Trivial times demand trivial writers

Richard Brautigan was a big deal writer in the 1960s. He sold a lot of books, had a bunch of lovers and, according to a NYT review, got to hang out, get drunk and shoot guns with writers like Jim Harrison and Thomas McGuane. I had forgotten the guy even existed until I was reminded by the appearance of surely the definitive biography on this poster child for 1960s whimsy. Jubilee Hitchhiker, by William Hjortsberg, is 852 pages long. As I recall, Brautigan’s books had the decency to be short, short enough that I usually was able to finish one before the excessive sweetness became intolerable. Smoking dope made them a lot better.

This quote from his Trout Fishing in America, gives an idea of the level of whimsy the guy practiced: “He created his own Kool Aid reality and was able to illuminate himself by it.” I would quote more, but you would hate me for it. The Times review includes a nasty but insightful summing up of Brautigan’s work from poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. “I guess Richard was all the novelist the hippies needed. It was a non-literate age.”

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One Response to Trivial times demand trivial writers

  1. Phil Stephens says:

    On the plus side, few book titles are more compelling than [Brautigan’s] “Rommel Drives Deep Into Egypt”. It ranks right up there with Willa Cather’s “Death Comes To The Archbishop”.
    But you are absolutely right about Brautigan’s “excessive sweetness”. I read a short story of his in which a guy [him presumably] and his wife were standing waist-deep in a pond of scummy water…and semen [his own, presumably] was swirling around and floating to the surface…
    And Brautigan was trying to sell the reader on the idea that this was a desirable occurrence! He should’ve been forced to drink his own pond water.

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