Although known as a fiction writer, Brautigan also wrote a number of short reviews and promotional blurbs for works by his friends as well as five short essays. Information and resources are provided below.
"Owls." The CoEvolution Quarterly
[Sausalito, California] (9) Spring March 20, 1976: 23.
Brautigan's essay appeared with others commenting on Gerard O'Neill's idea of Space Colonies. Brautigan spoke against space colonization and for ecology.
The full text of the essay reads
Hoot! Hoot! Hoot! Hoot! I think for the time being, the remaining
years of this century, we should limit our exploration
of outer space and concentrate our creative energy and resources on
taking care of our mother planet Earth and what lives
Owls hoot in the early Montana evening when the
air is very still and floats the scent of pine trees.
I like this planet.
It's my home and I think it needs our attention
and our love.
Let the stars wait a little while longer.
They are good at it.
We'll join them soon enough.
We'll be there.
This issue of The CoEvolution Quarterly
also included commentary by Wendell Berry, Ken Kesey, Buckminister Fuller, Astronaut Russell Schweickart, John Todd, Joni Mitchell, and California Governor Jerry Brown.
Brautigan's essay and others were collected and reprinted in Space Colonies
(Whole Earth Catalog and Penguin Books; ISBN 0140048057) in 1977.
"The Silence of Flooded Houses." The Beatles' Illustrated Lyrics. New York: Dell, 1975.
Brautigan wrote the introduction to this collection of lyrics and over 100 photographs. Keith Abbott said this essay was a good example of Brautigan's inability to write journalism. For this assignment, like others, Abbot said Brautigan "spun out short, metaphorical fantasies" more dependent on his imagination, fueled by his friends and activities, for ideas than his ability to report on some event (Keith Abbott
The full text of the introduction reads
Earlier this year here in Montana the Yellowstone River was flooding down below the Carter Bridge. The river kept rising day after day until it was flowing through houses. They became like islands in the river and there was a strange awkward loneliness to them because these were places where people had been living (laughing, crying, love and death) only a few days before and now they were just part of the Yellowstone River.
Every time I passed by those houses on my way into town, I would get a very sad feeling and some words would come to mind. They were always the same words, "The silence of flooded houses." They repeated themselves over and over again. I soon accepted them as part of the way into town.
I'll use those words for something, someday, I would think afterwards, but I didn't know what that something would be or when that day would come.
Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the
One could say a million things about these songs. Your could go on for years talking about the Beatles. You could chop down a whole forest to make space for the pages.
church where the wedding has been,
lives in a dream.
Waits at the window, wearing the face
that she keeps in a jar by the door,
Who is it for?
Father McKenzie, writing the words of a
sermon that no-one will hear,
No-one comes near.
Look at him working, darning his socks
in the night when there's nobody there,
What does he care?
Eleanor Rigby died in the church as was
buried along with her name.
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt from
his hands as he walks from the grave.
No-one was saved.
Some of the songs in this book are like the silence of flooded houses.
This is all I have to say.
Pine Creek, Montana
October 11, 1974
. The San Francisco Poets
. Ed. David Meltzer. New York: Ballantine Books, 1971. 293-294.
The full text of this essay reads
I love writing poetry but it's taken time, like a difficult courtship that leads to a good marriage, for us to get to know each other. I wrote poetry for seven years to learn how to write a sentence because I really wanted to write novels and I figured that I couldn't write a novel until I could write a sentence. I used poetry as a lover but I never made her my old lady.
One day when I was twenty-five years old, I looked down and realized that I could write a sentence. Let's try one of those classic good-bye lines, "I don't think we should see so much of each other any more because I think we're getting a little too serious," which really meant that I wrote my first novel Trout Fishing in America and followed it with three other novels.
I pretty much stopped seeing poetry for the next six years until I was thirty-one or the autumn of 1966. Then I started going out with poetry again, but this time I knew how to write a sentence, so everything was different and poetry became my old lady. God, what a beautiful feeling that was!
I tried to write poetry that would get at some of the hard things in my life that needed talking about but those things you can only tell your old lady.
Also included six poems from Rommel Drives On Deep into Egypt
- "Jules Verne Zucchini"
- "Propelled by Portals Whose Only Shame"
- "Donner Party"
- "In Her Sweetness Where She Folds My Wounds"
- "The Elbow of a Dead Duck"
- "As the Bruises Fade, the Lightning Aches"
and a checklist bibliography of Brautigan's works prepared by himself (page 304-305).
"The Overland Journey of Joseph Francl and the Eternal Sleep of His Wife Antonia in Crete, Nebraska." The Overland Journey of Joseph Francl: The First Bohemian to Cross the Plains to the California Gold Fields.
San Francisco: William P. Wreden, [16 December] 1968.
Limited edition of 540 copies of which 500 were offered for sale.
