Richard Brautigan's legacy is his continued inspiration for creative efforts by others who interpret his work, or create their own in response. This node provides an overview of selected writing and publishing inspired by Brautigan, and links to further information and resources. Use the information below to learn more about creative responses to Brautigan's works.
Abbott, Keith. Short Change. Bellingham, WA: Snazzy Wah Press, 1970.
Mimeographed small magazine with staple binding. Cover drawing by
Abbott. Short poems. Dedicated to Richard Brautigan.
Autin-Grenier, Pierre. "Une Goutte de Pouilly-Fuissé dans l'océan Pacifique [A Drop Of Pouilly-Fuissé In The Pacific Ocean]." Je ne suis pas un Héros [I'm Not A Hero]. Paris: Gallimard, 2002. 98-101.
In this short story Autin-Grenier tells of being impressed by Brautigan's story "The Pacific Ocean", probably his favorite of all Brautigan's works. He would like to rewrite this story in his own way and tells what he would like to write. But, sitting at his desk, he is totally unable to write a single word. He tries to write until the postman arrives and then uncorks a bottle of Pouilly-Fuissé, a French wine, and enjoys glasses of wine with the postman, proposing toasts to the Pacific Ocean, to Brautigan, and to his fiasco rewriting Brautigan's story.
Bly, Carol. "Chronology in the Short Story." The Passionate, Accurate Story: Making Your Heart's Truth into Literature. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 1990. 109.
Short story writer and teacher of advanced writing courses uses a story by Brautigan to detail a writing exercise saying,
Richard Brautigan wrote a stunning short story called "The World War I Los Angeles Airplane," in which the story is simply a list of thirty-three items in a man's life. The thirty-third is a repetition of an earlier item. By the time all thirty-three are stated, the reader has been given the personality of a man of generosity not taught generosity by his society. He has a sense of beauty not taught by his background. It is one of the loveliest stories I've ever read. It is three pages long.
We can learn a chronology lesson from Brautigan. It is that if a meaningful scene, no matter how short, is set next to another meaningful scene, feeling and value multiply. The reader rejoices in the queer, abortive spaces between these brief scenes. Let's try it ourselves. Let's say we half-see in our mind's eye a marvelous or horrible character. Let's pretend (not writing but simply reviewing in the mind only) that we are doing his or her autobiography. Then let's have a piece of paper with thirty lines, numbered. Then choose thirty events or half-hours in that person's life and write them down. Then think of the most telling of those scenes—and repeat it, for item number thirty-one.
Such an exercise returns writers from the jagged world of disturbed chronology. (109-110)
Warner, Sharon Oard. "What We Write About When We Write About Love." The Writer 115(11) November 2002: 41-43.
Recounts turning to this creative writing exercise. Says,
Upon reading that story, I immediately saw Bly's point: "We can learn a chronology lesson from Brautigan," she writes. "It is that if a meaningful scene, no matter how short, is set next to another meaningful scene, feeling and value multiply." (43)
Burges, Laura. "Fantasy: Apologies to Brautigan." San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle California Living 30 March 1975: 10.
Burges parodies Brautigan's writing style in a fragment of a "lost" Brautigan manuscript.
Carter, Gary. Eliot's Tale. Charlotte, NC: Back Nine Books, 2009: 331-333.
484 pages; ISBN: 978-1-60145-875-9
Carter's protagonist, Eliot Smith, 50, embarks on a zigzag quest for enlightenment, inspired, to a great part, by Brautigan's novel Trout Fishing in America.
Smith notes his original reading of the novel and how it conjured up "a window back into time, when anything seemed possible and believable, when there really was a reason to believe that all was not what it seemed."
With nothing else to occupy myself, I grab up one of the books
that I brought along and lay down to read. This turns out to be my first
foray in many moons into Richard Brautigan's warped and quirky
world. And, without great resistance, I'm drawn again under the
magic spell of Trout Fishing in America, which, you may be aware, is
not truly just about fishing and was a cult favorite of us long-haired
hippie types back in those strange days. In the course of the tales that
make up the narrative, Trout Fishing in America is a concept, a thing,
a person, even a spiritual being. I remember somebody describing the
book once as Brautigan just throwing out the hook of his imagination
into the world and reeling in what he found.
While the stories are intoxicating, it's the poetically loony
language that first intrigued me, made me shake my head, laugh out
loud at the often outrageous similes and metaphors. And the shapeshifting
of the prose because, in truth, Brautigan was a poet. I read
once that his wife said he had to learn to write prose because normally
everything he wrote turned into a poem. Which explains why these
lines hook me again, sharp and shiny as a barbed number six:
"The sun was like a huge fifty-cent piece that someone had
poured kerosene on and then had lit with a match and said, 'Here,
hold this while I go get a newspaper,' and put the coin in my hand, but
never came back."
