Richard Brautigan was the first poet I discovered while I was in high school. A teacher gave me a copy of a book that had the poem It’s Raining in Love in it. Geez–what high school kid couldn’t relate to that poem.
Click here to discover the poetry world of Richard Brautigan
Richard Brautigan (January 30, 1935 – September 1984) was an American writer.
He was born in Tacoma, Washington and is best known for the works he produced while living in San Francisco in 1960s, where he became Poet-in-Residence at California Institute of Technology in 1967. Richard Brautigan committed suicide in Bolinas, California at the age of forty-nine. Brautigan’s prose and poetry often delt with the tenuous and often impossible relationships a person tries to form with the world. Whether it is by history (A Confederate General from Big Sur), geography and time (The Tokyo-Montana Express), or memory (Sombrero Fallout), Brautigan’s gentle protagonist/narrators often find their plans thwarted by the sometimes inexplicable viccitudes of existence. Sometimes solace can be found in either a new love (The Abortion) or just a casual participation in the world (In Watermelon Sugar) which can offer a kind of stability to living. Brautigan’s writings are also characterized a remarkable and often humorous imagination. The permiation of very inventive metaphoric approximations lend even his prose works the feeling of poetry. Brautigan’s work became identified with the counterculture youth movement of the late 1960’s. Brautigan’s eccentirc appearance and manner did not help to dissuade this conception of him and his work but the designation, “hippie author” doesn’t seem to fit a writer whose work is so full of melancholy and a preocupation with death and change. The critical backlash of the late 1970s and early 1980s did much to hasten his suicide. Brautigan once wrote, “All of us have a place in history. Mine is clouds.”
Brautigan Death Called Self-Inflicted.” Great Falls Tribune 28 October 1984: 3C.
The full text of this obituary reads:
Richard Brautigan, a literary idol of the 1960s, who eventually feel out of fashion, was found dead Thursday at his secluded house in Bolinas, Calif. The Marin County coroner’s office reported that the author of “Trout Fishing in America” apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound four or five weeks ago. He was 49 years old.
“He told everyone he was going away on a hunting trip,” Helen Brann, Brautigan’s literary agent, said Friday. “He did disappear from time to time when he was working on a new novel, as he was at the time, so we never worried.” Brautigan’s body was discovered by two of the writer’s friends.
Brautigan had been troubled and drinking heavily, according to Seymour Lawrence, who published a number of Brautigan’s books, and Thomas McGuane, the novelist.
None of his early books sold well in the beginning, including “Trout Fishing in America,” his second novel.
Brautigan became a familiar figure in the Bay Area of California, handing out copies of his poetry in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury and Berkeley.
But Brautigan began developing a reputation in the literary underground. “In 1968, a client of mine phoned from the West Coast and said this writer is enormously talented and you should take him on,” Brann said. She promptly offered three of his books at an auction, at which Lawrence bid the most.
The sincerity and the disconnected, elliptical style that so charmed critics and readers in those days eventually began to pall. For example, reviewing “The Tokyo-Montana Express,” a Brautigan novel published in 1980, Barry Yourgrau, a poet, wrote in The Times Book Review: “He is now a longhair in his mid-40s, and across his habitually wistful good humor there now creep shadows of ennui and dullness, and too easily aroused sadness.”
Brautigan did not care about the opinion of critics, Brann said. “But what he couldn’t bear was losing the readers. He really cared about his audience. The fact that his readership was diminishing was what was breaking his heart.”
Brautigan, born in Spokane, Wash., moved to Bolinas about a year ago. Previously he divided his time between San Francisco and a small ranch near Livingston, Mont.
Married and divorced twice, Brautigan is survived by a daughter, Ianthe Swenson of Los Angeles.