Brautigan > Nonfiction

Although known as a fiction writer, Richard Brautigan also wrote essays, reviews, and promotional blurbs for works by his friends. His letters and papers are collected in various places. Use the menu tabs below to learn more.

          

Essays

Publication information about Richard Brautigan's non-fiction essays.
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"The Overland Journey of Joseph Francl and the Eternal Sleep of His Wife Antonia in Crete, Nebraska"
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. William P. Wreden, [16 Dec.] 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
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

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. READ this essay.

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.



"Old Lady"
Old Lady

The San Francisco Poets. Edited by David Meltzer. Ballantine Books, 1971, pp. 293-294.
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The section devoted to Brautigan featured the essay, "Old Lady," in which Brautigan discussed writing poetry. 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."



"The Silence of Flooded Houses"
The Silence of Flooded Houses

The Beatles' Illustrated Lyrics. Dell, 1975.
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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 88).

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
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.
Nobody came.
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt from
his hands as he walks from the grave.
No-one was saved.

"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.

"Some of the songs in this book are like the silence of flooded houses.

"This is all I have to say.

Richard Brautigan
Pine Creek, Montana
October 11, 1974"



"Owls"
Owls

The CoEvolution Quarterly [Sausalito, California], no. 9, Spring Mar. 20, 1976, p. 23.
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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
here.

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.

Reprinted
Brautigan's essay and others were collected and reprinted in Space Colonies (Whole Earth Catalog and Penguin Books; ISBN 10: 0140048057) in 1977.
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"Farewell, Uncle Edward, and All the Uncle Edwards"
Farewell, Uncle Edward, and All the Uncle Edwards

June 30th, June 30th, Delacorte Press/Seymore Lawrence, 1978

This essay forms the introduction to Brautigan's collection of poems,
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