Wednesday’s Bookmobile Heads “In Watermelon Sugar!” The Lyrical Brilliance Of Richard Brautigan!

“In watermelon sugar the deeds were done and done again as my life is done in watermelon sugar.”

This is the opening line from my Wednesday Bookmobile, from the brilliant Writer and Poet Richard Brautigan:

Here is the first page of the novel.

Look at this one line again:

“Our lives we have carefully constructed from watermelon sugar and then travelled to the length of our dreams”

This lyrical wordplay is thanks to one incredible Writer…

Celebrate The Great Writing of Richard Brautigan!

If you are not familiar with Richard Brautigan, you have missed out on one of the most original, creative Authors who came from the psychedelic era of the 60’s…the late great writer W.P. Kinsella called his short stories “Brautigans” as an homage…

Here is how wikipedia describes him:

Richard Brautigan (1935-1984) was an American writer popular during the late 1960s and early 1970s and is often noted for using humor and emotion to propel a unique vision of hope and imagination throughout his body of work which includes ten books of poetry, eleven novels, one collection of short stories, and miscellaneous non-fiction pieces. His easy-to-read yet idiosyncratic prose style is seen as the best characterization of the cultural electricity prevalent in San Francisco, Brautigan’s home, during the ebbing of the Beat Generation and the emergence of the counterculture movement.

Brautigan’s best-known works include his novel, “Trout Fishing in America” (1967), his collection of poetry,”The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster” (1968), and his collection of stories, “Revenge of the Lawn” (1971).

Brautigan infused his literature with a mystical, playful quality that mirrored the “summer of love” – but there was always a tinge of darkness in his words…

“This is the age of Aquarius. The candles will go out by themselves”.

-Richard Brautigan’s reply on why he wouldn’t blow out the candles on his birthday cake.

Richard Brautigan – In His Own Voice!

Here is a video of the Author reading his own work…

Brautigan’s work includes eleven novels, ten poetry collections, and one collection of short stories, as well as four volumes of collected work, several nonfiction works, and a record album of spoken voice recordings.

Here is one poem…

“Romeo and Juliet”

“If you will die for me,
I will die for you

and our graves will
be like two lovers washing
their clothes together
in a Laundromat.

If you will bring the soap,
I will bring the bleach.”

All of the biographical material I am sharing comes from a website dedicated to keeping Brautigan’s memory alive, as he committed suicide in 1984.

His death was a shock to fans who read his work… is a definitive resource about Brautigan’s life and writings. Information about all his known work is collected, organized, presented, and preserved here, along with reviews and criticism, memoirs, tributes, and other information. A chronology of Brautigan’s life provides a context for his writings.

Although he knew the literary group know as “the Beats”, and they him, Brautigan always insisted he was not a part of their literary movement. Contemporary literary opinion supports this contention, seeing Brautigan, when his novel “Trout Fishing in America” catapulted him to international fame in 1967, as the writer best representative of the emerging counterculture.

“Mr. Brautigan submitted a book to us in 1962 called Trout Fishing In America. I gather from the reports that it was not about trout fishing.” – The Viking Press

This book captures the spirit of America at the time, through Brautigan’s unique creative lens. Aside from the huge success of “Trout Fishing”, Brautigan published four collections of poetry: “The Octopus Frontier” (1960), “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace” (1967), “The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster” (1968), and “Please Plant This Book” (1969), as well as another novel, “In Watermelon Sugar” (1968) during this decade.

In the early 70’s, Brautigan vowed not to write sequels to “Trout Fishing in America”, however, and in subsequent novels experimented with different literary genres, such as the acclaimed “The Abortion: An Historical Romance” (1971).

“This novel is about the romantic possibilities of a public library in California.”

“The Abortion” was also one of his most well-known books – a hypnotic meditation on love and life.

He had a number of books, such as “The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western” (1974), “Willard and His Bowling Trophies: A Perverse Mystery” (1975), which were clever, stylish and fun writing – all with an experimental, counter culture style…

Collections of poetry published during this decade included “Rommel Drives On Deep into Egypt” (1970). Here is the first poem from the collection.

San Francisco Chronicle headline June 26, 1942

Rommel is dead.
His army has joined the quicksand legions
of history where battle is always
a metal echo saluting a rusty shadow.
His tanks are gone.
How’s your ass?

At the time of his death, in 1984, in Bolinas, California, Brautigan was largely ignored, or worse, negated by critics and pundits who trivialized his contribution to American literature.

Throughout all is work, Brautigan is noted for his detached, anonymous first person point of view, his idiosyncratic, autobiographical, quirky, yet easy-to-read prose style and episodic narrative structure full of unconventional but vivid images powered by imagination, strange and detailed observational metaphors, humor, and satire, all presented in a seemingly simplistic, childlike manner.

You Can’t Catch Death

His daughter wrote a heartfelt book about her father and his suicide, and recently another hugely comprehensive book has been published about Brautigan’s life:

“Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan” by William Hjortsberg

Here is what Amazon has to say about this dynamic, new biography of Brautigan: “Confident and robust, “Jubilee Hitchhiker” is an comprehensive biography of late novelist and poet Richard Brautigan, author of Trout Fishing in America and A Confederate General from Big Sur, among many others. When Brautigan took his own life in September of 1984 his close friends and network of artists and writers were devastated though not entirely surprised.

Richard Brautigan

To many, Brautigan was shrouded in enigma, erratic and unpredictable in his habits and presentation. But his career was formidable, an inspiration to young writers like Hjortsberg trying to get their start. Brautigan’s career wove its way through both the Beat-influenced San Francisco Renaissance in the 1950s and the “Flower Power” hippie movement of the 1960s; while he never claimed direct artistic involvement with either period, Jubilee Hitchhiker also delves deeply into the spirited times in which he lived.”

This week’s Wednesday Bookmobile looks at an Author who captured the energy and inspiration of the 60’s, and left us with novels and poetry that is timeless…

Categories: Art, Awards, Books / Media, Memoirs, Pop Culture, Talent/Celebrities

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 replies

  1. This is a fascinating post. A lot of American authors are new to me right over here in South AFrica. We seem to get more of the UK literature.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Completely new to me, John. He sounds like a real product of the 60s, and his work looks well-worth investigating.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person


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