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 published A Confederate General from Big Sur in 1964. When this work sold poorly, Grove had second thoughts about handling a second book. Allen acted on Brautigan’s behalf again by publishing Trout Fishing in America himself in 1967, and Brautigan’s literary career quickly started to take shape. The “love generation” soon began to think it heard its own voice in the thoughtful, eccentric characters that peopled Brautigan’s novels; Brautigan became a cult writer to a social...
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