Richard Farina — Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me

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Description

New York: Dell Paperback, 1968 (1965). 269 pages. Very good copy

“Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me” is based largely on Fariña’s college experiences and travels – a comic picaresque story that is set in the Western United States, in Cuba during the Cuban Revolution, and at an upstate New York university. The name of the protagonist is Gnossos Pappadopoulis, a modern Odysseus. The book has become something of a cult classic among those who study 1960s or counterculture literature, and has been cited as a source of inspiration for many artists. Thomas Pynchon, who was acquainted with Fariña while they attended Cornell University together, later dedicated his book Gravity’s Rainbow to him and described Fariña’s novel as “coming on like the Hallelujah Chorus done by 200 kazoo players with perfect pitch… hilarious, chilling, sexy, profound, maniacal, beautiful and outrageous all at the same time”. This copy has a quote from Pynchon to back cover. Richard George Fariña (1937-1966) was an American folksinger, songwriter, poet and novelist. Fariña was a regular patron of the White Horse Tavern, the well-known Greenwich Village tavern frequented by poets, artists, and folksingers, where he befriended Tommy Makem. It was there that he met Carolyn Hester, a successful folk singer. They married 18 days later. Fariña appointed himself Hester’s agent; they toured worldwide while Fariña worked on his novel and Carolyn performed gigs. Fariña was present when Hester recorded her third album at Columbia studios during September 1961, where a then-little-known Bob Dylan played the harmonica on several tracks. Fariña became a good friend of Dylan; their friendship is a major topic of David Hajdu’s book, Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña, and Richard Fariña. Fariña then travelled to Europe, where he met Mimi Baez, the teenage sister of Joan Baez, in the spring of 1962. Hester divorced Fariña soon thereafter, and Fariña married 17-year-old Mimi in April 1963. Thomas Pynchon was the best man. They moved to a small cabin in Carmel, California, where they composed songs with a guitar and Appalachian dulcimer. They debuted their act as “Richard & Mimi Fariña” at the Big Sur Folk Festival in 1964 and signed a contract with Vanguard Records. They recorded their first album, Celebrations for a Grey Day (released under the name Mimi & Richard Fariña), in 1965, with the help of Bruce Langhorne, who had previously played for Dylan. During the brief life of Richard Fariña, the couple released only one other album, Reflections in a Crystal Wind, also in 1965. A third album, Memories, was issued in 1968, after his death. Fariña, like Dylan and others of this time, was considered a protest singer, and several of his songs are overtly political. Several critics have considered Fariña to be a major folk music talent of the 1960s. (“If Richard had survived that motorcycle accident, he would have easily given Dylan a run for his money.” – Ed Ward).”

Richard Farina — Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me