Ed here: I was never a major Richard Brautigan fan. While I liked Trout Fishing and a good share of his pieces in Rolling Stone, there was always a little too much flower power in his material for me. I remember that when he died I wrote along letter about him to a friend of mine the point of which being that some signal people in our generation's narcissistic yearning for celebration were passing on and that good old days of dope dope dope and free love and the bizarre notion that we could run things more honorably than our parents had...Well, that hadn't worked out so well had it. Good with the bad but looking back there was an awful lot of bad and silly bad manic bad maniac bad and Brautigan was sadly a part of it all.As were a lot of us. I have to say that William Hjortsberg is one of the most interesting writers on the planet. In Pursuit of Pleasure and Trout
By DWIGHT GARNER
The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan
By William Hjortsberg
Illustrated. 852 pages. Counterpoint. $42.50.
For a committed sensualist and prototypical hippie, a man who wore floppy hats, granny glasses, love beads and a droopy mustache that made him look like General Custer at an acid test, Richard Brautigan (1935-1984) had a potent work ethic.
He wrote nearly every morning, regardless of keening hangovers. He spent the rest of the day, William Hjortsberg notes in “Jubilee Hitchhiker,” his sprawling and definitive new biography of this most offbeat of American writers, “in pursuit of happiness.” Happiness for Brautigan usually meant, to borrow the title of an undervalued W. M. Spackman novel, an armful of warm girl. In San Francisco, where he mostly lived, and elsewhere, he had groupies and would hit on “anything that wasn’t nailed down,” one friend commented. He put some of his favorite bohemian cuties on the front of his books. “Richard’s sexual archive,” another friend said, “is reflected on his book covers.” Happiness meant seeing plenty of movies. Once he began making money, in the early 1970s, it also meant good food (oysters, pork buns, the most expensive lobsters at The Palm steakhouse) and guns, which, when drunk, he would frequently discharge indoors. Brautigan and the film director Sam Peckinpah, a friend, once opened fire with a .357 Magnum and a .38 Colt at an alley cat through an open hotel room window.
Brautigan’s signal pleasure, though, from the time he was a young boy, growing up poor in a broken family in Tacoma, Wash., until the end of his life, was trout fishing. It was an obsession that fed his first and probably best novel, “Trout Fishing in America,” written in 1961 but not issued by a major publishing house until 1969.
Generations of anglers have picked up “Trout Fishing in America” based on its title alone, expecting a how-to volume. What they get instead is akin to a gentle tab of LSD: an eccentric and slyly profound novel, seemingly narrated by the ghost of trout fishing past and filled with surreal post-“Walden” visions like a dismembered trout stream for sale at a junkyard.
Brautigan wrote his best novels — “Trout Fishing in America,” “A Confederate General From Big Sur” (1964), “In Watermelon Sugar” (1968) and “The Abortion” (1971) — and books of poetry, notably “The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster” (1968) before fame swamped him in the early ’70s, when he was in his mid-to-late 30s.
He got rich suddenly and enjoyed himself vastly. His writing got woolier and worse, however, and the critics turned on him. He spent most of the money. His looks began to go. (One of his best-known poems is titled “My Nose Is Growing Old.”) Neurotic and increasingly in debt, he committed suicide with a handgun in 1984, at 49.
For the rest go here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/books/richard-brautigan-biography-jubilee-hitchhiker.html
I read his private eye novel in the 80's, DREAMING OF BABYLON. The detective spends most of the book looking for bullets for his gun. 'nuff said!
I went through a major Brautigan phase where I read just about everything he had written up until that time. But I was in college at the time and, well, that just about says it all, doesn't it?
I lunch with Gatz Hjortsberg weekly, and know how he poured heart and soul into that book.It took 20 years to write it. I'm half through the 400,000-word biography now. It is as much memoir as biography; Gatz was Brautigan's friend and neighbor here. It is also a brilliant history of the counterculture. The opening chapter, describing Brautigan's suicide, is riveting; some of the finest prose I have ever read.
He sounds like the literary counterpart of Dennis Hopper.
I am also a huge Richard Brautigan fan myself.
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