Saturday, February 24, 2007

Calendar Series: 33rd Month / Watermelon Seeds, Alphabet and Numbers for Richard Brautigan (1988)

To listen to Richard Brautigan read from IN WATERMELON SUGAR, click here

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In 1967, during my freshman year of college, I had read TROUT FISHING IN AMERICA. That book, bought at its 1967 price of $1.95, along with IN WATERMELON SUGAR, is still on my bookshelf, one of a handful of books from that period in my life that I still own. I did read his earlier novel, A CONFEDERATE GENERAL FROM BIG SUR and read a few of his later books of poetry but didn't find there what I had found so peculiarly moving in TROUT FISHING IN AMERICA and IN WATERMELON SUGAR. 

I have never forgotten the boy he wrote about who was a "Kool-Aid wino" or what I think of as his "ode to Alcoholics Anonymous" titled "Trout Death by Port Wine" or the places he created which were called "IDEATH" and the "Forgotten Works." I was 17 years old. Richard Brautigan was "older and wiser," an imaginary older brother, much as Bob Dylan seemed to me in those years. I wanted to be as creative as they were. It has been said that there were "girls who wanted to marry a Beatle" and then there were "girls who wanted to BE a Beatle." As a 14-year-old girl, I had wanted to be a female equivalent of a "Beatle," which to me meant using creative energy in a lively and thoughtful way, although I wouldn't have had those words for that longing back then. 

In September of 1984, Richard Brautigan, after suffering from years of alcoholism and depression, shot himself in the head. His body was found a month later at his home in Bolinas, California. I had not thought about him in years and was saddened but not completely surprised at his suicide. His daughter, Ianthe Brautigan, wrote lovingly of her father in You Can't Catch Death, published in May of 2000. 

As a tribute to Richard Brautigan, one of his friends told this story

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There is a poem by Richard Brautigan set into the pavement in San Francisco at Folsom Street and Embarcadero.

In 1989, not long after I painted "Watermelon Seeds, Alphabet and Numbers for Richard Brautigan," a friend of Richard Brautigan, Keith Abbott, published a book of his memories of Richard Brautigan, which he titled, DOWNSTREAM FROM TROUTFISHING IN AMERICA. Keith Abbott read from his book at our local independent bookstore. After the reading, I thanked him for his book about Richard Brautigan and gave him a photo of my painting tribute to Richard Brautigan. He took it and thanked me politely.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for notes on RB, always good to keep his memory alive. To keep him and the stories alive is the chance once again for someone to find those stories, to slip a used copy to some kid who never found any surprises in his/her reading, yes. I worked on a series of poems last year about a man and a woman who connect through Brautigan (loosely). The series has gone nowhere, still I did go to the city book to find his old address here and imagine those streets and "witches" from the likes of "1692 Cotton Mather Newsreel." Thanks for the notes and art and reminder.