Tag: Richard Brautigan

Richard Brautigan

Posted November 14, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction, Poetry / 0 Comments

Richard BrautiganTitle: Trout Fishing in America / The Pill vs. the Springhill Mine Disaster / In Watermelon Sugar (Goodreads)
Author: Richard Brautigan
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1964-1968
Pages: 400
Genres: Literary Fiction, Poetry
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Richard Brautigan is an iconic counter-cultural poet and author who is probably best known for his 1967 novel Trout Fishing in America. His novels deploy a unique blend of magical realism, satire and black comedy. I recently read an omnibus that included two novels Trout Fishing in America and In Watermelon Sugar and a collection of poetry The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster.

I think it is important to understand the life of an author when critically reading their novels. Normally Wikipedia is my starting place and often I find myself going down a rabbit hole of the internet. Richard Brautigan had an interesting life, with interesting ideals. Later in life he was diagnosed with both paranoid schizophrenia and clinical depression, even receiving electroconvulsive therapy as many as twelve times in an effort to treat his condition. Later in his life, he lived life as a recluse and eventually died to a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. It is unsure when he died, because his body was found much later.

The reason I think author context is important is evident in Brautigan’s book In Watermelon Sugar. The novel tells the story of iDEATH, a futuristic utopian commune that has found a way to live off the land; specifically watermelon sugar. This is told in a first person perspective and Brautigan could be considered the protagonist. However knowing the context of his life, I think Richard Brautigan saw himself more as the antagonist that is ruining this perfect society. Either way, it makes for an interesting read and In Watermelon Sugar was the highlight of this omnibus.

Trout Fishing in America was just a weird book, I had gotten use to the style of Richard Brautigan and I knew what to expect. However, Trout Fishing still leaves me perplexed. I know this is a social critique, but I never was able to fully grasp what Brautigan was trying to say. The term Trout Fishing in America became a character’s name, a hotel, a place, and becomes a modifier for just about anything. It was a weird novel and I probably need to do a lot more research to fully understand it.

The poetry of Richard Brautigan is just as unique as his novel writing. Most of his poems are short but pack a huge punch. There is so much depth within the poems and sometimes they have the ability to shock. For example, the title poem from this collection The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, compares birth control to a mining disaster that killed 75 people. He believes that the pill and the disaster both leave life buried forever. Not all his poems pack a punch like this but I thought this poem was a good example of what to expect.

I do not think I would have read Richard Brautigan, without the encouragement of Jake from the YouTube channel Tales from iDEATH. This may not be entirely true, since Brautigan is on the 1001 Books list, and still need to read Willard and His Bowling Trophies. I appreciate the push to read Richard Brautigan, he is a weird author, but I enjoyed the experience. His style might irritate many people but I liked the surrealist nature of the three books I read in this omnibus.