“We all have roles in history. Mine is clouds.” –Revenge of the Lawn
Richard Brautigan (January 30, 1934 – October 25, 1984) was a 20th century American poet, short-story writer, and novelist. A prolific writer throughout his life, publishing ten novels, two collections of short stories, and four books of poetry. Brautigan is best known for his novels Trout Fishing in America (1967), The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western (1974), and In Watermelon Sugar (1968).
His writing employs surrealism, ironic metaphor, and elements of magical realism with an emphasis on working-class, pastoral, and environmental themes. Brautigan’s writing, with its compressed and straightforward syntax, cuts to the point and is distinctly illustrative, cultivating vivid imagery out of juxtaposition and metaphor. This decisive visual style has created new readership with each decade, particularly among young people. Brautigan’s work has been published internationally and in the United States, throughout Europe, Japan, and now China. Many of his works are now considered cult-classics.
Born in Tacoma, Washington into working class poverty, growing up in Eugene, Oregon, Richard Brautigan forged a life and identity in the landscape of the Pacific Northwest. He began writing poetry as a teenager and began to publish in the local papers. At the age of 20, he spent three months in the Salem Insane Asylum, where he received shock treatments. Shortly after his release, he arrived in San Francisco and became part of the avant guard literary scene. Influenced early on by Jack Spicer, he was friends with many luminaries of the time: Micheal McClure, Joanne Kyger, Gary Snyder, Peter Coyote, Bruce Conner, and Ismael Reed. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, in City Lights Journal, published the first chapters of Trout Fishing in America. Although he did not consider himself a Beat or a hippie, Brautigan did become a Digger.
He married Virginia Alder in 1958, and they had a daughter, Ianthe, born in San Francisco in 1960. They divorced in 1970. He remarried again to Akiko Yoshimura (m. 1977-1980).
In the mid seventies, Brautigan bought a ranch in Montana and split his time between San Francisco, Bolinas and eventually Tokyo, Japan. During this time, he became part of an artistic community in Montana with Tom McGuane, Portia Crocket, Jim Harrison, Russel Chatman, and the actors Harry Dean Stanton, Warren Oats, Peter Fonda, Jeff Bridges and others.
Throughout the early eighties, he continued to travel, speak, and publish internationally. He committed suicide in Bolinas, California on October 25, 1984.
His writing is his legacy. Richard Brautigan influenced a great many writers in the USA and abroad. He continues to be discovered by new readers all over the world. Click here for a list of publications.