Praise written for an individual following death often takes one of three forms: obituaries, memoirs, and tributes. Tributes allow one individual to remember another, and to share that memory with others. Tributes are meant to honor their subjects, to establish a memory of them in some way.
Many tributes were written by Richard Brautigan's friends and admirers following his death in 1984. These tributes speak to their author's memories of Brautigan, his life, his writings, or his place in American literature.
This part of BRAUTIGAN.net provides information about tributes written for Richard Brautigan, as well as links to related information or resources.
A tribute composed of quotations from In Watermelon Sugar, The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster, Rommel Drives On Deep into Eqypt, and The Tokyo-Montana Express dealing with death and the consolation of grief for a dead friend.
Auster, Paul, Marc Chénetier, Philippe Dijan, and others. Le Moule à Gaufres. Paris: Éditions Mé'réal. November 1993.
This issue, Number 7, is subtitled "Retombées de Brautigan [Repercussions of Brautigan]." It is a special issue focusing on Brautigan.
Essays by Paul Auster, Marc Chénetier, Philippe Djian and sixteen other authors.
Front cover illustration by Véronique Baccot
Barber, John F. "Looking Back at Richard Brautigan." Poetry Digest October 1994: 58-64.
Drawn from 1990 "Prologue" in Richard Brautigan: An Annotated Bibliography.
—. "Prologue." Richard Brautigan: An Annotated Bibliography. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1990. 1-6.
Recounts experiences shared with Brautigan.
Barker, David. "Once in a While I Drive by the State Mental Hospital." Microbe #9 January 2002: n. pg.
This poem notes the hospital where Brautigan spent some time was the site for filming Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. Concludes saying, "somehow, it's fitting that my home town/ is know for its nuthouse." Published in Belgium. Edited by Éric Dejaeger.
Barone, Dennis. "It Was A Very Sad Day." Exquisite Corpse 4 (1) January-February 1986: 13-14.
A poem noting the deaths of three unrelated people, one of whom was Richard Brautigan.
Berger, Kevin. "The Secrets of Fiction." San Francisco Magazine September 1999: 50.
Writes about his father discovering and reading Brautigan's novels shortly before dying of cancer, and the pleasure involved.
Richard Brautigan was a writer I was honored to represent as his literary agent from 1968 on. I think Richard was an American genius, a pure artist, an original voice out of the West from which he came. I believe Richard's work will last, not only because of his brillant style so individual, spare, and alternately sharp and gentle, but because . . . he explored the funny, phony, violent, romantic America he loved enough to see with open-eyed vision. (168)
Buda, Janusz K. "Richard Brautigan 1935-1984." Otsuma Review July 1985: 20-26.
In addition to eulogizing Brautigan, Buda, a Professor of English at the Waseda University School of Commerce, Tokyo, also provides general criticism of Brautigan and his literary work.
Part of a tribute titled "Richard Brautigan Remembered" (pages 4-6) featuring writing by Creeley, Brad Donovan, Greg Keeler, and Anne Waldman. Included a front cover photograph of Brautigan. This essay collected The Collected Essays of Robert Creeley (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. 333-335).
That's a wonderful website you have managed—thanks!
Robert Creeley. Email to John F. Barber, 10 February 2002.
Curran, David. Brautigan, Richard: A Pilgrimage, August 1982. Missoula, MT: David Curran, 1986.
In August 1982, following clues he found in The Tokyo-Montana Express, Curran, a freelance journalist, located Brautigan's ranch in Pine Creek, Montana. He was invited back for coffee the next day. This self-published, brief book, patterned very much like a Brautigan novel, records that meeting. Of truth and fiction in his writing, Brautigan said "I don't write about myself. The person in the books is not me. . . . I live in the real world. I have to write about something" (15). Brautigan said he started writing "when I was 17" and "wrote for 15 years, supporting myself with different jobs, before Trout Fishing in America was published" (17). Brautigan told tales of San Francisco and Boston, provided advice for the author's upcoming visit to Yellowstone National Park, and consented to have his picture taken on the steps of his barn.
