The Geography of Time Remembered: Richard Brautigan’s Autobiographical Novels – Bo Pettersson

The Electronic Journal of the Department of English
at the University of Helsinki

ISSN 1457-9960

Volume 3, 2004

Literary Studies

© 2004 Bo Pettersson





Bo Pettersson



The American author Richard Brautigan (1935-1984) has been rather neglected in literary criticism in recent years. By shedding some light on what could paradoxically be termed ‘the autobiographical novels’, I aim to point to some central qualities in them that the common critical view of his work as metafictional has failed to notice. The novels discussed are Trout Fishing in America (1967; written in 1961), The Tokyo-Montana Express (1980), So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away (1982) and An Unfortunate Woman. A Journey (2000; written in 1982), with a focus on the first and the last. By and large, these novels frame Brautigan’s oeuvre and, in addition to the genre-crossing novels of his middle period and his poetry, form a central branch in his writing. I detect three important and interrelated features in Brautigan’s autobiographical novels: space, time and the remembering – including the recording – of the narrator’s spatially and chronologically situated life. In narrative technique too Brautigan mirrors the central motif of the passing of time stopped at certain locations by pitting metafictionally determined narrative and cyclical features against the flow of the referentially anchored narrative. At the end of my paper I point to what an acknowledgement of the referential aspect in Brautigan’s autobiographical fiction may suggest for a reassessment of postmodern American fiction in general.

1. On Autobiographical Fiction

First a few words on the literary genres that Brautigan’s novels represent. By ‘autobiographical novels’ I mean that the protagonist is a recognizably fictionalised version of the author himself (that is, the actual Richard Brautigan) and that the fictional aspects of the novel never significantly question this connection. In this sense, ‘autobiographical fiction’ corresponds to the French notion of autofiction – with the reservation that the grade of fictionality can vary considerably. For instance, despite its disclaimer, Roland Barthes’ (1977/1995) autobiographical fiction Roland Barthes is much less fictional than, say, Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America. However, if the autobiographical element is minimal, then the genre of any particular work is simply fiction (albeit fiction with some affinity with the author’s life). Hence, I here exclude the novels A Confederate General from Big Sur (1964), In Watermelon Sugar (1968) and The Abortion (1971) from Brautigan’s autobiographical novels, since, although their unnamed narrator-protagonists share some features with their author, these novels entail fictional or fantastic elements that make the relation tenuous.1 However, one should note the close relation among the autobiographical novels, the novels with a narrator-protagonist with some autobiographical features, the many rather autobiographical short stories in Revenge of the Lawn (1971) and the largely autobiographical poetry. What is more, by combining autobiography and the novel, the four autobiographical novels – like the explicitly genre-blending novels of his middle period2 – also point to genre-blending as a central aspect in Brautigan’s prose.

As far as autobiographical fiction goes, the demarcation in terms of genre must be double: against life narrative as well as against fiction. Still, as Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson (2001: 9-10) have recently pointed out,

the boundary between the autobiographical and the novelistic is, like the boundary between biography and life narrative, sometimes exceedingly hard to fix. Many writers take the liberties of the novelistic mode in order to mine their own struggles with the past and with the complexities of identities forged in the present.

As I shall try to show, this double preoccupation with the past and the present is fundamental in Brautigan’s autobiographical fiction. In doing so, I attempt to focus on some literary qualities in Brautigan’s novels, since, as the perhaps foremost Brautigan critic Marc Chénetier (1983: 19) once pointed out, ‘this most contemporary of American authors sells millions of intelligently crafted books to engaged audiences in the midst of a near-total critical silence’. Now we should remember that these words were written in 1983, and that Brautigan’s topicality and popularity have faded since. Also, when critically assessing his works today, we should not overlook Brautigan’s predilection for sentimentality and the at times rather tiresome but significant recording of the quotidian.

2. Space and Time as Metafictionally Determined

Let me start with the portrayal of space in relation to time in the four novels. In my study The World According to Kurt Vonnegut I coined the term metafictional determinism for ‘the way in which the course of action is established by an outline early on in the very fiction’ (Pettersson 1994: 138). If Vonnegut often includes a plot summary in the first pages of many of his novels in order for his readers to concentrate on the how and why of the action, Brautigan, in his autobiographical fiction, provides some rather concrete spatial determinants according to which the subsequent fiction proceeds. As far as I know, critics have failed to notice that one third into the radically fragmented Trout Fishing in America, Brautigan supplies the spatial determinants of the rest of the novel in one of his characteristically extended metaphors.

