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In he was the recipient of a Order of Canada medal. Desbarats comes from a long line of printers. His partner in this outfit was Leggo. George Desbarats later went on to buy some land around Sault Ste. Marie known as the Desbarats Territory and had interest in some mines there.
Peter called me in response to a letter I sent him in London in September. I was trying to track down the connection that he may have had to a Montreal magazine which published Richard Brautigan's short story "The Wild Birds of Heaven" in Peter had been doing some freelance work in Montreal when he was approached by Douglas Cohen, a real estate broker and lawyer from Montreal, who wanted to launch a literary magazine which would have international scope and reach.
Cohen wanted Desbarats to be the editor of this fledgling outfit. The managing editor was a woman from the United States who had experience with magazines. Their advertising was handled by a retired ad man named Peter Mathiews. In , the first issue of Parallel came out. The issue in which Brautigan's story appeared was the August issue, Volume 1 Number 3 which ran to 58 pages. On The Editor's Page Desbarats dedicated a few lines to Brautigan saying he was a young American writer who was soon publishing his first novel under Grove Press.
Desbarats didn't remember the press run by says that about 10, copies of Parallel sold in Montreal and other city centers. Parallel was published in the mezzanine area of a building complex owned by Douglas Cohen, which happened to house a beauty shop. Desbarats told Cohen to leave the cosmetology equipment there and he and other staff members worked around it to produce Parallel.
Barber, 28 October First Published Vogue , no. Brautigan sent this story, based on an anecdote he heard from friend Bill Brown, to Jory Sherman at Broadside , a men's magazine published in North Hollywood, California, who rejected it saying, "As it stands, there is no way in hell that I can buy this.
What you have here is more of a slice of life with very little point as it turns out. The woman referred to as Ernest Hemingway's typist was Valerie Hemingway nee Valerie Danby-Smith , an Irish reporter, who met Hemingway and his wife, Mary, in Spain in and traveled with them as Hemingway's personal secretary for the next two years through France and Spain and lived with them in Cuba. Five years after his death in , Valerie married Hemingway's estranged son, Gregory.
Valerie Hemingway's book, Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways New York: Random House, , tells the story of her time with Papa Hemingway and her eventual marriage to his son, Gregory.
The identity of the "friend" who hired Valerie as a typist in New York and then told Brautigan prompting him to write his story is more difficult. Jim, and Ron Loewinsohn, in that order. He recounted killing imaginary enemies and playing airplane in the house with his sister. Brautigan writes, "The children of Tacoma, Washington, went to war in December It seemed like the thing to do, following in the footsteps of their parents and other grown-ups who acted as if they knew what was happening First Published Kaleidoscope-Milwaukee , vol.
Published biweekly Box , Milwaukee, Wisconsin This issue focused on Groupies, females generally who followed and attempted to attract the attentions of rock musicians. I was walking down the railroad tracks outside of Monterey on Labor Day in , watching the Sierra shoreline of the Pacific Ocean. It has always been a constant marvel to me how much the ocean along there is like a high Sierra river with a granite shore and fiercely-clear water and turns of green and blue with chandelier foam shining in and out of the rocks like the currents of a river high in the mountains.
It's hard to believe that it's the ocean along there if you don't look up. Sometimes I like to think of that shore as a small river and carefully forget that it's 11, miles to the other bank. I went around a bend in the river and there were a dozen or so frog people having a picnic on a sandy little beach surrounded by granite rocks. They were all in black rubber suits. They were standing in a circle eating big slices of watermelon. Two of them were pretty girls who wore soft felt hats on top of their suits.
The frog people were of course all talking frog people talk. Often they were child-like and a summer of tadpole dialogue went by in the wind. Some of them had weird blue markings on the shoulders and down the arms of their suits like a brand-new blood system. There were two German police dogs playing around the frog people.
The dogs were not wearing black rubber suits and I did not see any suits lying on the beach for them. Perhaps their suits were behind a rock. A frog man was floating on his back in the surf, eating a slice of watermelon. He swirled and eddied with the tide. A lot of their equipment was leaning against a large theater-like rock that would have given Prometheus a run for his money.
There were some yellow oxygen tanks lying next to the rock. They looked like flowers. The frog people changed into a half-circle and then two of them ran into the sea and turned back to throw pieces of watermelon at the others and two of them started wrestling on the shore in the sand and the dogs were barking around them.
The girls were very pretty in their poured-on black rubber suits and gentle clowning hats. Eating watermelon, they sparkled like jewels in the crown of California.
First Published Kulchur , no. Published in New York, New York spring issue 1 through winter issue 20 and offered serious commentary or criticism about literature, film, politics, and music. Charles Olson, Gilbert Sorrentino, A. Spellman, and Bill Berks. Authors include Allen Ginsberg "The Change: The front cover photograph was taken from Andy Warhol's movie The Kiss , 54 minutes. Lita Hornick, editor, recounts the contents saying that in Kulchur 13 , "Richard Brautigan, then a relatively unknown writer, contributed a characteristic piece of fiction called "The Post Offices of Eastern Oregon" Hornick.
First Published Jeopardy , no. First Published "Little Memoirs: Three Tales by Richard Brautigan. First Published Vogue , 1 January , p.
A story about Brautigan's impoverished childhood in the Pacific Northwest. First Published Nice , vol. Published in Brightlingsea, Essex, England, Edited by Thomas Clark.
