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Biography

Background

Richard Gary 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).

Born in Tacoma, Washington, Brautigan grew up in Washington and Oregon during the bleakness of the Great Depression and World War II. He moved to San Francisco in 1956, determined to be a writer, and indeed rose to international prominence. Brautigan died by suicide in late September 1984.

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.

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.

Today, writers, readers, artists, and musicians find inspiration in the works of Richard Brautigan. This interest is international, with his works translated into more than twenty languages. There is also a large collector and rare book market for Brautigan's long out-of-print books, as well as specialty publications of his work.

Chronology

1930s-1940s

Brautigan was born in Tacoma, Washington, on 30 January 1935 and grew up in the American Northwest. As an adult he was mysterious about his family history, sometimes saying he had none, sometimes weaving it into his writing in imaginative ways.

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1950s

By 1956, Brautigan had settled in San Francisco, California. There he sought to establish himself as a writer, was known for handing out his poetry on street corners, and often participated in the Monday night "Blabbermouth Night" readings at The Place, 1546 Grant Avenue, a popular gathering spot for artists and poets opened by painter and abstract photographer Leo Krikorian and Knute Stiles in 1953 and owned and operated by Krikorian until the bar closed in 1960. Blabbermouth Night was an extemporaneous public speaking event where artists, poets, and others could make a statement or entertain in hopes of winning the night's prize: a bottle of champagne. Each speaker mounted the loft above the room, the blabberbox, where a yellow soapbox served as the lectern.

Online Resources

Leo Krikorian at the Black Mountain College Project website

The Place, an historical essay at the Foundsf website

Brautigan's first published "book" was The Return of the Rivers (1957), a single poem, followed by two collections of poetry: The Galilee Hitch-Hiker (1958), Lay the Marble Tea (1959).

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1960s

Although he knew 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. His first novel, A Confederate General from Big Sur (1964), met with no success when first published. 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.

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1970s

Brautigan vowed not to write sequels to Trout Fishing in America, however, and in subsequent novels experimented with different literary genres: The Abortion: An Historical Romance (1971), The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western (1974), Willard and His Bowling Trophies: A Perverse Mystery (1975), Sombrero Fallout: A Japanese Novel (1976), and Dreaming of Babylon: A Detective Novel 1942 (1977). Collections of poetry published during this decade included Rommel Drives On Deep into Egypt (1970), Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork (1976), and June 30th, June 30th (1978). Brautigan also published a collection of stories: Revenge of the Lawn (1971).

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1980s

General dismissal by literary critics reversed Brautigan's initial literary success and his popularity waned throughout the 1980s. Brautigan published two novels: The Tokyo-Montana Express (1980) and So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away (1982). He remained popular in Japan, however, and Brautigan visited there for extended periods.

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.

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Current Day

Overall, Brautigan is remembered for his detached, anonymous first person point of view, autobiographical prose style, and episodic narrative structure full of unconventional but vivid images powered by imagination and metaphor. For example, Trout Fishing in America can be said to represent the novel itself being written by Brautigan, a character in the novel, a place, an outdoor sport, a religion, a state of mind, and a symbol of the American pastoral ideal lost to commercialism, environmental degradation, and social decay.

His final novel, An Unfortunate Woman (2000), was published post-humously, and received little notice from the reading public. Despite lack of sustained critical acclaim, however, Brautigan's work is currently translated into more than twenty languages, and he maintains strong interest among readers around the world attracted to his unique use of language and autobiographical style.

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Brautigan Family Genealogy

The surname Brautigan orginates from the German Bräutigam, itself derived from the Middle High German bruitegome, or "bridegroom."

Information and resources for Brautigan's immediate family is provided below.

Maternal great (4x) grandparents Paternal great (4x) grandparents

SARAH SULLENS
Born: circa 1767, Halifax County, Virginia
Died: ***?***
Father: Nathan Sullens
Mother: Winifred Mary May

WILLIAM ASHLOCK
Born: 1767
Died: circa 1818
Father: Richard Ashlock
Mother: ***?***

Married: ***?***

Lineage Child: Rebecca Ashlock

See Descendents of Richard Ashlock

No information

Maternal great (3x) grandparents Paternal great (3x) grandparents

REBECCA ASHLOCK
Born: 19 January 1792
Died: 25 March 1837, Anderson County, Tennessee

JOHN VANDERGRIFF
Born: 1790
Died:

Married: 1821, Anderson County, Tennessee

Lineage Child: Meredith "Merriday" Ashlock
Possibly born out of wedlock, prior to Rebecca's marriage to John Vandergriff. See above.