This is the autopsy of Trout Fishing in America as if Trout Fishing in America had been Lord Byron and had died in Missolonghi, Greece, and afterward never saw the shores of Idaho again, never saw Carrie Creek, Worsewick Hot Springs, Paradise Creek, Salt Creek and Duck Lake again. [—] Trout Fishing in America’s body was preserved in a cask holding one hundred-eighty gallons of spirits: O, a long way from Idaho, a long way from Stanley Basin, Little Redfish Lake, the Big Lost River and from Lake Josephus and the Big Wood River. (TFA, 33)

Starting from the next chapter, these ten watercourses constitute the spatial coordinates the narrator, his wife and baby travel along in the summer of 1961 – and thus, in a sense, witness the autopsy of pastoral America. What is more, they travel along the rivers and lakes in the order they are mentioned, with one possible exception (the Big Lost River – apparently symbolically named – is only mentioned in passing and apparently not visited by the narrator and his family; see TFA, 72).3 A minor instance of what may be termed spatial metafictional determinism lists the names of the places the narrator’s family passes on their way from Little Redfish Lake to Lake Josephus, and, notably, the Big Lost River is not included.

We left Little Redfish for Lake Josephus, travelling along the good names-from Stanley to Capehorn to Seafoam to the Rapid River, up Float Creek, past the Greyhound Mine and then to Lake Josephus […]. (TFA, 78)

The point I would like to make is that Brautigan is not just delighting in metafictional play here (or elsewhere), since this would make him as thoroughly a-referential as Chénetier repeatedly claims he is (see Chénetier 1983: 31, 39, 42-44, 50-51). On the contrary, Brautigan calls attention to reference by arranging the central plot as a trip beginning and ending in San Francisco along specific (mostly) existing rivers and lakes (TFA, 33-92).4 In fact, I would even claim that Brautigan can be considered a latter-day Proustian in that he, among other things, situates his autobiographical fiction along ‘the good names’ of specific locations. Marcel Proust, of course, memorably ends Swann’s Way, the first novel of Remembrance of Things Past, with a chapter entitled ‘Place-Names: The Name’. Here the narrator not only enumerates particular locations along the railway from Paris and other locations in Europe, but also praises their names. For him, the very syllables of the place names

had gradually accumulated all the longing inspired in me by the places for which they stood. [—] [The place-names] magnified the idea that I formed of certain points on the earth’s surface, making them more special, and in consequence more real. (Proust 1928/1970: 296)

For Brautigan too places and place names are crucial – and real – coordinates as he fictionalises his life. That is, to disregard the centrality of spatial reference in his autobiographical novels would be to misunderstand the important element of painstaking reference to the biographical coordinates of his life.5 In other words, a distinguishing feature of much of Brautigan’s writing is precisely this juxtaposition of metafictional and metaphorical qualities with referential ones.

Before I extend the comparison to Proust, let me note that, in Brautigan’s three other autobiographical novels, spatial (and to some extent chronological) coordinates are central for the plot, at times by metafictionally determining it. The motto of The Tokyo-Montana Express does so by specifying its two locations and the voice that speaks in them.

Though the Tokyo-Montana Express moves at
a great speed, there are many stops along the
way. This book is those brief stations: some
confident, others still searching for their iden-
The “I” in this book is the voice of the stations
along the tracks of the Tokyo-Montana Express.
(TME, vii)

Hence the plot of the novel moves effortlessly back and forth between chapters set in Japan (mostly Tokyo) and the United States (mostly Montana). Again, we have specific place names juxtaposed with the fantastically metaphorical notion that (most likely railway) tracks run across the Pacific Ocean.

So the Wind Blow It All Away focuses on chronological coordinates rather than on spatial ones. The novel has two main narrative levels: one is the main action that occurs from February to November 1948 (with some flashbacks to 1947), the other is the memorizing and writing of it in August 1979, when the author-narrator sits with his ‘ear […] pressed up against the past as if to the wall of a house that no longer exists’ (SW, 3). Although readers finally learn that the action in the 1940s takes place in Western Oregon (SW, 108), the workings of time and memory, not space, are the focus of the novel – as its title suggests.

Brautigan’s posthumous book An Unfortunate Woman. A Journey is even closer to the memoir in its detailed diary-like recording of the author’s life from his 47th birthday on 30 January, 1982, to 28 June of the same year (with a long break from 3 March to 22 June during which the author-narrator moves from Berkeley/San Francisco to Montana).6 On the second page of the book Brautigan specifies the spatial chronology, not of the diary entries, but of the five months preceding the end of January 1982. Just like the list of place names along which the narrator later travels in Trout Fishing in America, this summary makes it easier for the reader to follow the autobiographical narrator’s meandering reminiscences of the preceding months.

