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Richard Brautigan
Born Richard Gary Brautigan
January 30, 1935(1935-01-30)
Tacoma, Washington, U.S.
Died c. September 14, 1984 (aged 49)
Bolinas, California, U.S.
Occupation Novelist/Poet
Nationality American
Genres Black Comedy
Parody
Postmodernism
Zen Buddhism
Notable work(s) Trout Fishing in America (1967)

Richard Gary Brautigan (January 30, 1935 – ca. September 14, 1984) was a 20th century American novelist, poet, and short story writer. His novels and stories are usually focus on black comedy, parody, satire, and Zen Buddhism. He is perhaps best known for his 1967 novel Trout Fishing in America.

Contents

Biography

Early life

Brautigan was born in Tacoma, Washington, to Bernard Frederick Brautigan, Jr. (July 29, 1908 – May 27, 1994) a factory worker, laborer, and World War II veteran; and waitress Lulu Mary "Mary Lou" Keho (April 7, 1911 – September 24, 2005). In May 1934, eight months before Richard was born, Bernard decided to separate from Mary Lou. Brautigan said that he met his biological father only twice, though after Brautigan's death Bernard Brautigan was said to be unaware that Richard was his child, saying "He's got the same last name, but why would they wait 45 to 50 years to tell me I've got a son."[1]

In 1938, Brautigan and his mother began cohabiting with a man named Arthur Martin Titland. Mary Lou and Titland had a daughter together out of wedlock named Barbara Ann, born on May 1, 1939. Brautigan claimed that he had a very traumatic experience when his mother left him alone with his two-year-old sister in a motel room in Great Falls, Montana, where he did not know the whereabouts of his mother until she returned two days later.

On January 20, 1943, Mary Lou married fry cook Robert Geoffrey Porterfield. They had a daughter together – named Sandra Jean – who was born April 1, 1945. Mary Lou would tell Brautigan that Porterfield was his biological father, and Brautigan began using Richard Gary Porterfield as his name. Mary Lou separated from Porterfield in 1946, and married William David Folston, Sr., on June 12, 1950. Folston was recalled as being a violent alcoholic, whom Richard had seen subjecting his mother to domestic abuse.

Brautigan was raised in extreme poverty; he told his daughter stories of his mother sifting rat feces from their supply of flour to make flour-and-water pancakes. Because of Brautigan's impoverished childhood, he and his family found it difficult to obtain food, and on some occasions they would not be able to eat for days. He lived with his family on welfare and moved to various homes in the Pacific Northwest (including, in order: Tacoma, and Yakima, Washington; Great Falls, Montana; Salem, Oregon), before settling in Eugene, Oregon, in summer 1944. Many of Brautigan's childhood experiences were included in the poems and stories that he wrote from as early as the age of 12 through his high school years. His novel So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away is loosely based on childhood experiences including an incident where Brautigan accidentally shot the brother of a close friend in the ear, injuring him only slightly.

On September 12, 1950, Brautigan enrolled at South Eugene High School, having graduated from Woodrow Wilson Junior High School. He was a writer for his high school newspaper South Eugene High School News. He also played on his school's basketball team, standing 6 feet 4 inches tall (1.91 m) by the time of his graduation. On December 19, 1952, Brautigan's first poem – The Light – was published in the South Eugene High School newspaper. Brautigan graduated with honors from South Eugene High School on June 9, 1953. Following graduation, he moved in with his best friend Peter Webster, and Peter's mother Edna Webster became Brautigan's surrogate mother. According to several accounts, Brautigan stayed with Webster for about a year before leaving for San Francisco, for the first time in August 1954, but returning to Oregon several times, apparently for lack of money.[2]

Hospitalization

On December 14, 1955, Brautigan was arrested for throwing a rock through a police-station window, supposedly in order to be sent to prison and fed. He was arrested for disorderly conduct and had to pay a $25 fine; however, he was instead committed to the Oregon State Hospital on December 24, 1955, after police noticed patterns of erratic behavior.

At the Oregon State Hospital Brautigan was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and clinical depression, and was treated with electroconvulsive therapy twelve times. While institutionalized, he began writing The God of the Martians, a manuscript that remains unpublished. On February 19, 1956, Brautigan was released from the Oregon State Hospital and briefly lived with his mother, stepfather, and siblings in Eugene, Oregon. He then left for San Francisco, where he would spend most of the rest of his life, except for periods of time spent in Tokyo and Montana.[2]

Writing career

In San Francisco, Brautigan sought to establish himself as a writer and was known for handing out his poetry on the streets and performing at poetry clubs.