55 pages; 7.25" x 10"
Bound in decorative paper boards with a paper spine label; plain white wrapper
A reprint of Francl's diary kept during his travels from Wisconsin to California. First published serially in 1928. Brautigan's essay serves as the introduction, and was written on the invitation of Wreden, a San Francisco rare books and manuscripts dealer. The essay was included in The Tokyo-Montana Express
the full text of this introduction.
Covers and interior pages illustrated with stylized line drawings by Berkeley, California, film-maker and artist, Patricia Oberhaus
Typographic design by Jack Werner Stauffacher of Greenwood Press, San Francisco
Binding by Schuberth Bookbindery
Illustrated prospectus laid in
The publication announcement, sent out by William P. Wreden, included an illustration of Joseph Francl by Oberhaus and noted the introduction by Richard Brautigan.
Richard Brautigan is a novelist-poet living in San Francisco. His novels include A Confederate General from Big Sur and Trout Fishing in America. In the person of Joseph, Francl, freely, gently, in a new manner, he inquires after the phenomena of the overland pioneer.
A separate invitation to a publication party also mentioned Brautigan.
A copy inscribed to Price Dunn
This copy is for Price
January 30, 1969
From the collection of Gregory Miller. Used by permission.
"At Sea" Wild Dog
(18) 17 July 1965: 18-19.
Published at 39 Downey Street, San Francisco, California
Edited by Joanne Kyger
Contributing Editor Edward Dorn
The full text of the review reads:
This is a review of Michael McClure's GHOST TANTRAS and it begins with Michael standing in front of a full length mirror in his house on Downey Street, drawing GHOST TANTRAS from his back pocket as if it were a pistol made from language and fur, and he fires the pistol silently into the mirror and then replaces it in his back pocket.
Of this review, McClure said,
Michael is wearing a pair of black Levi's and black boots that are fond of his feet and wears a white shirt with gentle stripes. The shirt is practically anonymous and pulls gently toward a distant past where the sun is shining and the wind is blowing down the street. One can almost hear a voice say, "Hell, I think I'll go and take a look around."
The book is an advance copy. Soon all the rest will come by boat from London. They are at sea now. The book is quite handsome with Michael on the cover wearing a lion mask. The mask has joined Michael's face. It is difficult to tell where the lion begins and Michael stops.
Michael draws the book again and bends slightly forward to send its reflection traveling back from the mirror. He stands up again, relaxes and puts the book back into his pants pocket. He exhales a deep breath.
He is not drawing the book rapidly. He's not trying for speed, but instead for accuracy, for grace of motion: the sign of the professional. He draws the book in onefullmotion and the returns it to his back pocket.
He has three fingers on the left side of the cover (which is Michael wearing a lion mask) and his thumb on the right side of the cover and his index finger under the cover.
It is a lazy day and half-children are playing in the street below. Their voices travel up to us like a piano with half its keys missing. This is the kind of piano that would have startled Mozart. He would have peeked around the corner.
[Brautigan] reviewed my Beast Language poems, Ghost Tantras, in a mimeo magazine of the day called (if memory has it right) Wild Dog Review. It was one of the few reviews that book ever had. (Michael McClure 49)
This issue of Wild Dog
also featured two poems by Brautigan: "The Buses"
and "Period Piece."
Also included work by Gino Clays, Harold Dull, Robert Duncan ("The Gift of Tongues or The Imagination"), Ken Irby, Ron Loewinsohn, Gilbert Sorrentino, Drew Wagnon, and Lewis Warsh.
A mimeograph magazine, Wild Dog
published a total of twenty-one issues from 1963-1966. The magazine was started by Edward Dorn in April 1963 in Pocatello, Idaho. It then moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, and from there to San Francisco, California, where it ended with Volume 3, Number 21 in March 1966.
Brautigan supported the publication efforts of his friends and wrote promotional blurbs for several. But, according to Keith Abbott, Brautigan's promotional blurbs did not always guarantee success.
By 1974, after having provided some blurbs for friends' books which did not do well commercially, [Brautigan] joked that "a blurb from me is the kiss of death." (Abbott 76)
On the other hand,
a review from Brautigan could help. William J. Hjortsberg
tells of a negative review his novel Falling Angel
received in England under the bold headline "Blurb Is Beautiful."
Feedback from William Hjortsberg
The gist of the review was that the only decent bit of writing in the entire book was Richard Brautigan's blurb on the dust jacket.
Brautigan's promotional blurb
for Hjortsberg's novel Falling Angel
One of America's finest novelists.
—. Getting Off
. New York: G. P. Dutton, 1971.
In microscopically-accurate detail Getting Off searches through the emotional odds and ends of an American marriage that has just turned into a pile of junk. This is a very brave book about love.
and Brautigan were good, long-time friends.
I wish to thank Edward Dorn for taking me along on this poem. It was a fine trip with some splendid scenery.