I take two photos of Richard sitting on his barn steps. I'm annoyed by the face-in-the-hands pose he insists on. (Curran 33)
Dawson, Patrick. "Appreciation Can Give A Meaning to Endings." Great Falls Tribune 28 October 1984: 3C.
Talks about Brautigan's lack of literary appreciation in the United States saying his work was appreciated far more in "Japan and France. . .he became more of an ignored national resource. . . .Today, all we can say is thanks to Richard Brautigan, for giving us so much of himself, for helping us to laugh at ourselves and feel things a bit more keenly."
de Boer, Geordie. "Trout Fishing with Richard Brautigan." SNReview Summer 2008 10(2).
After a "mental breakdown" the author rediscovers Brautigan and is inspired by Brautigan's eccentric nature and view of the world.
While I don't think you must be crazy or eccentric to understand Richard Brautigan. The only effective tonic for mankind is plate tectonics, so to appreciate Richard Brautigan you must be able to see the plates of the earth move; being crazy or eccentric helps. So does being older and having survived being crazy to emerge as simply eccentric. . . . Richard Brautigan could see the plates of the earth move, and I'm sure he could feel them move beneath his feet. He mixed up the solid parameters of the world, stirred them around, bent them, and used them in his unique way to his own unique ends.
The memoir concludes with a series of fictional interactions with Brautigan and calzones.
As a big Brautigan fan, I read your website often. In fact, I found Brautigan's poem for Gary Snyder there ("Third Eye"), which inspired my own poem in tribute to Richard (see below). I write a lot of what I call "Brautigans". Now I see posted on your site my tribute to RB published by SNReview. That pleases and humbles me.
The California-New Mexico Express
for Richard Brautigan
someone's walked away from
in New Mexico
(appeared in the beatnik, January 2011)
Geordie de Boer. Email to John F. Barber, 2 June 2011.
Donlon, Helen. "Richard Brautigan: Shooting Up the Countryside." Beat Scene 3 Autumn 1988: 1-9.
Published in England
6" x 8"
Also includes "The Real Dharma Bums," an article by Thea Snyder Lowry, sister of Gary Snyder, about her relationship with Jack Kerouac; a three-page review of an exhibition of late work (1953-1972) by Picasso; a review of a film by Charles Bukowski titled Barfly; and an article about Lew Welch.
Dorn, Edward. "There's only one natural death, and even that's Bedcide: For the post-mortem amusement of Richard Brautigan." Abhorrences: A Chronicle of the Eighties. Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow Press, 1990. 50.
A poem full of puns about different varieties of death. Printed in May 1990 in Santa Barbara, California and Ann Arbor, Michigan, by Graham Mackintosh and Edwards Brothers Inc. Limited edition of 300 hardcover copies. One hundred fifty copies were numbered and signed by Dorn. Twenty six copies were bound in hardcover by Earle Gray and were lettered and signed by Dorn.
The full text of this poem reads:
November 10, 1984
There's only one natural death,
and even that's Bedcide
For the post-mortem amusement of Richard Brautigan
Death by over-seasoning: Herbicide
Death by annoyance: Pesticide
Death by suffocation: Carbon monoxide
Death by burning: Firecide
Death by falling: Cliffcide
Death by hiking: Trailcide
Death by camping: Campcide
Death by drowning: Rivercide
Death from puking: Curbcide
Death from boredom: Heartcide
Death at the hands of the medical profession: Dockcide
Death from an overnight stay: Inncide
Death by surprise: Backcide
Death by blow to the head: Upcide
Death from delirious voting: Rightcide
Death from hounding: Leftcide
Death through war: Theircide & Ourcide
Death by penalty: Offcide
Death following a decision: Decide
Fell Swoop 6 [February?] 1986: 2.
8.5" x 11"; Green card covers; stapled
Also called "the wrong planet issue." Appeared with three other poems by Dorn all later published in Abhorrences, along with Clark's drawing. Also included was President Ronald Reagan's favorite recipe sent by The White House (macaroni and cheese) and writing by Randall Schroth, Tom Whalen, Heidi Furr, Richard Martin, Clara Talley-Vincent, and Robb Jackson.
