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Having survived countless vexations, adventures, self-induced hardships, and brushes with a harsh destiny, Walt Long currently resides in Colorado with his family in relative bliss. All of the astounding incidents portrayed in his two novels are based upon fact…first-hand, indelible experiences.
Julie R Butler
on Dec. 29, 2011 :
Walt Long’s book, “The Unauthorized Autobiography of Richard Burns” is a portrait of a bright young man whose sense of alienation and rebellion against the mindless conformism of 1950s America sends him on a wild adventure following Beat Generation experimentation with self-expression and rejection of social norms.
His is a poignant journey that leads from an affectionless family life to an iconic pilgrimage through San Francisco, Greenwich Village, and Mexico, during which the once liberating Beat lifestyle degenerates into a prison of criminality fueled by unapologetic heroin addiction. Then, in his darkest hour, it is with that core element of “normal” society that the Beats were so vehemently rejecting called RESPECT – for authority, for others, for himself– that the protagonist finally finds his peace with the world.
The weight of the fact that this journey begins when his father, a pipefitter, moves the family from the Bronx to northern New Mexico in 1943 to work at Los Alamos National Laboratory will not be lost on those who see the invention of atomic bomb as one of humanity’s most troubling problems, with the fear-inducing “Duck and Cover” exercises having left an indelible mark on the psyches of America’s schoolchildren for decades to come. As indicated in the prologue, this is one of the reasons that young Richard Burns is so disaffected. Being a particularly sensitive human being, he feels this great weight of the world on his shoulders.
But despite its subtext and theme, this book is truly refreshing and uplifting. Walt’s narration maintains an easy momentum, as he remains self-reflective while refraining from moralizing or delving into judgmental social criticism. The openness and honesty on display by this narrator draws the reader in, as does the thoughtfulness, intelligence, and charm that paint the miscreant Richard Burns as a very sympathetic character. The narrator further holds the reader’s attention by speaking in the knowing voice of a disenchanted rebel who has found his way back into the graces of society, who is self-aware of both his personal strengths and his fatal flaws, an adventurer telling of his voyage into the unknown and then making his way back from the abyss as if he himself can barely believe that it all happened.
And it is an amazing story, not just for the plotline, but also because of the amount sheer luck that Richard seems to have on his side during all of his misadventures. He finds himself in the right place at the right time to experience a life so extraordinary that the visionary film director who, beginning at the dawn of the “talkies,” revolutionized the use of the camera itself and later, color, to create emotion on film, Rouben Malmoulian, (who Richard just so happened to bump into in Guadalajara, Mexico at a key moment in his life) was so enthralled by his story that he went out of his way to help Richard retrieve his notes from the Jalisco State Penitentiary, making him promise to write it all down to share with the world.
The Unauthorized Autobiography of Richard Burns is a beautiful promise kept.
(reviewed 52 days after purchase)