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Richard Brautigan


introduction | bio | writing | books | links

The Final Ride

The act of dying
is like hitch-hiking
into a strange town
late at night
where it is cold
and raining,
and you are alone
again.

Richard Brautigan

1978 San Francisco ©Erik Weber

By Dann Freer

An Introduction to Brautigan, for those who haven't met him...

"Brautigan is good for you. No writer you can think of is quite like him today, nor was any writer anytime - unless you can imagine the kind of things Mark Twain might have written had he wandered into a field of ripe cannabis with a pack of Zig Zag papers in his pocket. That's about as close as I can come to Brautigan, a kind of cracker-barrel surrealist whose humor is essentially Nineteenth-Century Western American."

- Bruce Cook
"The National Observer" quote from the back cover of "The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western"

Many people who write about Brautigan on the web introduce him with this quote. Since "Brautigan is good for you" epitomizes the essence of what Brautigan readers seem to feel, then I will start with it too.

Richard BrautiganThe second best way to be introduced to Richard Brautigan is to hear what other people think of him. Here are a few quotes from people who think of him highly, taken from the Brautigan listserver:

"...of an assignment that told us to write an essay on 3 things we would demand be included in a history text. and i think the three things i listed were jfk, jim morrison, and richard brautigan. a friend of mine who included something like, martin l. king jr., abraham lincoln and the holocaust was mortified that i was given a higher grade. here she'd written what she had thought the history teacher had wanted to hear ... regardless, i just found it interesting, how rewarding it is to write in something you believe and make other believe with you. reading something genuine is part of what's so beautiful with brautigan. that's why i read him. i started reading him because i was sifting through my parents bookshelves downstairs looking for better things to read than what was being assigned in my other classes. so..." (Ashley Hill)

"i tried 'trout fishing in america' but it wasn't at all about trout fishing, so that was sort of a bummer but I was quite impressed by the killing of the trout with port wine. it wasn't enough to make me go on a full brautigan chase, though...that didn't happen until i was looting dorm rooms that people had just moved out of in a big hurry and left a few things behind. someone forgot to pack their copy of 'in watermelon sugar,' and from there it was all over. that book is probably one of my favorites, but his comedic genius is really shown off well in 'willard and his bowling trophies.' i lent this to someone and they have not yet given it back. but man, that's just a pretty funny book. rip-roaring, laugh out loud kind of funny. perhaps not as pleasingly subtle as other rb works, but definitely rioutous and uniquely individual. i love 'willard...' what a fine, fine piece of writing." (Phil Dangler)

"About two years ago I didn't read a lot, maybe some Roald Dahl. Then I saw small, inexpensive small books in a big bookstore chain. I bought two of the books. I liked the two (I don't know from whom they were) and so I bought another. One of these has been with excerptions of 'the revenge of the lawn'. Having read this I knew that I've found a new favorite writer.

Recently I've finished 'The Abortion' (German, the English-Version isn't available) and 'In Watermelon Sugar' (also in German)." (Wolfgang)

"The first time I was led to read Brautigan was by a good friend who had discovered In Watermelon Sugar and would read it aloud while we were all lying around someone's dorm room at the University of Illinois in 1967. This was a time of much tea smoking. Brautigan's sensibilities fit right in.

The second time I dipped into his work was after seeing him read at Northern Illinois University in 1982. It was pure delight. Richard drinking Jack Daniel's out of a coffee cup as he read, the bottle plainly visible at his feet, had the adoring assemblage enraptured. Later, at a local bar, I actually ran into him and we had a great little encounter over a beer. I'll never forget it, the encounter that is, not the conversation." (Jim Anderson)

"One of my favorite things about his books is the way they lend themselves to group reads -- taking turns reading chapters, around a table, by a fire, or in bed (group usually limited to two).

My favorite Brautigan memories are:

Richard BrautiganReading Confederate General while thru hiking the Appalachian Trail: four of us in front of a wood stove with our feet soaking in tubs of hot sudsy water, with two cases of beer passing the book around reading aloud a chapter at a time (me insisting on getting the part about the frogs with the rocks tied to their backs) & numerous readings aloud of Watermelon Sugar with lovers (sorry to all the woman who thought it was just them...)." (Mathew Jacobson)

That's enough for now, you get the idea...

Those who have read and enjoyed Richard Brautigan's work won't be surprised by this. Those who haven't yet "discovered" him, will be surprised when you read him. The first best way to be introduced to Brautigan is to read some of his work. To that end, I have included several pieces of his work here to read... for your pleasure and delight. Go read them now, and come back here... or wait a little bit and go read them later, but please read them, because everyone should.

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People who have "discovered" Brautigan, for one reason or another, believe they have stumbled upon a not so well kept secret. I don't know why this is, but we wonder why it seems like a secret at all. Warning! I should have told you this, before I told you there was some of his work to read here, I should have told you that many people who start to read his work can't stop until they've read all they can get their hands on. This ain't always so easy.

His easiest book to find is perhaps his most famous: "Trout Fishing in America" which is available almost anywhere, and also comes with two of his other books attached sometimes. Some of his other work is very hard to find. ...Or very expensive, to find, that is. His other "most famous" work, for another reason, is "Please Plant this Book", which was a collection of eight seed packets with seeds in them, and a poem written on the outside of each packet. Unopened packets are being sold by collectors for a thousand dollars, if you want them. To save you some money, I have included the poems from "Please Plant this Book" here... you will have to go out and buy your own seeds. You can get very many extra seeds this way.

Brautigan has been called "The Patron Saint of WebZines" because in his book "The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966" he proposed a library of unpublished work, where people could come and put their work upon their own shelf and leave it there for Richard Brautigananyone to read if they wanted to. Two or three "Brautigan Libraries" have begun, with this idea in mind. I'm not exactly sure why that makes him the "Patron Saint of Webzines", but that's what someone said.

I like to think that a place where you can post all of your own work like Spyder's Poetry Empire (and the other Empires) is more suitable to this idea. I also like to think that the entire web, as a large mass of personal stories and ideas... everyone saying pretty much whatever they want and putting it out there for anyone to read, if they happen to, fits the Brautigan fantasy of a library, too. I hope he sees this has happened, and is happy about it. Richard Brautigan was found in 1984 next to a bottle of whiskey and a .44 pistol. Suicide was presumed. That was a sad ending, so I hope he can look at something now and be happy.

Here is an excerpt from a book that talks about Richard Brautigan when he was alive... Many other writers that knew of him revered him, so I will put this excerpt here... The story is "Mortals", from the book "The Night in Question" by Tobias Wolff.

-------

I finished my steak, watching the show outside: winos, evangelists, outpatients, whores, fake hippies selling oregano to tourists in white shoes. Pure theater, even down to the smell of popcorn billowing out of Woolworth's. Richard Brautigan often came here. Tall and owlish, he stooped to his food and ate slowly, ruminating over every bite, his eyes on the street. Some funny things happened here, and some appalling things. Brautigan took it all in and never stopped eating.

I told Givens that we were sitting at the same table where Richard Brautigan sometimes sat.

"Sorry?"

"Richard Brautigan, the writer."

Givens shook his head. -------

If you want to know more about Brautigan, I suggest you read more of his work. There is a lot about him in there, and he is quite an interesting character. If you can't possibly read anything he ever wrote, even though I've put some of it here, then just take my word for it.

SPECIAL THANKS:
Photographs of Brautigan, and images of others by Erik Weber may be viewed at

http://www.desart.com

 
introduction | bio | writing | books | links

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