Brautigan's first published book was The Return of the Rivers (1958), a single poem, followed by two collections of poetry: The Galilee Hitch-Hiker (1958), and Lay the Marble Tea (1959). During the 1960s Brautigan became involved in the burgeoning San Francisco counterculture scene, often appearing as a performance-poet at concerts and participating in the various activities of The Diggers. Brautigan was also a writer for the newspaper Change, an underground newspaper created by Ron Loewinsohn.

In the summer of 1961, Brautigan went camping with his wife and his daughter in the Idaho Stanley Basin. While camping he completed the novels A Confederate General From Big Sur and Trout Fishing in America. A Confederate General from Big Sur was his first published novel and met with little critical or commercial success. But when his novel Trout Fishing in America was published in 1967, Brautigan was catapulted to international fame and labeled by literary critics as the writer most representative of the emerging countercultural youth-movement of the late 1960s, even though he was said to be contemptuous of hippies (as noted in Lawrence Wright's article in the April 11, 1985 issue of Rolling Stone.)[3] Trout Fishing in America has so far sold over 4 million copies worldwide.

Brautigan published four collections of poetry as well as another novel, In Watermelon Sugar (1968) during the decade of the sixties. Also, in the spring of 1967, Brautigan was Poet-in-Residence at the California Institute of Technology. During this year, he published All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, a chapbook published by The Communication Company. It was printed in an edition of 1,500 copies and distributed for free. One Brautigan novel, The God of The Martians, remains unpublished. The 600 word, 20 chapter manuscript was sent to at least two editors but was rejected by both.[4] A copy of the manuscript was discovered with the papers of the last of these editors, Harry Hooton.

During the 1970s Brautigan experimented with different literary genres, publishing several novels throughout the decade and a collection of short stories called Revenge of the Lawn in 1971. "When the 1960s ended, he was the baby thrown out with the bath water," said his friend and fellow writer, Thomas McGuane. "He was a gentle, troubled, deeply odd guy." Generally dismissed by literary critics and increasingly abandoned by his readers, Brautigan's popularity waned throughout the late 1970s and into the 1980s. His work remained popular in Europe, however, as well as in Japan, and Brautigan visited there several times.[5] To his critics, Brautigan was willfully naive. Lawrence Ferlinghetti said of him, "As an editor I was always waiting for Richard to grow up as a writer. It seems to me he was essentially a naïf, and I don't think he cultivated that childishness, I think it came naturally. It was like he was much more in tune with the trout in America than with people."[6]

Listening to Richard Brautigan

From late 1968 to February 1969, Brautigan recorded a spoken-word album for The Beatles' short-lived record-label, Zapple. The label was shut down by Allen Klein before the recording could be released, but it was eventually released in 1970 on Harvest Records as Listening to Richard Brautigan.[7] Brautigan's writings are characterized by a remarkable and humorous imagination. The permeation of inventive metaphors lent even his prose-works the feeling of poetry. Evident also are themes of Zen Buddhism like the duality of the past and the future and the impermanence of the present. Zen Buddhism and elements of the Japanese culture can be found in his novel Sombrero Fallout: A Japanese Novel. Brautigan's last published work before his death was his novel So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away which was published in 1982, two years before his death.

Personal life

On June 8, 1957, Brautigan married Virginia Dionne Alder in Reno, Nevada. They had one daughter together named Ianthe Elizabeth Brautigan who was born on March 25, 1960 in San Francisco. They separated on December 24, 1962, however the divorce was not finalized until July 28, 1970. After the separation, Brautigan pursued his career as a writer while Alder became an anti-Vietnam War activist.

Brautigan remarried on December 1, 1977, to Akiko Yoshimura whom he met in July 1976 while living in Tokyo, Japan. They settled in Pine Creek, Montana in Gallatin County while they were married. Brautigan and Yoshimura were divorced in 1980.

Brautigan had a relationship with a San Francisco woman named Marcia Clay from 1981 to 1982. He also pursued a brief relationship with Janice Meissner, a woman from the North Beach community of San Francisco. Other relationships were with Marcia Pacaud, who appears on the cover of The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster; Valerie Estes, who appears on the cover of Listening to Richard Brautigan; and Sherry Vetter, who appears on the cover of Revenge of the Lawn.

Brautigan was an alcoholic and suffered years of despair; according to his daughter, he often mentioned suicide over a period of more than a decade before ending his life. Brautigan was survived by his parents, both ex-wives, and his daughter Ianthe. He has one grandchild named Elizabeth, who was born about two years after his death.