Nice is the tenth in a series of issues, each described as "a one shot magazine," each edited by Clark and published as "Vol. Clark apparently solicited this story for his magazine. In a letter to Clark, dated September 7, , Brautigan thanks him for his postcard the request for a submission?
The dedication for this story reads: The couple lived together at three different addresses: Photographer Erik Weber photographed them together. Brian Nation lived nearby and provides an account of his relationship with Brautigan and Meissner. First Published Now Now , no. Counterculture magazine published in San Francisco, California, by Ari Publications from issue 1 to issue 3. Brautigan began this piece in March It deals with his general sense of lack of attachment in his life at the time.
Interestingly, there is no self-pity. Now Now was edited by Charles Plymell who said, "I sat with Richard Brautigan in some of the new head shops and discussed the scene.
He had a sense of what the new generation liked to hear. I took some of his poems to publish in an issue of Now magazine It was the time of nude parties and free love, when women's bodies were painted on. The last time I saw Richard Brautigan was at such a party" Plymell Plymell also printed the first issues of Zap comic with illustrations by Robert Crumb.
First Published Sum , no. Subtitled "A Newsletter of Current Workings. Selected Reprints A Poetry Folio: East Wind Printers, Limited Edition of copies Broadside; The collection was contained in a folio-sized folder.
The other nine similiarly-sized broadsides were all illustrated by Correll and signed by him and their respective authors except for David Meltzer who refused to sign his contribution. The other nine broadsides are James R. First Published Coyote's Journal , no. Edited by James Koller and Edward van Aelstyn.
Reprinted Grosseteste Review , vol. Published in Lincoln, England. Reprinted International Times , no. London underground magazine started by Barry Miles. Featured an illustration by "Yellow Pig. Contents include a pullout paranoia board game, a full-page photograph of Jim Morrison, and a review of a Yoko Ono film.
First Published Solotaroff, Theodore, editor. The inspiration for this story came in a telephone call to Virginia Alder , Brautigan's first wife, in the fall of regarding the death of her father, Grover Cleveland Alder, in Los Angeles, California. Virginia was not in the apartment and Brautigan took the call. When she returned, Brautigan told her of her father's death that afternoon.
Nearly ten years later, in the last weeks of , Brautigan wrote of that afternoon in , and chronicled the life of his father in law in thirty-three short, numbered passages. Reviews for Revenge of the Lawn are detailed below. See also reviews of Brautigan's collected works , and General Reviews for commentary about Brautigan's work and his place in American literature. The full text of this review reads, "Using a tone of sophisticated amusement, Brautigan combines elements of autobiography with fictional characters and situations in a montage of slight but diverting pieces set in the Pacific Northwest and California.
Reprinted from Playboy , Ramparts , TriQuarterly , Esquire , and other periodicals the tales vary in length from one to several paragraphs to a few pages and narrate youthful hunting experiences, explore daily anxieties of living, and depict a wide variety of unique individuals; Brautigan's last work, a novel, was The Abortion: The full text of this review reads.
There are some nice ideas, like the children of Tacoma, Washington, going to war in , or the amours of his grandmother the bootlegger, or his childhood association of a slaughterhouse and 'winning the war,' but they function more as pretext than a reason for writing—for laying out little plots of mood with a stake here and there to hitch up a wag-tailed simile. Okay so long as the fey inspiration lasts, but this is Brautigan at his most puppy-mannered and inconsequential, the sun-dazed crickbank raconteur who'd perhaps do better to nap and begin afresh.
The full text of this review reads, "Short pieces, some no more than stray clippings and pairings. The shortest reads 'It's very hard to live in studio apartment in San Jose with a man who's learning to play the violin. As in Trout Fishing in America , the mood is a fey free-wheeling in which old history, lost landscapes and the ghosts of writers as disparate as [Edgar Allan] Poe and [William] Saroyan float in iridescent bubbles that burst with a melancholy pop.
There's dross too, for Brautigan can be tricky as well as unique. The full text of this review reads, "Stories from by the gentle poet of small souls in torment. The full text of this review reads, "A collection of short stories and brief sketches some of them published before in various magazines this book is like an album of snapshots. Richard Brautigan, author of The Abortion , has keen observing eyes and he records life like a camera. His stories are very short, vivid and honest. Most of them are biographic, including some reminiscences of his Pacific coast childhood.
The title story is a very funny anecdote about his grandmother. But most of the stories are thoughts about and glimpses of everyday life. This is a delightful collection, simple, honest, and charming. The full text of this review reads, "Here is a collection of short stories to delight Brautigan fans and demonstrate why his status has changed from writers' writer to American folk hero.
Some of the subjects here are a childhood in the Pacific Northwest; hunting and fishing; the down-and-outness of the unheralded writer's life in San Francisco during the Fifties; relationships with women.
But, as in all his work, these are only settings for his perceptions about how it feels to be alone in America, as child, lover, husband, writer, and person-in-residence in a vast world made more specific and less lonely by small madnesses and imagined affinities.
The simplicity is sometimes cloying and the nostalgia sometimes veers into the sentimental, but these are small faults if you enjoy Brautigan, as I do, enormously; if you don't, they'll madden you and make him seem dead-pan precocious and wildly self-indulgent. If you're a woman, you will also be maddened by the exaggerated Beat Generation attitudes toward women.
