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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