Thursday, November 30, 2006

Does Anyone Still Read Richard Brautigan?

I did, years ago. He was used to be pretty famous, well-known in the 1960s and 1970s both to the literati and the kind of high school students who read Kurt Vonnegut and National Lampoon, by which I mean me and a number of others. Like Vonnegut, he affected a sort of laid-back, dry, deadpan charm, along with the easily digestible whimsy of a harmless pothead -- kind of a forerunner to Tom Robbins. His books had titles like Trout Fishing in America, Willard and the Bowling Trophies, Sombrero Fallout and The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western. I remember them fondly, although I can't recall the first thing any of them were about -- an experience I probably share with many others.

Brautigan fell completely out of favor in the 1980s, when his counterculture cachet was long since used up. He was a forgotten relic and he died like one: after he blew his brains out, his body wouldn't be discovered for nearly a month. Not long after, the father he never knew learned that he had a son.

Unbeknownst to me until recently, there's been a gradual resurrection. Or maybe he's just never gone away. He remains in print and, by way of Golden Rule Jones, comes notice of a readably yet scholarly and well-organized Richard Brautigan Bibliography and Archive.

I don't know how Brautigan would read today. Maybe it would just seem like old hippie literature, redolent of a vanished America, when the bombers riding shotgun in the sky threatened to turn into butterflies above our nation. Anyway, I'm glad to see he is still finding readers. I hope a few of them are under 20.

1 comment:

todd kaywood said...

I own multiple copies of all RB books, started reading him in my early 20's (16 years ago)... I have passed his books along to many young readers, and will have my kids read them all at some point... he was the beginning of it all, and now TR is carrying it on... todd