profoundly influenced his character (see the pages on Urban Spacemen and Been Down So Long on this website). Hester, who also had family in Ireland, had visited Fariņa's relatives there, and she believed it possible that Fariņa's family may have been involved in the IRA.

"Harry and the Celluloid Passion" is about a young man who meets a beautiful woman just as he is about to be sent to the Korean War. The woman's name is Kristin, and her father is a senator, so this is probably the same character as the destructive Kristin in Been Down So Long who gives Gnossos the clap and betrays him for G. Alonso Oeuf. Pynchon states in his introduction that all the Kristins in Fariņa's works were based on the same girl. That may have been Diane Divers, to whom Richard was engaged briefly before her parents broke it off.

A couple of pieces show the influence of Fariņa's Jesuit upbringing, particularly the long story "A Vision of Brother Francis," a sort of Winesburg, Ohio type of story transposed to Fariņa's native New York. The demons haunting Fariņa's other works are in full avatar here. One can detect the influence of Hubert Selby Jr., author of Last Exit To Brooklyn, in "An American Afternoon," a gritty, grimy tale which may reflect the banality and cultural vacuum that Fariņa grew up amid in early fifties Brooklyn.

But the dominant influence in this volume is Hemingway. Most similar to Hemingway's style is the story, "The Passing of Various Lives," the tale of family conflict and a factory strike in Cuba, told with an elegiac dignity and sadness far removed from the nervous energy and frenetic pace of Been Down So Long.

Many of the poems remind me of John Donne's "The Sun Rising," which tells of two lovers lying in bed in a blissful frozen moment as the busy world outside ticks away the time. This seems to be a favorite scenario in Fariņa's work. One such poem is "Celebration for a Grey Day" (written for Carolyn Hester), which predates the (wordless) song of the same name. The poem "The Flax Long Ripe" laments the corruption of nature, as does his more familiar song, "The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood."

The only two lyrics included in the volume are "Bold Marauder" and "Reflections in a Crystal Wind." Mimi's note says that the latter was "the last song we worked on together," and it is poignantly paired with "The Field Near the Cathedral at Chartres," which was inspired by Richard and Mimi's very first meeting, at a picnic in the French countrysie in early 1963. The two poems together form a poignant reminder of the brevity of their celebrated relationship.

The Essays:
There three two essays in this volume. "The Monterey Fair" tells of an incident that occurred when he, Thomas Pynchon, Mimi, Joan, and Joan's friend Kim Chappell (co-author of "All the world Has Gone By," and discussed at length in Joan's book, And a Voice to Sing With), went to a local carnival. Despite the illustrious names, this bit of reportage is not particularly interesting except as an example of Richard's habit of telling tales about events that happened to him when no one else was around to witness: Richard tells of a private confrontation he has with a member of the John Birch Society that nearly erupted into violence. The other essay, "Baez and Dylan: A Generation Singing Out," discusses their influence on young people, particularly college students. This is Fariņa's most widely reprinted writing; it has appeared in many anthologies. Despite the fame of these essays to Pynchon and Dylan fans respectively, the most important of the three is "The Writer as Cameraman." This essay was published in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 1st, the day after the publication of Been Down So Long, and was intended to be a key to the novel. It includes tantalizing allusions to Richard's travels in Europe and and intriguing, though sadly unfulfilled, proclamation that writer had recently overcome a self-consciousness that had inhibited his writing. "Resolving this conflict between Inside and Outside... [is] precisely what motivates the book's central character." himself. The writing in this volume is of varying quality. The book's chief value lies not so much in the stories and poems themselves, but in what light they shed upon the more accomplished novel and the lyrics of Fariņa's songs. Taken as a whole, the songs, lyrics, poems, stories, and novel, as well as the many memoirs and reminiscences of Fariņa by others, suggest a man full of prodigious talent, originality, and inestimable potential. To dismiss Fariņa as a second-rate Dylan lacking any claim to distinction, as many people have done recently in reviews of Hajdu's Positively 4th Street, is to ignore not only the evidence of the superb music he left behind, but also the potential suggested by these early writings. One might not guess from Pynchon's early stories what a master of modern fiction he became. If we cannot know what Fariņa might have accomplished, we cannot condemn him for what he failed to accomplish when an early death robbed him of the chance. These early writings deserve further study through careful comparison with Fariņa's total oeuvre.

For a list of Fariņa's publications in magazines and journals, including some that were not included in this volume, see the Periodical Publications page.

--Douglas Cooke