Abhorrences: A Chronicle of the Eighties
Boise, Idaho: Limberlost Press, 1989
An eight-page letterpressed and handsewn postcard-sized pamphlet. Limited edition of 150 copies issued as an excerpt from, and prior to, the larger work in progress. Cover art by Ray Obermayr. Twenty-six lettered copies signed by Obermayr and Dorn. Along with this poem, five others collected: "Another Springtime in the Rockies," "Martyrs Opera," 'Progress: slow but inexorable," "Don't just stand there, get something!", and "Thou shalt not kill: Oh Yes I Will."
Bloody Twins Press, 1986.
Broadside, 19" x12", limited edition of 200 copies signed by Tom Clark, artist.
having turned left with
an image instead
of right Baudelaire
finds himself on
Market Street in
far-west San Francisco
present (and all-but
inciting this coming) a man
too gaunt to be young as
blond as the husk of sin
as dry and scaly as
life without remorse
says Baudelaire "Bonjour"
(plums dropping from his
every letter) "Now Master
say it like it's at"
the man rejoins (rebukes?)
through limp moustaches
itchy birds for eyes.
Haslam, Gerald. "A Last Letter to Richard Brautigan." Western American Literature 21(1) May 1986: 48-50.
Hogg, Brian. "Boo, Forever: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan." Strange Things Are Happening 1(2) May-June 1988: 9-12.
Reviews and critiques each of Brautigan's publications released in Great Britian. Also provides basic biographical information regarding Brautigan's life, and thorough bibliogaphical information about his work. Says, "Those who loved his work mourned his passing and recalled the simple warmth of his fragile style" (9).
This poem makes an obscure reference to Brautigan in the line "who saw and felt the ghosts of renowned writers drowned in alcohol and fame and fickle fates."
Steve Heilig. Email to John F. Barber, 14 August 2003.
—. "Closing Time (or, Déja Buk)." Sonoma County Independent 13-19 May 2003: ***?***.
This poem about Charles Bukowski, the second place winner in The 2nd Annual Bukowski Poetry Contest, sponsored by the Sonoma County Independent, Black Sparrow Press, and Copperfield's Books contains a brief reference to Richard Brautigan:
On a strange unbidden whim,
I went looking:
Auden, Bowles, Brautigan . . .
Bukowski: "Tales of Ordinary Madness."
Lillvik, Larry. "Winter Rates Presents . . . Richard Brautigan Day." 23 December 2009. DC's blog.
Author Larry Lillvik, writing as "Winter Rates," recalls his discovery of Brautigan and makes several associations in this entry to a blog maintained by Dennis Cooper. Bibliographical and biographical sections provide a good overview of Brautigan and his writings. Most of the information is culled from BRAUTIGAN.net. An accessible and rewarding memoir.
Lynch, Dennis. "Tribute to a Friend and the Books That Might Have Been." Chicago Tribune 12 November 1984, Sec. 5: 1, 8.
The unexpected death of a respected writer evokes our sadness for the loss of life and for the loss of books that might have been. . . .To do the seemingly impossible and to make it appear easy—"to load mercury with a pitchfork"—is the writer's job, Brautigan's work tells us and he was a master of that art.
I logged onto your site and was both impressed and moved by what I saw and read. Since 1985 I've been a college professor of literature and film at a community college here in Illinois. Over the past decade, there have been times where I have probably gone weeks without thinking of Richard. But reading through your site really touched me by reminding me what a sad, hilarious, troubled, fascinating, aggravating guy he was. Thanks again for your wonderful work.
Dennis Lynch. Email to John F. Barber, 26 February 2005.
Lindsey, Rich. "'Playing with gentle glass things': An appreciation of Richard Brautigan." Media Funhouse 2 July 2010.
A lengthy blog posting in which Lindsey comments on Brautigan's stories, novels, and voice recordings. Includes images and video files.
Myers, Ben. "The Out-of-Step Beat." Guardian Unlimited "TheBlogBooks" 14 September 2007.
A tribute to Brautigan on the date of his death. Says each of Brautigan's books has been, and continues to be, inspirational for contemporary writers. Rather than being out of step (behind or ahead of his time) Brautigan is "beside it, look in and laughing quietly into his moustache."
"Richard Brautigan." All Things Considered. National Public Radio 26 October 1984.