Many of Brautigan's books come embellished with a photograph of a different and dazzlingly beautiful woman as the front of the jacket. How would Brautigan feel about a woman writer who reversed this custom—peculiar, no? The last is a serious reservation, but this review is meant to be an endorsement. My own favorite in this collection is "Complicated Banking Problems," in which anyone who has ever felt the apolitical need to bomb his local bank as a perfectly individual response to insanity rendered will find immense consolation.
The prose is of a spareness that can be mistaken for slightness or fragility, it's neither: Brautigan is hardly a "heavy" writer, but he's no lightweight. If you haven't read him yet, this collection is a good place to start. Says some of the "easy vignettes" do not work. But some "make some of us feel he's found a better answer to being alive here and now than we have.
Notes that poetry is generally not considered "real" unless it is materially useful. Says Brautigan implies the whole country has "become so confused about what's real that it has not only lost the ability to distinguish reality from illusion, but it trades on their confusion. Comments on the style and themes of Brautigan's various works. Says Brautigan, whether writing poetry, novels, or short stories, is essentially an anecdotist, pushing bizarre indicents and eccentric people to the brink of caricature.
Says the stories in Revenge of the Lawn exhibit considerable range and variety. Says many of the pieces in this collection are "extremely delicate in what they manage to convey, and leave you with the impression of having read a poem rather than a page or two of prose. The full text of this review reads, "One of the many good things that reading fiction can do for you is to provide an escape from the oppressively familiar limits of your own imagination.
Richard Brautigan's prose is perfectly suited to this purpose. Revenge of the Lawn is a collection of stories which mixes fantasy a man who replaces the plumbing in his house with poetry, for example with autobiographical reminiscences.
The reminiscences, whether imaginary or not, have a genuine ring to them and yet at the same time often defy reality with complete success. This combination works better than the unalloyed fantasy of one of Mr. Brautigan's earlier books, an exhausting fairy-tale called In Watermelon Sugar: The best of these pieces record some trivial event, going to visit a girl or standing in line at the bank: Brautigan can do with such material is a revelation.
One of them records a meeting with a hippy girl whom the narrator might have made a pass at if he had been able to decide he wanted to more quickly — that is all there is to it, and it is quite enough. Revenge of the Lawn seems to me to have more good things in it than the earlier Trout Fishing in America which it resembles, but perhaps one needs time to get accustomed to Mr, Brautigan's original and charming view of the world.
Argues that Brautigan is "essentially a miniaturist—seizing small and often isolated moments of experience which illuminate for him some central truth of humanity or inhumanity. But it is questionable whether his stories should be called stories or something else, like "vignette, anecdote, tale, parable, impression, sketch. Says that "from the brillant novels" A Confederate General from Big Sur , Trout Fishing in America , and In Watermelon Sugar to "this first collection," Revenge of the Lawn , Brautigan writes about characters who are trout fishermen "fishing for cool, freezing away every psychic ache, or looking for that cold, hard alloy Brautigan calls 'trout steel'.
Some of these stories are serene accounts of misery, others are shallow nothings, still others show people in the throes of learning that living can be nothing but losing. But every one of them is an encounter with an imagination so radical, so powerful, it can fade the very experience of anguish into a sweet mirage.
Suffering makes Brautigan people gentle and cold; humiliation turns them harder than trout steel and meek as fish. For Brautigan people fade away from competitive strife, from those psychic battles, those wars for power and position that churn out losers ever more cruelly. And withdrawal and protection are their only answers to America's bad report cards and worse vibrations. Going underwater, underground, inside, Brautigan people live with no passionate attachment to anyone or any place and never permit themselves to feel a thing.
Brautigan's rebels always revolt by creating an insulated world of their own. But they can alchemize themselves into trout people and live with steely passions and diluted hopes. Brautigan makes cutting out your heart the only way to endure. Revenge of the Lawn is not Brautigan's best book. But it has the Brautigan magic—the verbal wildness, the emptiness, the passive force of people who have gone beyond winning or losing to an absolute poetry of survival.
Reprinted Contemporary Literary Criticism. Edited by Carolyn Riley. Gale Research Company, Don't waste your time trying to be involved—with what he does or doesn't do. Chapter 4 discusses Brautigan as a "counterculture" writer drawing examples from Revenge of the Lawn. Says there are two Richard Brautigans. One is commercial property and a created cultural hero, directly connected to "the discovery of underground youth culture by private business and later by the American public.
Innocence runs like a stream through this book and is almost always deflected off some modern discomfort or horror. The horrors take many forms. But whatever forms appear, a note of death and loss pervades. More than anything else, what unifies Richard Brautigan's work and gives it appeal is his sensibility.
With Revenge of the Lawn , his sensibility suggests that life is brief and bittersweet, happiness is ephemeral, and fiction, therefore, should bear witness to this condition.
Furthermore, fiction should go beyond incorporating this condition; it should strive to resist it and attempt to arrest entropy and the forces of attrition.
Thus his fictions become brief capsules in which one, two, or three instants of perception, mental metaphorical leaps, can permit beauty to hold the forces of death temporarily at bay. It is exactly this tone and sensibility that make Brautigan a unique writer and one of special attractions for younger readers. His particular contribution to the incipient counterculture is to offer instances of evasion, examples of how a harsh world can be held at a distance or transformed.
Responses Betts, Richard A. Says, "Hicks' chapter on the writers associated with the counterculure, however, is much less successful, in part because, as he admits, relevant examples are few and undistinguished. His case here is further undermined by his own reservations about the works of Richard Brautigan and the novel of Marge Piercy which he chooses to examine in detail. Says, "Jack Hicks contends there is no consistent or dominate style in contemporary American fiction; rather, there are separate communities in the country, each with its own mode of fiction.