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No information

Maternal great (2x) grandparents Paternal great (2x) grandparents

ELIZABETH ANN WEAVER (Martin)
Born: 20 November 1825, Kentucky(?)
Died: 1894, McKinney, Collin County, Texas

MEREDITH "MERRIDAY" ASHLOCK
Born: 19 October 1811, Anderson County, Tennessee
Died: 12 December 1896, McKinney, Collin County, Texas

Married: 7 November 1853, McKinney, Collin County, Texas

Lineage child: Madora Lenora Ashlock

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ANN MAHONEY
Born: ***?***, Ireland(?)
Died: ***?***

RICHARD KINGSTON
Born: ***?***, Ireland(?)
Died: ***?***

Married: ***?***

Lineage child: George Henry Kingston

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Maternal great grandparents Paternal great grandparents

MADORA LENORA ASHLOCK (Ashlock)
Born: 20 April 1856, McKinney, Collin County, Texas
Died: 16 July 1931, Tacoma, Washington

WILLIAM LEE ASHLOCK
Born: 28 May 1850, Greene County, Illinois
Died: Post 1921(?), Madison, Illinois(?)
Father: Jesse Ashlock (brother to Meredith "Merriday" Ashlock)
Born: 20 August 1813, Anderson County, Tennessee
Died: 10 December 1853
Mother: Nancy Broyles
Born: 24 July 1820
Married: 7 April 1840, Greene County, Illinois

Married: 9 January 1873, McKinney, Collin County, Texas
Separated: 1 June 1907

Lineage child: Elizabeth "Bessie" Cordelia Ashlock

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HANORA HAYES
Born: May 1855, Ireland
Died: 19 October, Chehalis, Lewis County, Washington

GEORGE HENRY KINGSTON
Born: 16 February 1839, Ireland
Died: 11 December 1912, Winlock, Lewis County, Washington

Married: 1875(?) (Based on 1900 U. S. Census noting them married for 25 years)

Lineage child: Rebecca Lilian Kingston

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Maternal grandparents Paternal grandparents

ELIZABETH "BESSIE" CORDELIA ASHLOCK (Kehoe) (Dixon)
Born: 30 September 1881, St. Louis (Woodville?), Missouri
Died: 19 April 1950, Portland, Oregon, Good Samaritan Hospital, age 68

MICHAEL JOSEPH KEHOE
Born: 1 May 1847, Montreal, Canada
Died: 11 July 1911

Married(1): 9 April 1908, St. Charles County, Missouri

Lineage child: Lulu Mary Kehoe

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REBECCA LILIAN KINGSTON (Brautigan) (Morisette)
Born: March 1887, Oakland, California
Died: 16 June 1957, Tacoma, Washington

FREDERIC "FRITZ" BRAUTIGAM
Born: 12 January 1878, Hirschberg, Westfalen, Prussia
Died: 1 July 1910, Chehalis, Washington

Married: 14 June 1906, Lewis County, Washington

Lineage child: Bernard Frederick Brautigan

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Richard Brautigan's parents Richard Gary Brautigan

LULU MARY KEHOE (Brautigan) (Titland) (Porterfield) (Folston)
Born: 7 April 1911, St. Louis, Missouri
Died: 24 September 2005, Eugene, Oregon

BERNARD FREDERICK BRAUTIGAN
Born: 29 July 1908, Winlock, Washington
Died: 27 May 1994, Tacoma, Washington

Married(1): 18 July 1927, Pierce County, Tacoma, Washington

Lineage child: Richard Gary Brautigan

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VIRGINIA "GINNY" DIONNE ALDER (Aste)
Born: 11 July 1934, Rexburg, Idaho
Died: Still living

RICHARD GARY BRAUTIGAN
Born: 30 January 1935, Tacoma, Washington
Died: 14 September(?) 1984, Bolinas, California

Married(1): 8 June 1957, Reno, Nevada
Separated(1): 24 December 1962, San Francisco, California
Divorced(1): 27 July 1970, San Francisco, California

Lineage child: Ianthe Elizabeth Brautigan

Marriage(2): Akiko Nishizawa Yoshimura, 1 December 1977, Richmond, California
Separated(2): 4(?) December 1979, San Francisco, California
Divorced(2): 12 November 1980, San Francsico, California

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Brautigan Astrology Chart

According to his Birth Certificate, Richard Gary Brautigan was born Wednesday, 30 January 1935, 12:30 AM, Pacific Time, in Tacoma, Washington

This astrology chart, dated 4 March 1968 in Brautigan's handwriting, was prepared by a fan and sent to Brautigan.