Thursday, April 12, 2012

So then I read Richard Brautigan and felt so much better.

     I'm in love with the work of Richard Brautigan. For those of you who dont know, Richard Brautigan is a writer of poetry, short stories, and novels the most well known of which is Trout Fishing in America. His work is full of dark humor, inventive metaphors, and just plain crack-ups. He lived a tragic existance growing up in the Pacific Northwest in the 40s and 50s, moving around with his mother and her abusive relationships, living on welfare, and going days without eating. When he broke a window in a police station in 1955 in order to have a bed and a meal, he was sent to a state hospital and diagnosed with depression and paranoid schizophrenia. All the while he wrote his quirky poetry and stories based on his experiences. He was finally published for the first time in 1958 after being rejected continuously because his work didn't "fit in." He soon became involved in the San Fransisco counter-culture scene, participating in poetry performances and other events. When Trout Fishing in America was published in 1967, Brautigan became internationally famous. Even though he hated hippies, he was credited as being the most representative of the counter-cultural youth movement of the late 1960s. He published at least four books of poetry, a collection of short stories, and five novels since then. 
     Though his professional life was taking off like a rocket, his personal life suffered dramatically. He married twice, both ending in divorce as a result of his alcoholism and abuse. He had one daughter.
     In 1984, Brautigan was living in California when he was found dead by a private investigator. It was speculated that he had been dead for at least a month, having shot himself in the head. He left a suicide note that read simply, "Messy, isn't it?"
     Brautigan left a legacy of works that are still as influencial today as they were in the 60s and 70s. His humor and insights have transcended proprietal boundaries and leave a lasting impression.

     I adore him.

     I have read several of his works and there is no other author that has provoked more thought than Richard Brautigan. Even a few short lines are enough to put a smile on my face or leave me pondering. One of my favorite short stories is only two lines about a woman who shot the man she lived with and I laughed my ass off. My favorite poem is only 4 or 5 lines (and its about a penis) but dammit its beautiful. His off the wall metaphors seem utterly random, but his randomness makes crazy sense. His world is where I go to disappear from reality. You pretty much have to in order to understand him. He is heartbreaking and hilarious all in the same breath. And he would call me an ass for being to adoringly fluffy and mooning over his writing. And then later, he'll write a satrical story involving me and my three-legged blind dog that drives a stick shift.

     He's so brilliant.

     Right now, I'm reading The Abortion, which so far centers on a librarian who works and lives in a very special library full of unpublished books that are never checked out or read by anyone else but him. From 6 year old boys to 80 year old grandmas, they bring in their precious works at all hours of the day or night and he catalogues each one. How awesome is that? Knowing Brautigan, it will probably go in a whole new crazy direction before the next chapter is over. Alien cowboys could be involved.

     He's creative, he's fun, he's unexpected. I've been reading him since one of my former bosses gave me a collective works book in 2001 and I was instantly hooked. Since then, I have been passing on the good word. Read Brautigan.

     And don't forget the mayonaise.