Says, "Hick's insights into the works are sharp. His brief tracing of each author's life in relation to the works suggests understandings otherwise unattainable. This critical work clearly accomplishes what it sets out to do. It should not be missed. Says Brautigan emerges as a "moralist of post-modernism. It has little to say that is new or fresh; its judgements are open to question; it lapses often into a banality and repetition. But its chief failure involves what can only be regarded as a form of surrender, a refusal to test it own assumptions and the implicit claims of the material it surveys—a refusal, that is to say, of the function of criticism at this or any other time.
Says, in his only mention of Brautigan, "Hicks attempts to discuss what he perceives as the dominant voices in contemporary American fiction, particularly in works by writers who have come to prominence since He argues that four distinct elements can be singled out: While this general splitting up of recent American fiction and the choice of authors are rather debatable and certainly unbalanced, Hicks's chapter on Kosinski—with almost one-hundred pages by far the longest of his book—is in some ways the most comprehensive, incisive, and stimulating study of Kosinski's work among the four books reviewed here" Says "Winter Rug," a story included in Revenge of the Lawn reveals a preoccupation with death central to Brautigan's fiction.
Says Brautigan, as a postmodern writer, is noted for the vitality and range of his works and uses several stories from Revenge of the Lawn to support this claim. Concludes by saying, "Brautigan's genius lies in his ability to portray age old themes of human alienation, social envy, broken dreams, and loneliness in completely new presentations.
Almost each story in Revenge of the Lawn works toward awakening us to a recognition of ourselves, but they do not jolt us into that awakening like a huge pill does as it asserts its presence in its slow descent through the esophagus; on the contrary, these stories are coated with the gentle voice of the author and tempered with a human sensibility that, while drawing our attention to the painful world around us, does not drown us in sentimentality.
Brautigan accomplishes his task by means of brilliant uncommon images, subtle wit, and magically apt metaphors. Uniqueness of images often created with the greatest economy of language is a mark of Brautigan's linguistic fortitude.
Brautigan offers the notion that depth of observation, the creation of magical images out of trivial, mundane, everyday objects combined with the frugality of language and presented with stylistic ease within an open-ended free flowing structure are the ingredients of a new aesthetics.
The full text of this review reads, "In this collection of 62 short stories written over the last eight years, Brautigan muses over memories of his childhood, weaves strange metaphors through fragments of reality, and searches with often amusing accuracy for the essence of a moment. The memories are of a bootlegging grandmother, drunken geese, games of war, and children huddled in the rain.
There are many others. And beneath their surface artlessness is an awareness of the poetry of memory in which hard-edged images are awash with the vibrations of dreams. In other pieces Brautigan drops images and metaphors onto situations and watches them transform the objective into the personal, the ordinary into fantasy. However, it is in the simple capturing of a moment that Brautigan does some of his best and his worst work. Though these brief scenes occasionally sink into sweetness, many have the refreshing clarity and rigorous simplicity that emerge from a poet's just watching something happen.
These stories suggest new dimensions in the forms of short fiction and substantiate both Brautigan's widespread popularity and his growing critical reputation. The full text of this review reads, "These are brief sketches from the notebooks of one of the most exciting writing talents now producing. Some of the stories are as short as three lines; some are carefully detailed and polished works of art.
One of these days Brautigan will emerge as a big seller; while this book isn't it, the growing readership will dig it. The first critical survey of Brautigan's work through One of several reference books focusing on Brautigan. Mclennan's blog entry at rob mclennan's blog website. The full text of this review reads, "Striking, breathtaking, and funny images in short stories by a master novelist, whose relaxed and natural attitude toward life finds a responsive YA [young adult] readership.
Says, "His memoirs of his days as a protege and colleague of Ken Kesey, Richard Brautigan, Wallace Stegner, Bernard Malamud and others are devoid of braggadocio and full of bemused affection.
A review written as a dialogue between the two authors. Defines escape literature as "an entrance to some place else" and says Brautigan is "one of the most original, whimsical escape artists in contemporary American literature. Says that voice is evident in Revenge of the Lawn. There are occasional notes of tinny sentimentality and studied coyness. But there are also funny fantasies casually conjured out of sad realities. Brautigan, a self-confessed minor poet, exploits his limitations to the fullest.
Another original, poet Gary Snyder, has said that Brautigan's work consists of "flowers for the void. The reference to Brautigan reads, "The stories in Revenge of the Lawn are extremely short—one of them is only fifty words long—yet concrete and at the same time mysterious, like prose poems or modern folk tales. They are curious fragments which will not, I should think, do more for Richard Brautigan's considerable reputation than if an opera star were to tape the bits and pieces she interestingly hums in her bath.
Not quite surrealism, though far from plain fun, with a bit of pioneer larkishness and a preoccupation with cinema, dreams, and children. The full text of this review reads, "Ranging from four or five pages to several paragraphs or even a few sentences, these short short stories about love, life and people are as charming, fresh, and fascinating as Brautigan's novels.
Brautigan has a marvelous feeling for and command of language: And YA's [young adults]—if not their parents—are sure to respond to his relaxed, natural attitude toward life and sex. The full text of the reference to Brautigan reads ". Richard Brautigan Revenge of the Lawn —sixty-two of them in pages, a sampler which should allow doubters to make up their minds quickly one way or the other.