[ . . . text deleted . . . ]
In honesty, I would be hard pressed to actually explain the book
aloud or sum up its virtues, other than to say it is supernatural in its
words and images, and that it conjures up for me a window back into
a time when anything seemed possible and believable, when there
really was a reason to believe that all was not what it seemed.
And I mourn that time as I read, until I lay the book on my
stomach and review in no order or merit the names and faces that
come to me unbidden as I let my mind wander back. Some spring fully
formed to life, while others are dim and soft-edged like shapes in the
mist. Some are nothing more than recognized faces, passing
acquaintances with no real meaning left, while others evoke senses
and memories that still bear substance. I wonder about some of them,
where they are, what they're doing or, for that matter, whether they
still roam this world.
(Selection used by permission)
Feedback from Gary Carter
Your website is outstanding and a true tribute to Richard Brautigan, not to mention a joy for those of us who admire the man and his work. I first discovered Brautigan and his magic, I believe, in 1969-1970 and have remained a believer in this talents and continue to enjoy his work.
Brautigan's writing and attitude certainly have influenced my writing over the years, and bringing Trout Fishing in America into the novel made perfect sense. The protagonist, having just turned 50, has hit the road to examine the "things done and left undone" in his past as he looks ahead into the murky future. As you would expect, his coming of age in the 1960s and 1970s plays a major role.
Gary Carter. Email to John F. Barber, 12 November 2009.
Dejaeger, Éric. "A Great Discovery Lost In A Dish Recipe." Tiny Shit. Walcourt: Les Éditions de l'heure [In the Hour Press]. 2000. 3.
12 pages. Contains 10 texts by Dejaeger, all in English. This one, a poem, is dedicated to Brautigan after his poem about a disgusting fart, "December 30".
The poem, reprinted by permission, reads,
To the memory of
at the left side
of the Lord.
A few days ago
my guiltless nostrils
one minute long
that I wanted
to be far away
from my own self
if I were able
to create such
foul wraith entities
to my liking
within the week
no bloody mind
to speak with
No bad temper
what the hell
did I eat
a few days ago?
—. "Les Conditions Atmosphériques Hivernales Provoquent-elles des Illusions d'optique?" [Do Winter Weather Conditions Provoke Optical Illusions?]. Poèmes Réincarnés dans un Orteil Aimé [Poems Reincarnated In A Beloved Toe]. Bruxelles: Les Carnets du Dessert de Lune, 2001. 39.
54 pages; ISBN 2-930235-18-7
Cover illustration by Michel Wilhelmi
The poem, reprinted by permission, reads,
One evening January 1999 round 9 p.m.
I'm watching through the window
I've put the outside spotlight on
to fully appreciate the show of the fir-trees
disarticulated by the squalls
Suddenly I see a guy calmly crossing my lawn
Tall, thin, long hair, a big mustache, glasses
& a large black hat that he holds
on his head with his hand
I watch him crossing the lit field
& slowly disappearing
into the darkness of a winter evening
Who will believe me if I assert that
by a winter evening Richard Brautigan
confused my garden
with his ranch in Montana?
128 pages; ISBN 2-930133-57-0
Cover illustration by François Nedonema.
A collection of short stories by Dejaeger. This story is about a fan who tries to imitate Brautigan. First, he tries to imitate Brautigan's writing but never succeeds in getting anything published. Then he tries to imitate Brautigan physically, but is 5 inches too short. Finally, at the age of 49, he plans to take his life and goes to Bolline (a town in Belgium) where he only succeeds in shooting off three toes on his right foot because, as the French expression goes, "nobody can raise to Brautigan's ankle," or in English, "he can't hold a candle to him."
Fluide Glacial 313 July 2002.
French monthly magazine
Remue-Méninges (27) March 2003.
Belgian small magazine
Douglas, Lynn. Naked Fish on the Window. Rockford, IL: Penumbra Press, 1994. n. pg.
A collection of poetry, including three poems: "to richard brautigan," "cybernetic ecology?", and "wilting wilting gone." The poem "to richard brautigan" (inside back cover) laments his death and concludes, "I am angry and sickened that I live in a generation and a world that has no Richard Brautigan." Through its word imagery "cybernetic ecology?" connects to "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace," Trout Fishing in America, and In Watermelon Sugar. "wilting wilting gone" refers to "Pale Marble Movie."
The laid-in promotional flyer from the press reads, in part,
trailer court sluts, devil dogs from hell, wafting sex, underwater rivers, fugues, femmes seeking femmes, nose rings, love, cataclysms, effortless erotica, and Richard Brautigan all come together somewhere in West Virginia
Drouot, Vincent. "The Shangaï Check."