A segment of the All Things Considered program noting Brautigan's death the previous day. Includes two sound files of Brautigan. The first is taken from an interview in New York, New York, four years earlier in which Brautigan defends his writing style. The second is Brautigan reading from the first chapter of his In Watermelon Sugar. Listen to the "Richard Brautigan" segment.
Ring, Kevin. The Sad and Lonely Death of Richard Brautigan. Birmingham, England: The Beat Scene Press, 2007.
Limited edition chapbook; 100 numbered copies
Number 7 in The Beat Scene Press Pocket Books Series
Incorporates "West Coast Dreamer: The Lonely Death of Richard Brautigan" (Beat Scene, 1998).
Ring, Kevin. "West Coast Dreamer: The Lonely Death of Richard Brautigan." Beat Scene 31 (n. d. 1998): 12-16.
A tribute to Brautigan by way of revisiting his life.
Splake, T. K[ilgore]. "Memoriam Richard Brautigan 1984." Gypsy 3 1985: 61-63.
Subtitled Die sympathische Alternative. Published in Schwabach, West Germany. Edited by Belinda Subraman and S. Ramnath. Published by Vergin' Press.
Splake (from Battle Creek, Michigan) uses selections from Trout Fishing in America, The Hawkline Monster, In Watermelon Sugar, The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster, Rommel Drives On Deep into Egypt, So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away, and The Tokyo-Montana Express to note his connection with Brautigan and to build a possible context for Brautigan's death. Concludes by saying, "My brief Memoriam is only partial payment for the larger debt I owe Richard Brautigan."
Standish, Craig Peter. Poor Richard: A Poem about the Life and Death of Richard Brautigan, 1935-1984. Portlandville, NY : M. A. F. Press, 1986.
A letter/poem from a Brautigan fan that recounts waiting for each new novel and collection of poetry, laments Brautigan's death—"Why poor Richard, why?" (16), expresses anger—"It was a slap in the face to all who loved your work" (17), and offers some consolation—"Perhaps we do not realize/ how painful it can sometimes be/ to actually realize your dreams." (19). The first edition was limited to sixty-four copies, each signed by Standish, and distributed privately to his friends and relatives. Lawrence Ferlinghetti contributed an introduction. Illustrated by John Dunic and Marc Wilson.
Swensen, Ianthe. "My Disneyland." The 23 1(2), March 1991: 1, 6.
Brautigan's daughter (her married name is "Swensen") writes of her father in this newsletter, published quarterly by the Brautigan Library in Burlington, VT. She recalls childhood experiences fishing and walking with Brautigan.
He was able to see life through his blue eyes in a way that put a trust and delight in all he saw. It was a Brautigan world of his own creation. It was a world that made us feel bright and shiny as a new penny, as though we are important and what we see and say and write is also [sic].
But as in all myths there was an end. But as in all myths, his story, his stories, will live on and on and on. As in some myths we all know where the weakness is and the end is a sad one, but the end never overshadows the gift that was given. To the reader his gift is there waiting to be grasped forever like the fish he caught for a moment and then unhooked to live on for future generations. Whoever opens one of his books can hear him and he is theirs for the moment. For a moment is all some of us have. I think everyone needs to have a moment of my father.
A literary magazine published in Melbourne, Australia
Part of the Falcon vs. Monkey enterprise
Chris Flynn, editor
Volume 4 is a tribute to Brautigan.
Released 17 January 2009
Front cover by Kristian Olson
Features 26 selections of tribute fiction by international contributors, 13 poems ("All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace," "My Insect Funeral," "It's Raining in Love," "But," "The Octopus Frontier," "A Boat," "Propelled by Portals Whose Only Shame," "Up Against the Ivory Tower," "Deer Tracks," "We Meet. We Try. Nothings Happens, But," "Homage to the Japanese Haiku Poet Issa," "Taxi Drivers Look Different from Their Photographs," and "The Pumpkin Tide") and eight fiction selections ("Women When They Put Their Clothes on in the Morning," "A Need for Gardens," "1/3, 1/3, 1/3," "A Sea of February Orchard Blood," "Red Lip," "In Watermelon Sugar," "Motorcycle," and "Hawaii Revisited") by Brautigan selected by Flynn and Ianthe Brautigan.