Calls the collection "a diary of sorts. These sixty-two stories don't necessarily come off like crafted masterworks as much as a series of fictional journal entries taking us through the eight years it took to write them.
Even fans of traditionally plotted stories will have to admit that the end result is feeling and connection, and that's the point of Brautigan's work in Revenge of the Lawn. Calls the book "the height of fashion right now. Revenge of the Lawn. But Brautigan's made of sterner stuff, down under. His basic mode is whimsy, about anything form childhood dreams to crippled old winos, but his laying-on is done with notable skill and control.
Since he is better over short stretches than across such Niagaras as In Watermelon Sugar and The Abortion , this book, a collection of some 62 short stretches, displays him in top form.
The titles alone will set an aficionado's pulse pounding: The following material may be protected under copyright. It is used here for archival, educational, and research purposes, not for commercial gain or public distribution. Individuals using this material should respect the author's rights in any use of this material.
Most mornings, there was a guy named Dick in the next booth, reading The New York Times and chuckling over little items he found in it that amused him. As far as I knew, he didn't work, this Dick, and I wondered why he got up so early in the morning.
Perhaps he didn't mind getting up because there was no job waiting for him to buckle down to, or maybe he went back to sleep after he finished chuckling over The New York Times. Whatever his reason, I know I both envied and resented his freedom, I would have liked to have leisure and the detachment to chuckle over The Times too—but I had to hustle off to work.
This is how I feel about Richard Brautigan's stories. In fact, what I've just written sounds like a Brautigan story, right down to the inexplicable coincidence of both characters being named Richard.
Musing About Life Brautigan sounds like a relaxed observer with all the time in the world to muse over the curious little turns life takes.
Overheard remarks, incongruous occurrences, sense impressions, the shape of buildings or the look of people, the color of the weather—all this mixed in with memories, girls, places, jotting in a notebook, made by a man with nothing pressing on him, no compulsion to put it all in perspective, interpret it, drive it to the wall and ask "What does it mean?
He can get 62 "stories" into a page book that begins with Page 9. The shortest is three lines and the longest is seven pages. As you can see, there isn't much room for deep probing or sustained interaction. No sweat, man, you take it as it comes. Don't look at it too hard or you'll see beyond the moment, the two-penny epiphany, to the fact that these are just postcards, sent by somebody who's on vacation from life, a vacation he took a bus to, carrying nothing but a knapsack.
This doesn't mean that Revenge of the Lawn isn't fun to read. There are lots of nice things. A man who "looked if life had given him an endless stream of two-timing girlfriends, five-day drunks and cars with bad transmissions. A man who is so fond of poems that he decides to take the plumbing out of his house and replace it with poetry. A sudden sight, on a beach near Monterey, of a group of "frog people," boys and girls dressed in black rubber suits with yellow oxygen tanks, eating watermelon.
There's a pleasant vignette of Brautigan watching a guy in the City Lights book store trying to make up his mind to buy one of his books. Finally be tosses a coin and the book loses. A really sweet piece—yes, I mean sweet—describes last night's girl getting dressed in the morning, disappearing, in due time, into her clothes and becoming a wholly adventure. There's another girl "sleeping in a very well-built blond way," until suddenly she starts to get up.
Tinting With Literature Brautigan has a good feeling for the American past, for small towns and the erosion of life styles, that is surprising in a man only in his middle thirties. But sometimes he's not satisfied to leave these quaint old snapshots alone and tries to tint them with literature.
His longest story is about a boy going hunting in Oregon with his uncle Jarv. They stop in as small town, where Uncle Jarv writes a postcard and the boy stares at a nude Marilyn Monroe calendar on the post office wall.
Somebody in the town has shot two bear cubs and a practical joker dresses them up—one in a white silk negligee—and sits them in a car. From this—the death of the two bears, the masquerade, the negligee, the calendar in the post office—Brautigan reaches all the way out into left field for Marilyn Monroe's suicide, years later, while she is still a cuddling little cub too, dressed up in death like a practical joke.
He does this too often for comfort. A story about a "crazy" old lady who fills her house with vases of flowers ends with a sententious bit of irrelevance: This was a month or two before the German army marched into Poland. Four small children without shoes come out on the porch of the shack to stare silently at him. It is raining and they are getting soaked, but they stand there, staring, silent. The author then nails up this heavy sign on their porch: He wins some and he loses some. Once in a while a piece will rise to poetry.
Others never get beyond easy vignettes, light enough to blow off the page. At its worst, Revenge of the Lawn sounds, simultaneously, like a clumsily written children's book and a pretentious piece of avant-garde impressionism. At his best Brautigan is one of those odd-looking guys with long hair and granny glasses who sees, hears, feels and thinks things that make some of us feel he's found a better answer to being alive here and now than we have. Dietrich Notes On Contemporary Literature , vol.
Brautigan's "Homage to the San Francisco YMCA" is probably best categorized as a fairy tale, containing as it does magical transformations, bewitchment, and a "once upon a time" beginning. But of course it's not the usual fairy tale.
For one thing, most fairy tales aren't written for academics. Not that one necessarily needs to be an academic to enjoy this tale, but it helps to know who Michael McClure and Vladimir Mayakovsky are, not to mention Shakespeare, Donne, and Dickinson. It also helps to know that Wordsworth declared poetry to be the result of "a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" and that from Aristotle on the cathartic theory of literature has been popular with critics. For obviously the hare-brained protagonist of this story has heard something of that sort.