Suicide

In 1984, at age 49, Richard Brautigan had recently moved to Bolinas, California, where he was living alone in a large, old house. He died of a self-inflicted .44 Magnum gunshot wound to the head. The exact date of his death is unknown, and his decomposed body was found by Robert Yench, a private investigator, on October 25, 1984. The body was found on the living room floor, in front of a large window that looked out over the Pacific Ocean. It is speculated that Brautigan may have ended his life over a month earlier, on September 14, 1984, after talking to former girlfriend Marcia Clay on the telephone.

Brautigan once wrote, "All of us have a place in history. Mine is clouds."[8]

Legacy

Brautigan's daughter, Ianthe Elizabeth Brautigan, describes her memories of her father in her book You Can't Catch Death (2000).

Also in a 1980 letter to Brautigan from W. P. Kinsella, Kinsella states that Brautigan is his greatest influence for writing and his favorite book is In Watermelon Sugar.

In March 1994, a teenager named Peter Eastman, Jr. from Carpinteria, California legally changed his name to Trout Fishing in America, and now teaches English at Waseda University in Japan.[9] At around the same time, National Public Radio reported on a young couple who had named their baby "Trout Fishing in America".

There is a folk rock band called Trout Fishing in America.[10], and another called Watermelon Sugar[11], which quotes the opening paragraph of that book on their home page. The industrial rock band Machines of Loving Grace took their name from one of Brautigan's best-known poems.

Twin Rocks, Oregon, a song appearing on singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins' 1998 platinum record Soul's Core, seems to tell the story of a fictitious meeting with Brautigan on bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Another lyrical interpretation might be that the encounter was with Brautigan's ghost.

In the UK The Library of Unwritten Books is a project in which ideas for novels are collected and stored. The venture is inspired by Brautigan's novel The Abortion.

The library for unpublished works envisioned by Brautigan in his novel The Abortion was housed as The Brautigan Library in Burlington, Vermont until 1995, when it was moved to the nearby Fletcher Free Library, where it remained until 2005. Although there were plans to move it to the Presidio branch of the San Francisco Public Library, these never materialised. However, an agreement has been made between Brautigan's daughter Ianthe Brautigan and the Vancouver, Washington Clark County Historical Museum to move The Brautigan Library to the museum in 2010. [12][13]

There are two stores named "In Watermelon Sugar" after Brautigan's novella, one in Baltimore, Maryland and one in Traverse City, Michigan.

American writer, Corey Mesler, has a novel due out in 2010 from Livingston Press, called "Following Richard Brautigan." It is about a poet living in Oklahoma City who has an encounter with Brautigan's ghost, an encounter that leads to a life-changing road trip.

Other devotees include Japanese writer Haruki Murakami.

Bibliography

Novels and novellas

A 1974 paperback edition of Richard Brautigan's novel Trout Fishing in America, which is considered his most famous work.
  • A Confederate General From Big Sur (1964, ISBN 0-224-61923-3)
  • Trout Fishing in America (1967 ISBN 0-395-50076-1) Omnibus edition
  • In Watermelon Sugar (1968 ISBN 0-440-34026-8)
  • The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 (1971 ISBN 0-671-20872-1)
  • The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western (1974 ISBN 0-671-21809-3)
  • Willard and His Bowling Trophies: A Perverse Mystery (1975 ISBN 0-671-22065-9)
  • Sombrero Fallout: A Japanese Novel (1976 ISBN 0-671-22331-3)
  • Dreaming of Babylon: A Private Eye Novel 1942 (1977 ISBN 0-440-02146-4)
  • The Tokyo-Montana Express (1980 ISBN 0-440-08770-8)[14]
  • So The Wind Won't Blow It All Away (1982 ISBN 0-395-70674-2)
  • An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey (1982, but first published in 1994 ISBN 0-312-27710-5)

Poetry

Short story collections

Unpublished novel

From December 1955 to February 1956, Brautigan was working on a novel called The God of the Martians which was 600 words long. Brautigan had sent the manuscript to three different publishers but the manuscript was rejected for publication. The God of the Martians remains unpublished.[4]

Record album

  • Listening to Richard Brautigan, 1973 (was supposed to be Zapple #3 but came out on EMI Harvest instead)- consists of Richard reading several poems and stories, friends reading "Love Poem" and sounds recorded in his apartment in San Francisco.

