Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Richard Brautigan was born in Tacoma, Washington, on January 30, 1935, the son of Bernard Brautigan and Lula Mary Keho Brautigan. A series of stepfathers made Brautigan’s early life rather chaotic and unstable. He began to write while attending high school, and the Beat movement drew him to the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-1950’s. There he met Philip Whalen, with whom he shared an apartment for a period, as well as Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and most of the other poets and fiction writers who congregated in the bookstores and coffeehouses. While Brautigan is primarily remembered as an offbeat novelist, he was first published as a poet; The Return of the Rivers appeared in 1957, the same year he married Virginia Dionne Adler. The Galilee Hitch-Hiker was published in 1958, Lay the Marble Tea: Twenty-four Poems in 1959, and The Octopus Frontier in 1960, the year his daughter Ianthe was born. During this period he worked at a succession of odd jobs while writing a considerable body of poetry.
During the four years Brautigan was married to Virginia Adler, he completed two of the three books of fiction upon which his literary reputation rests and began the third. Donald Allen was instrumental in bringing two of Brautigan’s novels to the attention of an editor at Grove Press in New York, which...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
In his early novels, Richard Brautigan searches for the meaning of America. What he finds is a country debased by commercialism, shaken in its values, and haunted by loneliness. For the individual, love, humor, and the imagination can bring meaning to life.
Brautigan explored the American soul in the middle of the twentieth century; he believed gentleness and peace to be both means and end in this quest. His highly original, richly metaphoric books show him to be much more than a transitional literary figure. His finely crafted prose bears witness to his unique way of viewing the world.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Richard Brautigan was born in Tacoma, Washington, in the midst of the Great Depression. Very little is known about his early life. Although Brautigan apparently drew on his childhood experiences in his fiction, his idiosyncratic attitude toward his past made him reluctant to discuss actual details with anyone. From anecdotal fragments confided to a few persons close to him, a far less than idyllic picture emerges that includes a pattern of abandonment and mistreatment at the hands of stepfathers. Deprivation seems to have been a part of his heritage, and Brautigan would claim throughout his life that he never graduated from high school.
In 1956, Brautigan moved to San Francisco and became peripherally aligned with the Beat poets. He wrote and published several volumes of poetry, but none sold well. He also met an educated young woman, Virginia Adler, who became his first wife and the mother of Ianthe, their daughter. Adler supported the family by doing secretarial work. Problems arose when Brautigan continued his bachelor habits of haunting bars and bringing his friends home for further revels. In time, Virginia became involved with one of Brautigan’s drinking friends and ran away with him to live in Salt Lake City in 1963. Although he was devastated, Brautigan wrote one of his best novels, In Watermelon Sugar, in 1964.
Success showered on Brautigan with the publication of Trout Fishing in America in 1967. Fame and money...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Richard Gary Brautigan was born and reared in the Pacific Northwest. The son of Bernard F. Brautigan and Lula Mary Keho Brautigan, he spent his early years in Washington and Oregon. His literary career took hold when, in 1958, he moved to San Francisco, California, and began writing poetry in the company of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Robert Duncan, Philip Whalen, and Michael McClure. The company he kept led to his initial identification as a Beat poet, but Brautigan’s unique and now well-known style defied the classification.
Resisting crass commercialism and the profits linked with corporate America, Brautigan’s first books were published primarily for the benefit of his friends and acquaintances. Success finally forced him to allow a New York publication of his work in the 1960’s, however, and Grove Press published his A Confederate General from Big Sur. Shortly after his change of allegiance from Four Seasons Foundation in San Francisco to Grove Press in New York, Brautigan was invited to become poet-in-residence at Pasadena’s California Institute of Technology. Although he had never attended college, he accepted the invitation and spent the 1967 academic year at the prestigious school.
In 1957, Brautigan married Virginia Diorine Adler. They had one daughter, Ianthe, and later were divorced. In his later years, Brautigan divided his time among three places: Tokyo, San Francisco, and, when in retreat or fishing, a small town in...