A poetic diary written by Drouot, a French artist, during a three-month visit to China. Dedicated "to Richard Brautigan, with my apologies"
Green, Allison. Trout Frying in America. Work in progress.
A conversation with Brautigan's novel Trout Fishing in America. At thirteen Allison Green obsessed over Brautigan's novel, and at forty-five she retraced his Idaho journey in order to understand her obsession. Trout Frying in America is a memoir in brief chapters that attempts to answer these questions: "How did a girl (and lesbian-to-be) fall so hard for such a male-identified writer?" "In what ways did being a baby boomer born at the end of the curve inform her obsession?" "Was her own ancestral connection to Idaho part of what attracted her to his work?" In 2010 the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs awarded Green a CityArtist grant for Trout Frying in America. Green read from her manuscript as part of Under the Influence spoken word event sponsored by the City Artist Project, 19 October 2010, at Empire Espresso, Seattle, Washington. She was one of four Pacific Northwest writers reading works inspired by other Pacific Northwest writers. Felicia Gonzalez, inspired by Alex Kou, read short fiction. Jourdan Keith, inspired by Octavia E. Butler, read from her play, The Ulterine Files. Mira Shimabukuro, inspired by former Oregon Poet Laureate Lawson Fusao Inada, read excerpts from her poetry.
Feedback from Christian Nelson, publisher, Kumquat Meringue
The work you've done is very important.
Christian Nelson. Email to John F. Barber, 3 March 2002.
Lemaire, Philippe. Le Dernier rêve de Richard Brautigan. [Richard Brautigan's Last Dream]. Mi(ni)crobe #17. Pont-à-Celles, Belgium: Édition Microbe. 2008.
Collage cover artwork by Lemaire.
A short story in which Lemaire tries to imagine Brautigan's last moments and last dream.
Also published in Lemaire's La Bibliothèque d'un Rêveur (A Dreamer's Bookcase).
Léon, Christophe. Je suis Richard Brautigan [I am Richard Brautigan]. Belgium: Le Somnambule Équivoque. 2009.
120 pages; ISBN 978-2-930377-23-0
Front cover photograph by Jan Meeus
A collection of eighteen short stories. The title story, "Je suis Richard Brautigan," is about a 49-year old Frenchman, who, after losing his job, decides, while standing in front of a mirror, that he is Richard Brautigan. He buys an airplane ticket to Tacoma, Washington, Brautigan's birthplace. His one problem: he does not speak English.
McLennan, Rob. The Richard Brautigan Ahhhhhhhhhhh. Powell River, BC, Canada: Talan Books, 1999.
McLennan titled his collection of poetry as an homage to Brautigan. Oddly, there is no mention of Brautigan anywhere in the book—nor is the title explained—although there is a note in McLennan's book Bury Me Deep in the Green Wood (Toronto, Canada: ECW Press, 1999) that says Brautigan was "the last of the beat poets out of San Francisco in the late 60's."
Feedback from Rob McLennan
The title is a reference to an unpublished short story
of Brautigan's called 'The F. Scott Fitzgerald Ahhhhhhhhhhh'".
Rob McLennan. Email to John F. Barber, 30 September 2002.
Bryson, Michael. "The Richard Brautigan Ahhhhhhhhhhh." The Danforth Review ***?***.
Mesler, Cory. Following Richard Brautigan. Livingston, Alabama: Livingston Press. 2010.
ISBN 1604890476; First published March 31, 2010
Front cover photograph by Erik Weber
A whimsical recounting of a young man's life, his friends and lovers, his struggles with writing, and his haunting by the ghost of Brautigan. The protagonist, Jack, and Brautigan's ghost travel to San Francisco, scene of Jack's last affair, and Brautigan's last days alive. Borrows from Brautigan's surrealistic style, but establishes its own integrity.
Rebecca Tickle produced a short video collage featuring Mesler in voiceover reading the first chapter of his novel Following Richard Brautigan. Various images of Brautigan create the background for this video.
When I was a callow teen, with cheeks of tan and hair of Daltry, I spent most of my free time listening to music, chasing gals, doing boo with pals, playing tennis and basketball. What I was not doing was reading. I was not a reader when young. I regret this now because you can’t go back and read the classics of childhood when you're all growed up. Except perhaps for Wind in the Willows, which is like an acid trip with talking animal friends.
But, sometime in high school, I found these funky little paperbacks, with freaky titles and strange photographs on their covers. I don't remember who first gave me one. It might have been my older brother, who was a template for me, an exemplar to study, to emulate. These little paperbacks were written by someone named Richard Brautigan. I think the first one to land in my hands was Revenge of the Lawn. Or perhaps it was The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster. Along with John Lennon's absurdist In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works these were books I could carry around with me. I could also read them because they were short, funny, slightly anarchic, strange and consistently beguiling. They were my wee doorways into literature. With one of these small packets of mystery in my pocket I felt like an insider. An insider to what I didn’t know. I felt subversive. I felt cool.