He's heard not only that poetry serves as the conveyer of flowing emotions, but that it serves the reader as a purger of bad feelings. Why else would it occur to him to replace his plumbing with poetry? Perhaps the idea occurred to him after he'd had an emotionally "draining" experience with poetry. If poetry can drain his spirit of its poisons, why not drain his body as well?
This confusion of levels of reality is not surprising in one who profits in insanity. Our protagonist lives off a pension "that was the result of a 's investment that his grandfather had made in a private insane asylum that was operating quite profitably in Southern California. For the whole country, Brautigan implies, has become so confused about what's real that it has not only lost the ability to distinguish reality from illusion, but it trades on their confusion.
The insane asylum, for example, "was one of those places that do not look like an insane asylum. Unused to reality, ensconced in the never-never land of Pacific Heights, Brautigan's princely patron of poetry naturally misunderstands the uses of poetry.
Nothing is more practical than poetry if spiritual cleansing is what you're after, but if as an American you insist that true practicality consists in administering to one's material needs, then you may push poetry too far. In that material realm, as Auden put it, "poetry makes nothing happen. It is no exaggeration to say that "Christopher Columbus' slight venture sailing West was merely the shadow of a dismal event in the comparison. Unfortunately, the magical transformations—of the minor poets into a toilet, for example—don't work.
Our would-be fairy tale sorcerer is a failure, but typically he blames if on the poetry. Note that "he of course had never met a poet in person. That would have been a little too much. That is, physical beings who just like himself need toilets but who are capable of creating the spiritual contradiction that is poetry would be hard to understand for this one-track mind. Man's dual nature is beyond the comprehension of the materialistic monomania.
But perhaps poetry is a little too insistent in its reality. Once you give poetry the notion that it can serve as literal plumbing, it's hard to convince it otherwise. One of the worst features of the materialist's idea of practicality is that it corrupts even that which is opposed to its values.
Installed as literal plumbing, the poetry begins to take itself too literally as a drainer of physical poisons, presuming to be real in a sense it can never be.
Yeats, for example, believed so hard in becoming the golden bird of Byzantium that he sometimes lost track of the physical reality he was trying to escape from, the art reality completely replacing for him material reality. In its insistent reality, poetry is always a little presumptuous in this way. Presumptuous or not, the poetry is right in kicking Brautigan's protagonist down the stairs, for his folly is the opposite of Yeats'. His mad insistence is that poetry cannot be "real" unless it is materially useful; that is, that spiritual values count for nothing unless they can be converted into material values.
Madness is the point here. The protagonist virtually lives in the bathroom of the YMCA, talking to himself "with the light out. His malaise is succinctly explained by his retreat to the YMCA. Christianity in general, but especially Americanized Christianity, is a fine example of a spiritual intention that has learned to accomodate the material world, and the ultimate in that accommodation is the YMCA where physical exercise typically takes precedence over spiritual exercise.
Whereas the poetry fails to become literal plumbing, religion has made the transformation successfully, in a sense, and is now more plumbing than not.
The protagonist may feel more at home there, but he'll never stop muttering to himself, for toilets do not cleanse minds or hearts. Brautigan is a kind of Christopher Columbus whose every work leads us to the discovery of America.
America has been damned by its writers before for its materialism, but seldom has that indictment been put with such charming and amusing simplicity, and with such daring in paradox. For only a fairy tale, that form of literature most held in contempt by our "realistic", "down-to-earth," "practical and no-nonsense" business civilization, could capture the reality of our cultural schizophrenia, which invokes God while worshipping Mammon.
As his protagonist pays knightly homage to that institution most aptly symbolic of the selling out of spiritual intentions, Brautigan ronically portrays this American prince as an individual bewitched by false values and self-entombed upon "the throne" of a materialistic obsession.
For several years now, Richard Brautigan has been offering us his own peculiar tour of America: As those who have taken previous Brautigan Tours will already know, his America consists exclusively of the Pacific Northwest, where it is always raining and California, where it is generally sunny.
Occasionally someone will slip off to an outlying province called Mexico for new sandals, dope, or an abortion. While Revenge of the Lawn , a bustling collection of sixty-two short fictions, takes us back over this same terrain, Brautigan succeeds in making the scenery look new and stranger than ever.
In each of his modes—as poet, novelist, or short story writer—Brautigan is essentially an anecdotist, delivering bundles of bizarre incidents that strike him as funny, or touching, or stark and unsettling. The people involved in these incidents tend to be equally bizarre.
In fact Brautigan pushes their eccentricities to the brink of caricature. If, as in the title piece, "Revenge of the Lawn", the author introduces us to his grandmother, then we should not be surprised if she turns out to be a six-foot, pound boot-legger—the gay widow of a "minor Washington mystic" who dies insane. If the protagonist is a birthright millionaire, we can similarly take it for granted that he will wind up living in a room at the San Francisco YMCA.
All of Brautigan's people are either disoriented from or exist in some pathetic relation to the American norms of Main Street.
In Brautigan country, no one is straight. Revenge of the Lawn exhibits considerable range and variety. Some stories are merely tableaus; other are elaborate, extended metaphors. The "typical" Brautigan tale would have to be a mongrelization of all these modes. The style is far less flexible. Even when he indulges in playful surrealism, Brautigan lays out a characteristically spare, almost hollow line, jarred from regularity by the odd, clinking similes with which he frequently punctuates a thought.