I left Montana in late September, going down to San Francisco for two weeks, and then went back East to Buffalo, New York, to give a lecture, followed by a week in Canada. I returned to San Francisco, where I spent three weeks before being forced by dwindling finances to move across the bay to Berkeley.
I stayed in Berkeley for three weeks, and then up to Ketchikan, Alaska, for a few days, then flew north to spend the night in Anchorage. The next morning, very early, I left the snow of Anchorage and flew to Honolulu (please bear with me while I finish this calendar map), Hawaii, where I spent a month, taking two days around the middle of my stay there to go to the island of Maui. Then I went back to Honolulu, where I finished out my visit, returning from there to Berkeley, where I’m living now, waiting to go to Chicago in the middle of February.
Now that we have some rough idea of where we’re at on the calendar map, we’ll go on with this journey that isn’t really getting any shorter because it’s already taken this long to get here, which is a place where we are almost starting over again. (UW, 2)

In the middle of the book, the author-narrator admits that ‘one of the doomed purposes of this book is an attempt to keep the past and the present functioning simultaneously’ (UW, 64). Still, he notes further on, the past and the present ‘suddenly can turn on you and operate diametrically opposed to your understanding and the needs of reality’ (UW, 66). In fact, overcoming the distance between the past (life as experienced) and the present (life as being recorded) is the abiding aim of all of Brautigan’s autobiographical fiction. This is why the narrative of past events in all of them is intertwined with the narrating instant7 which often forms a narrative level of its own. Since all four novels are more or less obsessed with death, it seems that one aim of holding the past and the present in tension is to check the flow of time and thus ultimately to hold death at bay.

Another formal feature that also seems to have the same effect is the cyclical technique employed both as a structural feature in the novels and as a frame for shorter passages, a technique evident in the three paragraphs just quoted from An Unfortunate Woman.8 The action in Trout Fishing in America, however fragmented, takes about a year (February 1961 to the following winter). The beginning and end form a whole that goes against the passing of time in the sense that the first chapter deals with the very cover of the (finished) book, while the penultimate chapter mentions the author receiving a pen with a golden nib with which he then supposedly writes the book that his readers are about to finish reading.

I thought to myself what a lovely nib trout fishing in America would make with a stroke of cool green trees along the river’s shore, wild flowers and dark fins pressed against the paper. (TFA, 110)

In fact, with the exception of the discussion of the cover in the first chapter, the first mention of ‘trout fishing in America’ in the second chapter (TFA, 3) and this last mention of the phrase form bookends to the largely sordid myth-making and personification of ‘Trout Fishing in America’ throughout the novel. Brautigan’s above-quoted comparison of the death of Trout Fishing in America with that of Lord Byron suggests how untenable such a romantic myth is. Yet the fact that actual trout fishing can still go on in America is a positive sign in this moribund novel. So is the framing of the diary in An Unfortunate Woman with references to the discussion between Agamemnon and his daughter Iphigenia in Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis, from the point in the drama when Agamemnon is about to leave for Troy to his return, which is announced in the last sentence of the book: ‘”Iphigenia, your daddy’s home from Troy!”‘ (UW, v, 110 quote). In light of the ensuing tragedy in Euripides’ play, this may be a rather undercut sign of hope for the author-narrator whose depression in part seems caused by his estrangement from his daughter – apparently the very daughter who as an infant was taken on the journey in Trout Fishing in America. The first and last books Brautigan wrote also form a cycle in that, on the very last page of An Unfortunate Woman, the author-narrator is preoccupied not only with the notebook but also with the very pens the book was written:

My thanks to the JMPC Company of Japan for printing this notebook and for the Kinokuniya bookstore in San Francisco for importing it. I also thank the Pilot Pen company of Japan for manufacturing two Pilot BP-S pens who were my two other companions on this calendar closed now like a door. (UW, 110).

It is of course significant that Brautigan’s constant interest in Japan is signalled on the last page of his last book: his semi-fictional American diary is written with Japanese pens on Japanese paper.9 But it is even more important to note that the celebrated metafictional element in Brautigan’s books here – and elsewhere – is firmly linked to his referential tendency to record the most quotidian aspects of his life and writing.

