Richard Brautigan

Richard Brautigan is one of the most unusual writers you’ll come across. His style has been described as naive, and he’s certainly surreal, humorous and dark in places. I love his novels, short stories and poetry. He has a unique style, with very short chapters, sometimes of only a couple of sentences. His prose reads like poetry, with clever metaphors.

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I discovered him by chance while working at Marylebone public library in Westminster, London in the early 1970s. I was drawn to the unusual title and the cover photo of ‘The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966’. The story is set in a strange library, where the books on the shelves are brought in by the people that wrote them. It reminds me a little of e-publishing, now that I think of it. There’s a romance between the shy librarian and a stunningly beautiful poet. Brautigan poses with a singer called Victoria Damalgoski in the cover photo – she was a folk singer who made a couple of albums but has since disappeared. She’s a dead ringer for Vida in the story.

Brautigan’s writing makes you think, and some of his observations are wistful and chillingly accurate. One of my favourite works is ‘The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western’, which is violent, sexy and funny. It has one of the most amusing entities in fiction. The characters of the cowboy gunmen must surely have influenced Patrick deWitt in his writing of ‘The Sister Brothers’.

Sadly, Brautigan’s sales and fame waned in the late seventies and eighties. He fell prey to various mental maladies including depression and descended into alcoholism. Long obsessed with suicide, he took his own life in 1984. I miss him.

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