An envelope, with an image of a fish designed and hand-printed by Eirian Chapman on a miniature Japanese Gocco printing device, contains 8 double-sided color A5-size prints of art interpreting the selected Brautigan poems and fiction.
Introduction by Ianthe Brautigan. Foreward by Chris Flynn. Conclusion by Radiohead illustrator Stanley Donwood.
The 20 April 2009 broadcast of "The Book Show," an offering of Radio National, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, featured an interview with editor Chris Flynn, Ianthe Brautigan, and contributors Jon Bauer, Caren Beilin, and Adam Ford. Listen to this interview:
Feedback from John Holton
I'm one of the contributors. I first came across Brautigan's writing several years after his death in 1989. My girlfriend at the time (now my wife of 17 years) found a copy of Revenge of the Lawn on the bookshelf at a holiday house where she was staying. She was so blown away by it that she felt compelled to take the book (which she later replaced). I was studying literature and philosophy at the time and Brautigan's work made a huge impression on me. I was dabbling with short stories at the time, and Brautigan made fiction writing seem like something achievable. I loved (and still love) the naivety of the writing—his ability to capture the essence of a situation or a relationship in a simple sentence, or a startlingly original metaphor. I can honestly say, I don't think I would have begun my journey as a writer and editor without the early influence of Brautigan. My favourite books are still Revenge of the Lawn and The Tokyo Montana Express.
The piece I wrote for Torpedo is called "Pickles." It's a story about
longing—about trying to capture an incredible evening of love and
connection in a pickle jar. But, of course, all you're left with is something that smells like pickles.
John Holton. Email to John F. Barber, 27 April 2009.
"Fishing for Richard Brautigan", the 20 April 2009 radio program of The Book Show, an offering of Radio National, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Listen to and audio file of the complete 30-minute show featuring an interview with editor Chris Flynn, Ianthe Brautigan, and contributors Jon Bauer, Caren Beilin, and Adam Ford.
"The Library", a digital version of the comic strip by Paul O'Connell adapted from Brautigan's The Abortion, and included in the special Torpedo tribute to Brautigan.
Vonnegut, Kurt. "A Tribute." Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook: 1984. Ed. Jean W. Ross. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1985. 168-169.
I never knew Richard Brautigan, except through his writings. . . . At this great distance from the man himself, I will guess that he, like so many other good writers, was finally done in by the chemical imbalance we call depression, which does its deadly work regardless of what may really be going on in the sufferer's love life or his adventures, for good or ill, in the heartless marketplace. (168-169)
Waldman, Anne. "Brautigan." Rolling Stock (9) 1985: 2.
Part of a tribute titled "Richard Brautigan Remembered" (pages 4-6) featuring writing by Robert Creeley, Brad Donovan, Greg Keeler, and Anne Waldman. Included a front cover photograph of Brautigan.
Wells, Tim, ed. Hardest Part Rising 22 n. d. (***late 1990s?***).
Published in London, England by poet and editor Tim Wells.
A special Brautigan issue.
We've a few poems, articles, and interviews from people whose lives have been touched by Brautigan's writing. He is currently undergoing somewhat of a renaissance in Britain at the moment, and some of that interest is filtering through to a new generation of American writers previously unfamiliar with his work.
Though some of his poetry is decidedly 60s his writing is a delightful insight to the world. Brautigan's economy and distillation of worlds particularly impress me. Brautigan was there in the Hemingway, Greek Anthology way of doing things. Let it say what it's got to say, then shut the hell up. It's great to read American writers who know how to contain a thought. It's great to read writers from wherever come to that. Rising has always appreciated concise writing.
The idea for this issue came from a 19 yearl old who got excited about a Brautigan book I'd taken to a poetry reading. It was great to see such enthusiasm from a writer currently not topping the best seller lists nor writing about vampires.
