Richard Gary Brautigan (January 30, 1935 ca. September 16, 1984) was an American writer. He enjoyed trout fishing.
He was influenced by The Beat Generation and embraced by hippies but did not seem to feel at home with either group. His closest hippie-like affiliations were with the Artists Liberation Front and the The Diggers, a down-to-earth bunch who sought a realistic path to a totally free economy. He wrote many broadsides for The Communication Company note , including a well-known "valentine" about STDs. (Richard regarded these groups as artists doing something productive, as opposed to hippies who he came to think of as do-nothing layabouts.)note
Urban Legend has it that once The '60s ended and the hippies got day-jobs, he was left without a significant audience, which may have contributed to his depression and subsequent suicide in 1984. The truth is that he made most of his fortune after the 60s note , and hippies were only part of a much larger readership. His books were published in several dozen languages and continue to sell well in the U.S., Europe (especially France) and Japan to this day. None of his books, with the exception of a few early poetry chapbooks, have ever been out of print.
Despite (or because of) his issues with depression, his writing shows a light-hearted sense of humor, a vivid imagination and a love of language. Along with Kurt Vonnegut, he is credited with having introduced Japanese readers to American-style humor, absurdity and social criticism voiced in vernacular prose, beginning in 1975 when their books were first translated. He is also believed to be the first American author to approximate the Japanese form called the "I-novel", especially in Sombrero Fallout.
As a child during World War II, he had subscribed to all the anti-Japanese bigotry and hatred typical of the era. As he grew older, he became interested in Zen, and learned what Japanese art and culture were really like. He describes this evolution of attitude in his books The Tokyo-Montana Express and June 30, June 30, written during his lengthy stays in Shinjuku.
His works tend to be difficult to describe. He uses a simplified, child-like diction (if it won't make your brain explode, try imagining the New-Age Retro Hippie version of Ernest Hemingway). His novels will invariably have some One Paragraph Chapters. His later works seem to veer into genre fiction, including detective fiction and horror, but in fact still have more in common with the rest of Brautigan's work than any straight genre piece. He was also a poet, which basically let him crank his imagination Up to Eleven. He revealed that he wrote poetry in order to learn how to properly write sentences so that he could write novels.
He occasionally engaged in other creative pursuits. Of note is Listening to Richard Brautigan, in which the author records sounds of daily life in his apartment and reads poems and stories, as well as Please Plant This Book, a book of seed packets with brief poems printed on them (there is now an interactive flash version of this book online... no physical seeds though).
Go ahead and give Mr. Brautigan a try. You will smile.
Works by Richard Brautigan
- The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966
- A Confederate General from Big Sur
- Dreaming of Babylon: A Private Eye Novel 1942
- In Watermelon Sugar: Brautigan's only complete fantasy.
- The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western
- Willard and His Bowling Trophies: A Perverse Mystery
- The Pill Versus The Springhill Mine Disaster, Rommel Drives On Deep Into Egypt and Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork: books of poetry.
- Revenge of the Lawn: a book of short stories.
- Trout Fishing in America: Good example of Mind Screw that doesn't hurt your brain, just makes you smile.
Works by Richard Brautigan with their own pages:
Other works by Richard Brautigan contain examples of:
- Anti-Love Song: Poem variants.
- Back-Alley Doctor: In The Abortion: A Historical Romance, an unnamed narrator tells the tale of taking his girlfriend Vida to a veterinarian's office in Tijuana, Mexico for an abortion in the days before Roe v. Wade. To sterilize his surgical tools, the doctor douses them in tequila (but, surprisingly, does not partake of said tequila himself) and then heat-sterilizes them with an acetylene torch. Actually something of an aversion; Dr. Garcia actually has high ethical and professional standards. When he says "no pain, all clean" you can believe it.
- Beige Prose: Crafted to the point of fine art.
- D-Cup Distress: Vida in The Abortion. She's looked like that since she was eleven, and men have had accidents or even killed themselves. She hates it; she wanted to be a ballerina, and fantasized about a Body Swap with her pixie-like sister.
- I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: In The Abortion, the hero falls in love with, literally, the World's Most Beautiful Woman. Everyone is mesmerized by Vida's "Playboy-furniture" figure, and several people have died because of obsession with her body, whether they be Driven to Suicide due to being Not Good with Rejection or Distracted by the Sexy, starting when she was in the sixth grade.
- I Love the Dead: Dreaming of Babylon features a coroner who admires the bodies of beautiful dead women, though he's insulted when detective C. Card repeatedly implies that he has sex with them.
- Metafiction: Trout Fishing in America is a character in Trout Fishing in America. Richard himself is a walk-on character in The Abortion (he delivers a book called Moose to the librarynote and is mentioned in a story in Revenge of the Lawn as having written Trout Fishing in America.
- Mind Screw: Trout Fishing in America. Recurring symbols include the colour red, trout fishing in America itself — as an activity, as a character, as an adjective — and mayonnaise. One of the chapters is entitled "Sandbox minus John Dillinger equals what?" Oddly, it all kind of makes sense when taken together.
- Ms. Fanservice: Vida in The Abortion.
- One-Paragraph Chapter
- The Singularity: a 'soft' version is described in All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace.
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Vida is literally the most beautiful woman on earth — by American standards. She's tall, slim, has "Playboy-furniture" legs and huge breasts. Inside, she is an elfin, delicate creature and wanted to be a ballerina, but instead became trapped in a body she feels is a "grotesque, awkward machine". Since she was eleven years old, the men around her have imploded simply from being in her presence. They're so distracted by her that they have car crashes or fall downstairs; they commit suicide because she won't go out with them. She writes a book about what it's really like to have the perfect body, decides to donate it to a mysterious library filled with books no one reads, and there she meets the librarian who, though enchanted by her beauty, is not driven insane by it, and is actually able to listen to her story.
- World's Most Beautiful Woman: Vida in The Abortion.