The image of a girl returns to him "like a pale marble movie. In general, however, a strong instinctive craft secures the apparent effortlessness of his prose and a comic's keen sense of timing modulates the manneristic flights of imagination to an irresistible validity.
The stories set in the Pacific Northwest are the most substantial. Tacoma has a deep, somewhat mythic appeal for Brautigan, and he recovers the natural beauty of his childhood locale with considerable nostalgia—a nostalgia kept in check by his recalling the scene from much the same kind of sardonic remove as separated Mark Twain from Hannibal, Missouri. While Brautigan writes no Huckleberry Finn , he evokes a time and place surehandedly.
A Deanna Durbin movie is playing just down the street from each drizzling Tacoma memory. Tracking the ghost of his childhood through that Pacific mist, Brautigan tends to sound more like the Hemingway of the Nick Adams stories than like Mark Twain. He never seems actually to shoot at anything. And where Nick Adams's natural paradise is spoiled by intimations of mortality in "Big Two-Hearted River," Brautigan's is spoiled by the sudden appearance of a house "right there in the middle of my private nowhere," breaking a spell he has woven over himself.
Thus he returns to the theme of Trout Fishing in America , where distant waterfalls turn out to be white staircases and where ten-room trailers from New York fill the Challis National Park.
The beautiful and still entrancing illusion of America provides the occasion for satiric thrusts against the missuse of a continent. The stories set in California are often shorter, lighter exercises. Here the Brautigan persona is an existential Lothario who is implicitly too busy living to spend a great deal of time writing about it.
Nonetheless, a few of these pieces are extraordinary in their own right. In fact, Revenge of the Lawn demonstrates that Brautigan is quite good at handling psychological materials not generally connected with his cult as a hipster wit.
It is when he indulges that cult, rather than when he deals with his emotions, that he becomes saccharine and slick. Revenge of the Lawn covers the period from to the present, and much of the most interesting work is not the most recent. Brautigan's extraordinary novel, Trout Fishing in America , was written ten years ago—a fact which its offbeat publishing history has obscured.
What that bodes for the author's future as a writer is unclear, but this collection makes a nice summary of his past. It is one of Brautigan's best books, and at his best he is a writer of surprising talent and vision. Edited by Peter Freese. Despite the strongly autobiographical tone of his poems, short stories, and novels, Richard Brautigan remains an elusive figure.
While photographs of the author appear on the covers of most of his books, he is publicity-shy and makes available to readers only the barest facts about his life.
He was born in Tacoma, Washington, in , and lived in Montana and Oregon as well as the state of Washington during his childhood. The Pacific Northwest is a recurrent setting for his work; indeed, the rugged landscape of that countryside and such local activities as trout-fishing and deer-hunting are often the subjects of his fiction. He remembers World War II with great vividness, but as experienced by Richard Brautigan the child—that is, he remembers it as a kind of elaborate children's game, only slightly more serious than cowboys-and-Indians.
Born near the close of the Great Depression, Brautigan was brought up in relative poverty, never went to university, and yet very early seems to have directed his energies to writing. He moved to San Francisco in and quickly became known to such local writers as Laurence Ferlinghetti, Robert Duncan, and Michael McClure, beginning to establish for himself a modest reputation as a poet.
Brautigan's arrival in San Francisco coincided with the year when the so-called Beat Generation of writers first came to national attention. Young, distrustful of the establishment, often calculatedly anti-intellectual, such writers as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso offered a refreshing alternative to the conformity of the Eisenhower decade. Brautigan's unconventional writings were inevitably linked with those of the Beat Generation, though they often contrasted dramatically in both subject and tone.
Brautigan's working techniques certainly have something in common with Kerouac's jazz-like process of "Spontaneous Prose," yet while Kerouac built his effects through the massive accumulation of detail, Brautigan's best work is characterized by a systematic paring away that leaves the reader with only the barest essentials, as in the haiku-like little poem, "Critical Can Opener":.
As the passing years revealed, Brautigan would seem to have more in common with the "Love Generation" of the 's than the "Beat Generation" of the 's; the former at least, paid tribute in making him a cult figure of almost guru-like proportions, together with Kurt Vonnegut, Hermann Hesse, Ken Kesey, and J. The tendency to link Brautigan to schools and movements has, however, caused frequent misreadings of his work.
He certainly shared some of the rowdy irreverence for form and convention popularly associated with the Beat Generation, and his work often brims with a sweet and gentle melancholy reminiscent of the early Flower Children. But Brautigan has always been an individualist, a loner, and it is important to see him on his own terms to do justice to the small, uneven, but ultimately rich corpus of his writings. While Brautigan first began to establish his reputation as a poet, often gave poetry readings at universities, and for a time was poet-in-residence at Cal Tech University, it was a curious novel titled Trout Fishing in America which first brought him wide recognition, and he is clearly better known today as a novelist than as a writer of poems or short stories.
Completed in , Trout Fishing in America consists of forty seven brief chapters relating to an actual incident of fishing for trout in America, or to a ubiquitous and somewhat mystical character named "Trout Fishing in America," or to a place of the same name symbolic, perhaps, of unspoiled nature , or to a state of mind synonymous with freedom. There is a quality of randomness in the novel's construction, and yet one suspects the randomness is itself ironic—a kind of pastiche of contemporary America, as well as a latter-day example of what Laurence Sterne meant when he described Tristram Shandy as "a history book of what passes in a man's mind.