A long narrative poem by Edward Dorn
, published originally in parts. Collects Gunslinger Book I
(Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1968), Gunslinger Book II
(Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1969), The Cycle
(West Newbury, MA: Frontier Press, 1971), and Gunslinger Book III
(West Newbury, MA: Frontier Press, 1972).
First edtion reportedly consisted of 4,500 paper copies, 450 cloth, and 50 numbered and signed copies.
Farmer is a sensitive, powerful love story about a man on the cutting edge of life. The book deals with his attempt to figure out who he is, how he got there, and the women who confuse and haunt him. The characters are so real that often my eyes filled up with tears for their plight, their human helplessness.
was Harrison's third novel, preceding his classic Legends of the Fall
. Brautigan's review on the dustjacket was accompanied by others from Thomas McGuane and John D. MacDonald.
In his memoir, Off to the Side: A Memoir
(New York: Atlantic Monthly, 2002. 59, 111, 202, 301), Harrison notes that Brautigan "loaned me enough money later to write my novel Farmer
Of Brautigan's suicide in 1984, Harrison says,
The half-dozen suicides I've known seemed to have nothing compensatory to balance the life of the mind. I mean writer suicides. With my good friend Richard Brautigan there was the chicken-and-the-egg question of whether he was a writer who became a suicide, or a suicide who became a writer. We actually discussed the matter while trout fishing in Montana and he said he would never commit suicide as long as he could still write and his lovely daughter Ianthe depended on him. The news was terrifying but somewhat expected. (59)
Notes showing singer Bing Crosby the film Tarpon
by Guy de la Valdéne
a fly-fishing tarpon movie Guy had made starring a scruffy bunch of hippies, including Richard Brautigan, Jimmy Buffett, Tom McGuane, and myself, all successfully misbehaving in Key West though we did fish every single day. (110-111)
Says writers sometimes
become famous for basically sociological reasons quite beyond their own control. I saw the same thing happen to [Jack] Kerouac, also my friend Richard Brautigan (who loaned me enough money later to write my novel Farmer), and more recently to Jay MacInerney. The media at large seizes these people to exhaustion and it is difficult to survive the misunderstanding of the actual work. (202)
Notes meeting Peter Lewis "twenty-five years ago when he was trying to help my friend Richard Brautigan survive" (301).
Anonymous. "Off To the Side: A Memoir." Publishers Weekly
26 Aug. 2002: 51.
Says Harrison recounts fishing with Brautigan.
Morash, Gordon. "Off To the Side: A Memoir." Globe & Mail
[Toronto, Canada] 16 Nov. 2002: ***?***.
Says Harrison discusses his relationship with Brautigan and other friends.
A spellbinding adventure in suspense that roller coasters the reader toward an ending that is the equivalent of hitting a brick wall at 90 m.p.h. This is a book that you don't walk away from.
As far as I know the blurb is pure Brautigan. He sent it directly to my publisher, without showing it to me first, as a little surprise. Not that I object to vanity blurbs or reviews. Walt Whitman wrote his own reviews (under a pseudonym) for Leaves of Grass. Ditto, McGuane and Harrison for a review of The Sporting Club they teamed-up on for the Detroit Free Press. (That one was meant to be a parody of a gushing review, I believe.)
To me, the style is pure Brautigan. Using "roller coaster" as verb. Following a long involved sentence with one that is short and abrupt. Richard would call that "hitting the nail on the head."
was nominated for the Best First Mystery Novel by the Mystery Writers of America in 1978. William R. Hjortsberg's
novel was the basis for the 1987 film "Angel Heart" starring Mickey Rourke, Robert DeNiro, and Lisa Bonet.
McClure, Michael. The Adept. New York: Delacorte Press, 1971.
The Adept is a beautifully written philosophical thriller.
, a San Francisco poet and playwright, achieved fame in the 1960s when productions of his play "The Beard" were routinely raided by the police on obscenity charges. He and Brautigan were good friends.
San Francisco Records, 1971
Last week I had dinner at Victoria's house and listened to this album. It was really a good dinner: something Italian. Victoria is a fantastic cook.
I've had dinner at her house three or four times and the food has always been that good. Once there was a paella and another time roast lamb, I think. This was last year. A person can't keep track of everything they've eaten, but one remembers the feeling.
Anyway, after dinner, I listened to this album and I think Victoria sings as well as she cooks.
An album of vocal music by Victoria Domalgoski, the woman who appeared with Brautigan on the cover of The Abortion
. The record album was packaged in a fold-out sleeve. Brautigan's ten-line note of appreciation appeared on the inside front cover.
This was Victoria's second record album. Her first, titled Victoria: Secret of the Bloom
, was issued by San Francisco Records in 1970, and was produced by David Rubinson with Fred Catero for Bill Graham's Fillmore Corporation. Catalog # SD 201.