References

  1. ^ UPI news report, 27 October 1984, reproduced at http://www.brautigan.net/obituaries.html#bernard2
  2. ^ a b John F. Barber, Curator. "Biography". Brautigan Bibliography and Archive. http://www.brautigan.net/biography.html. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  3. ^ John F. Barber, Curator. "Memoirs". Brautigan Bibliography and Archive. http://www.brautigan.net/memoirs.html#wright. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  4. ^ a b http://www.brautigan.net/novels.html
  5. ^ John F. Barber, Curator. "Biography: 1970s". Brautigan Bibliography and Archive. http://www.brautigan.net/chronology1970.html. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  6. ^ Manso, Peter and Michael McClure. "Brautigan's Wake." Vanity Fair, May 1985: 62-68, 112-116.
  7. ^ John F. Barber, Curator. "Recordings". Brautigan Bibliography and Archive. http://www.brautigan.net/recordings.html#listening. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  8. ^ "Richard Brautigan 1935-1984". http://kerouacalley.com/brautigan.html. Retrieved 2008-06-29. 
  9. ^ Anne Saker (October 11, 2007). "Searching upstream: A writer goes fishing for the man who calls himself Trout Fishing in America". The Oregonian. http://www.oregonlive.com/oregonian/stories/index.ssf?/base/living/119197050984080.xml&coll=7. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  10. ^ The Official Trout Fishing In America Web Site
  11. ^ Watermelon Sugar :: News :: Indie Folk Duo :: Hypatia Kingsley and Louise Thompson Bendall
  12. ^ http://www.brautigan.net/legacy.html#library
  13. ^ O'Kelly, Kevin (September 27, 2004). "Unusual library may get new chapter". The Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2004/09/27/unusual_library_may_get_new_chapter. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  14. ^ There is some disagreement as how to classify The Tokyo-Montana Express. John Barber at brautigan.net classifies it as a collection of stories. The Brautigan Pages classifies it as a novel.

Richard Brautigan reads the poem 'Love's Not The Way To Treat A Friend' on the 1969 album 'Paradise Bar And Grill' by San Francisco band Mad River.

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Richard Gary Brautigan (January 30, 1935 – September 1984) was an American novelist and poet associated with the Beat Generation.

Contents

Sourced

The Pill Versus the Springhill Mining Disaster

Dell Publishing (Delta), 1968; (Some poems in this edition first appeared elsewhere.)

  • A friend came over to the house
    a few days ago and read one of my poems.
    He came back today and asked to read the
    same poem over again. After he finished
    reading it, he said, "It makes me want to write poetry."
    • "Hey! This Is What It's All About"
  • I like to think
    (it has to be!)
    of a cybernetic ecology
    where we are free of our labors
    and joined back to nature,
    returned to our mammal
    brothers and sisters,
    and all watched over
    by machines of loving grace.
    • "All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace"
  • if a girl likes me a lot
    and starts getting real nervous
    and suddenly begins asking me funny questions
    and looks sad if I give the wrong answers
    and she says things like,
    "Do you think it's going to rain?"
    and I say, "It beats me,"
    and she says, "Oh,"
    and looks a little sad
    at the clear blue California sky,
    I think: Thank God, it's you, baby, this time
      Instead of me.
    • "It's Raining In Love"

Rommel Drives on deep into Egypt

Dell Publishing (Delta), 1970; (Some poems in this edition first appeared elsewhere.)

  • Forsaken, fucking in the cold,
    eating each other, lost
    runny noses,
    complaining all the time
    like so many
    people
    that we know
    • "Donner Party"
  • Thinking hard about you
    I got on the bus
    and paid 30 cents car fare
    and asked the driver for two transfers
    before discovering
    that I was
    alone.
    • "30 cents, Two Transfers, Love"
  • Everybody wants to go to bed
    with everybody else, they're
    lined up for blocks, so I'll
    go to bed with you. They won't
    miss us.
    • "-2"

Trout Fishing In America

Dell Publishing (Delta), 1967; (Some chapters of this novel first appeared elsewhere.)

  • There are seductions that should be in the Smithsonian Institute, right next to The Spirit of St. Louis.
    • Epigram at the end of the table of contents. (Underlining in source.)
  • Everything smelled of sheep. The dandelions were suddenly more sheep than flower, each petal reflecting wool and the sound of a bell ringing off the yellow. But the thing that smelled the most like sheep, was the sun itself. When the sun went behind a cloud, the smell of sheep decreased, like standing on some old guy's hearing aid, and when the sun came back again, the smell of the sheep was loud, like a clap of thunder inside a cup of coffee.
    • Page 50
  • ... the Coleman lantern is the symbol of the camping craze that is currently sweeping America, with its unholy white light burning in the forests of America.
    • Page 73.

Unsourced

  • All of us have a place in history. Mine is clouds.
  • I'm in a constant process of thinking about things. I'll think about things for thirty or forty years before I'll write it.
  • Probably the closest things to perfection are the huge absolutely empty holes that astronomers have recently discovered in space. If there's nothing there, how can anything go wrong?
  • It's strange how the simple things in life go on while we become more difficult.
  • I didn't know the full dimensions of forever, but I knew it was longer than waiting for Christmas to come. --So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away, p.38

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