Saturday, May 04, 2013

The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan

The Times Literary Supplement takes a look.

From the piece...

Without the hippies, Brautigan struggled to accomplish “the dewhimsicalizing of his literary reputation”. An attempt to write five genre novels in five years didn’t help, generating only his laziest books, which even Hjortsberg quickly passes over. “Students, always his fan base before, no longer seemed to know who he was.” He experienced a steep drop in income, exacerbated by his relentless drinking and frequent stays in Tokyo, “the erotic capital of planet Earth”. He reacted to all criticism defensively or with self-aggrandizing claims: “There are those who say ‘Richard Brautigan sits down in an hour and a half and writes his annual bestseller’ . . . [but] I work very, very hard to make things appear very, very simple”. Guns assumed a central, almost fetishistic significance, alienating everyone except perhaps the director Sam Peckinpah, with whom Brautigan shot at alley cats from a hotel window. A less enthused filmmaker was Wim Wenders, who once had to “literally escape” Brautigan, who was “aiming at him, drunk and confused”. He became every host’s nightmare: “One, he brought uninvited guests. Two, he was already drunk. Three, he had a .357 Magnum with him”. 

Faced with the financial fallout from a dwindling audience, and socially isolated by alcoholism, Brautigan abandoned Montana and withdrew to an “ultragloomy” house in Bolinas. There he seems to have perfected his loneliness: “Richard was ready to die”.

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