As I read the first few pieces in this astonishing collection I thought Cookie Mueller must be the love child of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady! So much reminded me of Kerouac’s autobiographical fiction and the frenetic, drug crazed antics reminded me of Cassady. Despite her headstrong lifestyle Mueller comes across as a warm and witty woman. Reading about her zest for life, her devil may care attitude and risk taking adventures gave me the same kind of buzz I got when I first read On the Road over 40 years ago! But there was something incredibly euphoric about recapturing a sensation from a past that I thought was, well, in the past!
Mueller paints a palpable and volatile picture of San Francisco in the 60s and 70s, this is balanced out by her accounts of life in other parts of the world, especially her trip to the Amalfi Coast. I suppose there are some who might take exception to the extent of the recreational drug use but it is part of the overall picture of the life that Mueller is describing and depicting. In fact it can be seen as an important part of social history for that period.
But the book is not wholly autobiographical. There are some short stories written in the 80s aptly titled Fables. They are thoroughly entertaining and good examples of Mueller’s wit and imagination, not to mention offering some food for thought too.
However the final section of the book which contains the columns she wrote for various publications were almost prophetic. Mueller describes the art scene of the 80s but also offers some social comment, and remember this is before the advent of social media, that I found most relevant to today. She references climate change and pollution, discussing deforestation and the depletion of the ozone layer contributing to the deterioration of the planet and fears that unless Man adapts and evolves his survival may be in the balance.
Tragic that this talented author died aged only 40 but my, what she packed into that life makes our own lives seems so staid and static. Boy, she was a tough cookie! 😉 She seemed so busy living life I’m amazed she found time to write, but she did and we are all the richer for it. She has a very conversational and easily accessible style be it an autobiographical piece, a short story or a magazine article. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I thank Canongate Books for my copy which has swiftly found its way to my ‘read again soon’ pile.