first strawberry

... learns to read

12 strawberries

Memory was simply painful. The art
created from memory a joy.


Keith Abbott

Richard Brautigan is born on January 30th, 1935 in Tacoma, Washington. He grows up as a Welfare Kid and must get along without his father. His different stepfathers have rather strange methods of education: from simple threshing to the attempt to break the kid's arm.

Frequent moves, a life in dwellings assigned by the authorities and a forgetful mother tell the story of an outsider kid.

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Between the ages of six and nine Brautigan was abandoned three times. One afternoon he returned from school and found his mother and sister were gone with all their goods. He stayed in the empty house for week. Some neighbors tracked down his mother, collected bus fare, and sent him back.

Keith Abbott, Downstream from trout fishing in America, p. 101

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How should this kid become a writer? The first hard step for Richard Brautigan is learning to read.

I always had trouble with school, especially the first grade. I became the tallest kid in the first grade by flunking it a couple of times. ...

Reading was a particular problem for me. It did not make any sense at all. ...

I taught myself to read by figuring out what store signs and food products were saying. I would walk very slowly down the street and puzzle out SAM'S SHOE REPAIR, GOOD FOOD CAFE, AL'S SMOKE SHOP, FAST AND CLEAN LAUNDRY ...

Sometimes I would go to a grocery store to study English. I would walk up and down the aisles reading the labels off cans. There were pictures on the cans which helped a lot. ... I would hang around the canned fruit section and learn peaches, cherries, plums, pears, oranges and pineapple. ...

The most difficulty I had in learning my fruits was of course fruit cocktail.

From: Richard Brautigan, The Tokyo-Montana Express, short story "Farewell to the First Grade and Hello to the National Enquirer"

According to Keith Abbott Richard Brautigan situation becomes better at the age of twelve. His mother marries again and this man takes Richard fishing. Nobody foresees the consequences. Also his relation to school becomes that of a normal, bright child who understands the importance of school for his life.


I remember all those thousands of hours
that I spent in grade school watching the clock,
waiting for recess or lunch or to go home.
Waiting: for anything but school.
My teachers could easily have ridden with Jesse James
for all the time they stole from me.

From: Richard Brautigan, Rommel Drives on Deep into Egypt

Being able to read, that's for a coming writer the first part of the way, but something is lacking, something very important ...

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all berries
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