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From 1967 to 1971, Richard Brautigan’s popularity was based on his association with West Coast youth movements. His books, particularly his short, fanciful novels, were viewed as expressions of a generation disillusioned with the American myth. His gentle, comic books mourned the apparent loss of the American Eden, and his stories often focus on the search for a new American pastoral utopia. Such a search, his works point out, ultimately results in despair and disillusionment. Brautigan’s works comment upon social and personal values in America, linking life and nature. An implicit belief in Brautigan’s work is that one cannot find personal happiness in a contaminated, polluted environment.
Critical views differ widely on Brautigan’s vision, some emphasizing his apocalyptic, melancholy America, others pointing to his gentle, sweet, optimistic imagery that transcends the hard, workaday world. His use of nature is often compared to that of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (1854), especially Trout Fishing in America, regarded as Brautigan’s best novel. Like Thoreau, Brautigan is considered to be an advocate of the individual conscience rather than the dictates of social laws, a theme explored in all of his early works, perhaps best demonstrated in his The Abortion: An Historical Romance, in which a couple live in a...
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Biography (The Sixties in America)
Relatively little is known of Richard Gary Brautigan’s life before his move to San Francisco in 1958 because of his infamously shy and reclusive personality. Born in Tacoma, Washington, he spent his childhood there and in Oregon and Montana. His writing reveals a troubled and poverty-stricken upbringing and a familiarity with fishing, hunting, and the outdoors, which would ultimately play an invaluable role in his work. Lay the Marble Tea: Twenty-four Poems, published in 1959, is believed to be Brautigan’s first book.
The publication of the book of poetry The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster (1968) and the novels/prose pieces A Confederate General from Big Sur (1964), Trout Fishing in America (1967), and In Watermelon Sugar (1968) established Brautigan as one of the representative writers who captured the revolutionary spirit and cultural freedom of the late 1960’s.
Although never regarded as a major or serious poet by critics, Brautigan was nevertheless hugely successful and viewed as a cult hero both nationally and abroad. His poems were often short bursts of freewriting that revealed on various levels his moods, observations, views of society, and playful sense of humor. His...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Richard Gary Brautigan was born in Tacoma, Washington, and lived his early life in the Pacific Northwest. His father abandoned the family a few months after he was born, and Brautigan’s childhood contained both poverty and abuse at the hands of a stepfather. He graduated from high school in Eugene, Oregon, but in a year had gravitated to the literary scene in San Francisco. He was a street poet in his first literary role, performing at coffeehouses and poetry clubs. Local presses published several collections of his poems in the late 1950’s, but Brautigan was definitely viewed as a regional poet. He first won fame through his novels, especially after Trout Fishing in America and A Confederate General in Big Sur were reissued by the New York publisher Delacorte at the suggestion of the writer Kurt Vonnegut. Brautigan continued to publish both novels and poetry into the 1970’s, but his popularity and his powers waned at the end of the 1960’s.
Brautigan was twice married and had a daughter with his first wife, but he suffered from alcoholism, among other troubles, and he ended his life with a handgun in the fall of 1984. The exact date is unknown because his body was not discovered until some weeks after his death. He taught at Montana State University in 1982 and traveled extensively in Japan, but he lived mostly in the San Francisco area and died in his last home in Bolinas, just up the coast from the city.
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Richard Gary Brautigan (BROWT-ih-guhn) is identified as a link between the Beat generation of the 1950’s and the counterculture movement of the 1960’s. He was born in 1935 in Tacoma, Washington. His father, Bernard Brautigan, abandoned his mother, Lula Mary Keho Brautigan, while she was pregnant with Richard. Lula Brautigan remarried at least three times, and when Richard was nine years old, his mother abandoned him and his younger sister Barbara for a short period. Brautigan began writing as a teenager, sometimes staying up all night to work on his poetry. He left home at the age of eighteen and moved to San Francisco, where he befriended writers such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Robert Duncan, and Philip Whalen, with whom he shared an apartment for a while.
In 1957, a selection of Brautigan’s poems appeared with those of three other young writers in Four New Poets, produced by Inferno Press, a small San Francisco publisher. In the following year, White Rabbit Press published The Galilee Hitch-Hiker. The booklet contains nine poems narrated by a gentle speaker who describes imaginative encounters with the French Symbolist poet Charles Baudelaire.
A swift and prolific writer, Brautigan sometimes wrote as many as ten poems a day during this period. Another small San Francisco publisher,...
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