It is hardly a cause for wonder that young Americans troubled by the war in Viet Nam, by corruption in politics, by urban violence, racial strife and environmental disaster should have responded with such ardor to Brautigan's vision. Brautigan's work is thus a rich index of a period of vast and often turbulent social change in the United States, and of interest, therefore, to both literary critic and social historian.
Nonetheless, to see Brautigan's writing only in terms of such topical reference would be greatly to undervalue his talent—as, indeed, most critics have done.
Younger Brautigan enthusiasts have tended to praise him in tones of breathless reverence, and more established critics to dismiss him as a fad noteworthy, at best, for his whimsy. Despite the seeming sprawl of a work like Trout Fishing in America , Brautigan is essentially a miniaturist—seizing small and often isolated moments of experience which illuminate for him some central truth of humanity or inhumanity. This is as true of his episodic novels as of his short stories, which often read like vignettes.
But because the scale is small, the tone sometimes whimsical, the language often mundane, some readers would seem to miss Brautigan's real subjects: In the light which flashes through the isolated "moments" from which Brautigan's work is composed one has a perfect example of that improbable process of revelation which James Joyce designated an "epiphany.
Since some of the best moments in Brautigan's novels are brief episodes which might be excerpted—and which often appeared separately in periodicals before taking their place in the novels—one might logically expect Brautigan to engage himself more often with the short story.
However, Revenge of the Lawn , a volume of less than pages, represents a full decade of production in this form. It is perhaps questionable whether they should be termed short stories at all, for few of them have the development of character and scene which we traditionally await from the short story.
Other terms spring to mind: I prefer to think of these pieces as "short stories," however, because each is in a sense a distillation of a short story; their details stay hauntingly in the mind like a kind of spiritual shorthand waiting to be translated by the reader into "full" stories.
They ask for collaboration between writer and reader—that is to say, for communication, and it is no accident that many of them are abommuniut the failure of cocation. A young man is attracted to a beautiful girl, but fails to summon the few words that would join her life to his for a time. A woman leaves her lover an angry note, but in the form of a riddle he cannot understand. A lonely narrator visits his former girlfriends to beg cups of coffee—wanting not the coffee but the conversation which should ritually accompany it, and doesn't.
Brautigan knocks on the reader's door, and hopes that conversation will follow. Not all of the stories in Revenge of the Lawn are equally successful; some are too cryptic, others overly explicit, but the best embody the essence of a human moment distilled, sanctified, illuminated.
Brautigan's settings and themes are various, but some recur often enough to lend the book as a whole a sense of pattern. Most of the stories involve a first-person narrator very like Brautigan himself; the young man is frequently lonely, and he seeks comfort in women, deer-hunting, male companionship, or trout-fishing.
He is, in short, a latter-day Hemingway man, but without the romantic excess of a Nick Adams. The Second World War flits through the narrator's memory as World War I flits through that of Nick Adams—but not as a wounding, rather as a time when life seemed to the boy coherent and meaningful. The trivia of a consumer society are here, as well, and the totems of patriotism, the folk-ways of bootlegging, the omnipresence of death. The first and title story of Revenge of the Lawn introduces a character—the narrator's insane grandfather—who had precisely prophesied the date when World War I would begin.
In the lives of Brautigan's own parents and grandparents, that war had been an occasion to "make the world safe for democracy": For Brautigan himself, only a child during the Second World War, there was no such chance: The contrast between the two wars is important, but more important is that both are seen from within a circle of domestic reference; they are distant, detached, historical, "strange", and matters of fact but not of reality.
It does not appear in final place in the collection for this reason, however, as other stories are arranged with complete disregard for the chronology of their composition. We can thus presume that Brautigan placed it as the concluding piece for more than casual reasons.
As a signature to the entire volume it poses the grim question "What does an old man's death mean? The story balances the momentous and the banal, and it turns round a few lines of conversation between a man and his wife.
This bare outline of the narrative circumstances, however, we learn only as we move into the story. Slaughter the cow now. Kausapin mo si Pedro tungkol sa balak mo. Talk with Pedro about your plans. He waved at me before he left. His trousers got hooked on the nail. Be careful as you walk or your trousers might get hooked on the nail. Kumawit ang pantalon niya sa pako. His trousers were got hooked on the nail.
Invite someone to go with you to to the market. Invite Juan to watch a movie. We scraped the coconut. Talk to the lonely child. Malamig sa labas, baka ka kiligin. It is cold outside, you might shiver. Carry a newspaper on the way to the office. Make the way narrow. You make the way narrow. The rough cloth rubbed on his skin. Sharpen the kinife on the whetstone. He earned a lot at the company.
They want to see each other tonight. Collect some financial assistance for typhoon victims. Gather the dry leaves in the garden. Get yourself some bananas from the basket. Get the bananas from the basket. Huwag kang mangulangot sa harap ng ibang tao. You should not pick your nose before other people. Kumulog ng malakas kaninang umaga. It thundered loudly early this morning. Don't put the bird in the cage. Imprison yourself in your room. Maria wants to learn how to make curly hair.
Make her hair curly. Confess to the priest later. Confess your sins to the priest. He wants to repair broken shoes. Repair the broken shoes. Kumustahin mo si Stella para sa akin. Send my regards to Stella for me.
Take a piece of food on the table. Scrub the floor with the rag. Huwag kang makislot, baka makusot ang damit mo. Don't be too playful or your shirt might get crumpled. Don't be so annoying or Keith will give you a knuckle on the head. It pleases Sheila to give a knuckle on the head to annoying kids. He does not like to ridicule his fellowmen.
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