Features Brautigan's story "An Unlimited Supply of 35 Millimeter Film" and his poem "The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster." Contributions by Jim Chandler ("A Quarters Worth of Brautigan," first published in Planet Detroit circa 1984), Tim Wells ("So The Wind Won't Blow It All Away"), Steve Cannon ("Pale Marble Movie"), Arlis Mongold ("The Ghost Children of Tacoma"), Bette O'Callaghan ("Hook, Line & Sinker"), Nathan Penlington ("Almost Nearly"), Nina Penlington ("A Study in Roads"), Alan Catlin ("Richard Brautigan's Last Hurrah"), and Gerald Locklin ("The Big Easy') refer specifically to Brautigan or his works. Other contributions may be inspired by Brautigan or written as tributes to him. Illustrated with photographs of some of the contributors holding copies of Brautigan's books.
Witman, Schuyler. "Episode: Richard Brautigan's Trunk." Beginnings: A Story
Part of a hypertext writing course taught by Daniel Anderson at The University of Texas. Students produced a hyperfiction that weaves multiple episodes into an ongoing narrative.
It seems that for Richard Brautigan only the memories of things lost and the dreams of things that didn't really exist vibrated with the jelly-like eclat which things that are alive move in. Richard moved though the orgasmic meaninglessness of alive things like someone lost or waiting.
Wright, F. N. "A Tribute: In Memory of Richard Brautigan." Sketchbook 2(4) October 2007.
A poem tribute entitled "It Was An Autumn Month" accompanied by four original watercolor paintings by Wright of Brautigan.
Sketchbook is "A Journal for Eastern & Western Short Forms" published monthly, online.
The poem, "It Was An Autumn Month," reads
Richard Brautigan was a writer
& a poet who wrote whimsy
Mixed with wistfulness.
To read him you would
Never suspect that he lived
A lonely & sad life,
Haunted by childhood demons
That he couldn't shake.
Best known for his novel
Trout Fishing In America,
Which had nothing to do
With trout fishing—
Which was a passion of his—
He found his popularity dwindling
Here in America as it continued
To blossom in Japan.
One day or evening,
He put a .44 to his head
In his Bolinas, California home
& pulled the trigger.
His body wasn't discovered for some time.
Yates, Brett. "People I Admire: Richard Brautigan." The Mountain Times 1 September 2011.
Yates, a columnist for this weekly central Vermont newspaper, notes Brautigan's "off-kilter similes" and writing style, especially as demonstrated in Trout Fishing in America, provides a brief biography and bibliography, and concludes,
What I'm trying to say, I guess, is that Brautigan was an inimitable original. His was a minor voice in literature, but the purity of his work—everything in his books is fresh and unadorned—is sort of inspiring to me. It makes me want to write a little less turgidly, a little more openly.
A folded 10" x 14" 10 page photographic documentary of a "concert" happening or event. Brautigan is featured in three of the photographs. One photograph shows Brautigan kneeling to the side of a [An upright stone or slab with an inscribed or sculpted surface used as monument or commerative tablet] stele with seven kanji characters on it. Above the photograph appears the title/translation: "a monument of water melon sugar."
I was told this [caption] was written by Brautigan, after his friends showed him the stele and told him the stele commemorated the sweetness of watermelons.
Keith Abbott. Email to John F. Barber, 11 May 2002.
Zangari, Michael. "Author Brautigan Is Gilded As Counterculture Hero." Daily Nebraskan 17 November 1980: 10.
An article about Brautigan's appearance in Lincoln, Nebraska, to promote The Tokyo-Montana Express. Includes a photograph by Mark Billingsley of Brautigan signing books at Nebraska Bookstore.
A note on Zangari's website adds further detail to his meeting with Brautigan.
The evening I spent with Richard Brautigan was by far the most important encounter of my life as a journalist and writer. Most of the evening was off the record. We went drinking at a local bar. I'd never seen anyone drink like that before. He downed tumbler after tumbler of Jack Daniels and never got drunk. He said he had an expense account with his publisher that paid for them. I had to leave at midnight to go to the radio station where I worked for my midnight show. Brautigan asked if he could go along. I thought he'd go on the air. But he did not want to. We just played music and talked. He spent half the night down at the studio. He sensed I needed something as a novelist, and gave me the best advice of my life. He said "Any success in the market place is luck. If you're not enjoying what you're doing, don't do it."