Monday, May 28, 2012

Twenty-eight years after the passing of United States fiction writer Richard Brautigan (1935-1984) comes William Hjortsberg's whopping 852 page biography, inside of which can be found a quote from one of Brautigan's early editors, Lawrence Ferlinghetti (b. 1919), who published early sections of Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America (1967) in his City Lights Journal.

Here is what Ferlinghetti said in the mid-1980s after Brautigan's death:

"As an editor, I always kept waiting for Richard to grow up as a writer. Essentially he had a naif style, a style based on a childlike perception of the world. The hippie cult was itself a childlike movement. I guess Richard was all the novelist the hippies needed. It was a nonliterate age."

Hmmm, yes, well -- "grow up" into what? Long form narrators like Thomas Berger (b. 1924) and Thomas McGuane (b. 1939)?

To me, Brautigan was essentially a stylist, a poet, and books like Trout Fishing and my favorite, In Watermelon Sugar (1968), though prose works, appeal to the poetic sensibility.

I think the best response to Ferlinghetti can be found in the pages of In Watermelon Sugar, where that which looms largest is, in fact, the narrator's refusal to "grow up" as others, like Ferlinghetti, expected him to.

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