Sunday, June 21, 2009

Richard Brautigan

Peter Ciccarriello proves to be my prime source for interesting links, via Twitter. Here is one he recently tweeted, a small publication by Richard Brautigan, brought to online life. Nice to be reminded of Brautigan.

I 1st read him in the earliest days of Rolling Stone. This was before that esteemed piece of crap became an esteemed piece of crap. Brautigan contributed tiny prose pieces as column filler. These pieces were quirky and under-inflected and fit oddly well with the distinctions of the burgeoning rag and the teeming new music scene being documented.

I am sure Brautigan's work inspired a slew of pointedly wishy washy dabblings, but his own work stood and stands with an innocent sort of genuineness. A quick, scholarly study of Wikipedia reveals that Brautigan suffered paranoid schizophrenia and clinical depression. I do not know what that assertion is worth (including the possibility of multiple jolts of electroconvulsive therapy), but it all rings as plausible, at least. But why go there? Okay, such intelligence does seem to help make sense of the man and his work.

Brautigan's work reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut's except Vonnegut was much more canny, which I do not think Brautigan could ever be accused of. Vonnegut's flaky mythos in his earlier books beheld an honest sort of scope but I found later books (Breakfast of Champions comes to mind) tiresome in their effort to be underinflected.

Brautigan's work seems to hold no scope whatsoever. His work resides in a depressed yet lovely stasis. The pictures I've seen of him all show a classic (so to speak) California hippie type. I mean that phrase generously. Brautigan had long hair, full droopy mustache, brimmed hat, wholly iconic in my eye. According to the undaunted expertise at Wikipedia, Brautigan died by his own hand in 1984. I was thinking he died more recently. Sad and wistful story. His work seems an attempt to find a quiet place of chance, an opening into sunlight. The translation of the hard copy into an online experience is by Andrew Stafford. Isn't it a sweet, wispy pleasure?
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