My new novel, Following Richard Brautigan, is about a young poet living in Oklahoma City, who is visited by the ghost of the late hippie writer, who then takes him on the road. It is, in spirit, a continuation of my 60s novel, We Are Billion-Year-Old Carbon. I am, I suppose, through these books, searching for my inner hippie because I was too young to be one at the right time in history. I was 14 in 1969, a child. I bought the Woodstock album and dreamed myself backward in time so that I was there, sitting in the mud, listening to Country Joe and the Fish.
I read Mr. Brautigan with much the same impulse. I wanted to live in San Francisco in the 60s, hang out at City Lights Bookstore, go to readings by Corso, Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti. I wanted to escape my modest suburban upbringing (Memphis instead of Oklahoma City) and exchange it for something more exciting, more intrepid. Instead I could only do what countless writers before me have done. I could only write about it. Through my unmoored main character, Jack, in Following Richard Brautigan, I became that man, that wandering spirit, a hippie, a holy goof, a freak. Briefly, I became a freak.
Cory Mesler. Email to John F. Barber, 2 February 2010.
—. Following Richard Brautigan. 2005.
16 pages; Staple bound
Forward by Ruth Weiss
Front cover photograph by Alisa Botto of Mesler mimicking Brautigan's pose on the front cover of The Abortion
Winner: 2005 Plan B Press Beat Aesthetic Short Fiction Chapbook Contest
Rogal, Stan. All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace: Poems for Richard Brautigan. Ottawa: Above/Ground Press, 2004.
Published for the anniversary of the death of Richard Brautigan, 25 October 1984.
Sourdin, Bruno. "Blues pour Brautigan [Blues for Brautigan]." Microbe 25, September 2004: 9.
A poem for Brautigan by French poet Bruno Sourdin. English translation by Éric Dejaeger.
Ton téléphone sonne encore
au beau milieu de la nuit
près du juke-box déglingué
de North Beach.
Ici on entend toujours le canon
et les bruits de guerre.
Baudelaire a fermé son kiosque à hamburgers
sur le Haight.
Il n'aime plus aller danser au Fillmore
il ressemble à un homme égaré
il parle par énigmes
et ses mots se perdent dans le vent.
Des passants ordinaires marchent
près de lui sans le voir
envapé dans un repli du temps.
Que veux-tu que je te dise?
Moi aussi j'ai un cafard noir
je suis miné par la solitude
le dédain et les emmerdes
je n'y peux rien
et une dernière fois je cherche la clé
qui ouvrira la tombe
au fond de laquelle tu as appris
tous les secrets
que savent les corbeaux
il le faut.
Your telephone is still ringing
in the middle of the night
near the smashed-up jukebox
from north beach.
Here we can still hear the gun
and noises of the war.
Baudelaire has closed his hamburger stand
on the Haight.
He doesn't like going to dance at the Fillmore any longer
he looks like a bewildered man
he speaks with riddles
and his words get lost in the wind.
Ordinary pedestrians walk by
without seeing him
ripped in a time crease.
What do you want me to say?
I'm in a deep blues, too,
I'm sapped by loneliness
disdain and hassles
I can't help it
and I'm looking a last time for the key
that will open the tomb
at the bottom of which you've learnt
all the secrets
that ravens know
I need it.
Vinau, Thomas. L'Âne de Richard Brautigan [Richard Brautigan's Donkey]. Merville, France: Les éditions de soir au matin, 2009.
A chapbook featuring a series of short poems inspired by Brautigan. The context for each is that someone—a poet?, another author?—meets Brautigan, listens to what he says, and relates it to the reader. The author is also impressed that Brautigan is riding a donkey.
A numbered limited edition (50 copies) 28-page chapbook collecting twenty poems by Young, each featuring Brautigan or Charles Bukowski as a character or theme. The first ten copies include an original 5" x 7" watercolor illustration by F. N. Wright, who also produced the front cover illustration, the press logo on the back cover, and all illustrations throughout the text.
The seed for this chapbook on Brautigan was planted by my high school English teacher in 1971 when she haded out a mimeograph copy of "It's Raining in Love." From that point I bought every Brautigan book release up until there weren't any more. Many years later I just started writing Brautigan poems and somewhere along the way threw in Bukowski for spice.
Somebody [Lew Welch] once said that one day we would all be writing "Brautigans." That didn't exactly happen but as kids growing up in Missouri we believed a lot of things. I guess what really set this in high gear was when I heard a certain bookstore owner in San Francisco [Lawrence Ferllinghetti] criticize Brautigan's work as never growing up—like that guy ever wrote anything comparable to Trout Fishing in America.
Scot Young. Email to John F. Barber, 26 September 2010.