3. Remembrance of the Geography of Time

So far I have noted the centrality of spatial coordinates as well as the narrative chronology and cyclical qualities in Brautigan’s autobiographical fiction. Still, his ‘calendar maps’ are very much preoccupied with the very memory that makes it possible to draw them. In his poetry collection Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork we find one of his most concise poems on time and memory:


Things slowly curve out of sight
until they are gone. Afterwards
only the curve
remains. (LM, 107)

In So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away the author-narrator, when looking at calendars, thinks about an old man he once knew as ‘lost in the geography of time, but finally not caring’ and notes that this would apply to him too (SW, 65). But, in fact, not caring is precisely what Brautigan’s author-narrators cannot do. Rather, they insist on describing the very curve of what has passed. In So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away the author-narrator carefully focuses on the people who have crossed his path, simply refusing to let the winds of time blow them away. The author-narrator suspects that the husband and wife whom he describes in detail are most likely dead, since he is writing about them thirty-two years after he met them.

First, one would die and then the other would die, and that would be the end of them, except for whatever I write down here, trying to tell a very difficult story that is probably getting more difficult because I am still searching for some meaning in it and perhaps even a partial answer to my own life, which as I grow closer and closer to death, the answer gets further and further away. (SW, 92)10

Just as the recording of the memory of the couple sitting in their furniture in the great outdoors is the central symbol of this novel, so the meticulous rendition of the quotidian is central to all of Brautigan’s autobiographical fiction – and even to his entire oeuvre. It is not just the geography of time that preoccupies him, but the remembrance of it. The fact that the photograph on the cover shows the furniture out in the open without the couple may – like the Big Lost River in Trout Fishing in America – stand for the inevitable shortcomings of human memory.

This emphasis on memory brings us back to Proust, whose affinity with Brautigan has not, as far as I know, been studied – possibly because Proust seems to have been a remote association for most critics writing on Brautigan in the 1970s and 1980s during the heyday of metafictional and postmodern fiction.11 By vividly evoking his famous madeleine enjoyed with lime-flower tea, Marcel sings the praises of how quotidian sense perception can counter the passing of time.

[W]hen from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection. (Proust 1928/1970: 36)

To be sure, we do not find Marcel’s stylistically elaborate focus on sense perception in Brautigan. Still, his emphasis on the result of perceiving the quotidian and on ‘the vast structure of recollection’ is much the same. As he is examining his mind before realizing the effect of his perception, Marcel understands that what he is striving for is not simply an effort to remember: ‘Seek? More than that: create’ (Proust 1928/1970: 35). This goes for Brautigan too: he is painstakingly recreating his perceptions and thoughts in his autobiographical fiction. This is why the narrating instant is so central in all his autobiographical novels; he is not only recreating memories but also recording his struggles to do so. The perceptual triggers for Brautigan are not those of smell and taste as much as sight – hence the photographs on most the covers of his books.

I would, in fact, claim that it is Brautigan’s combination of space, time and memory that made him to put photographs of himself and/or his girlfriend on the cover of most of his autobiographical novels: photographs seemingly stop time at particular locations and form instances of memory. That is, what has sometimes been thought of as some sort of narcissism on Brautigan’s part is really an essential element in his works: the documenting of the geography of time and his – or his alter ego’s – place in it. As Mikhail Bakhtin (1981/2001: 85) puts it, ‘[t]he image of man is always intrinsically chronotopic’, even though he only touches on the cognitive dimension of his notion of chronotope in the novel (see Bakhtin 1981/2001: 85n2). Brautigan’s autobiographical novels, on the other hand, by their focus on perception and memory, highlight the cognitive dimension of chronotopic depiction.

Another important aspect of the reminiscing in Trout Fishing in America is its ample allusions to American literary history: Melville’s Moby-Dick, Thoreau’s Walden, Nelson Algren’s short story ‘The Face on the Barroom Floor’ and Eliot’s The Waste Land are implicitly or explicitly evoked (see eg Vanderwerken 1974). Not surprisingly, however, it is Hemingway, often claimed to have been the most influential literary figure for American authors born in the 1920s and 1930s, who is brought to mind by some significant allusions. The pastoral sense of fishing – that is, the ideal of fishing trout in America – is already largely gone as Nick Adams returns from the First World War in Hemingway’s early short story ‘Big Two-Hearted River’, and Brautigan’s chapter ‘Worsewick’ seems to echo it.

Nick had again and again come on dead trout, furry with white fungus, drifted against a rock, or floating belly up in some pool. (Hemingway 1925/1953: 202)

Worsewick Hot Springs was nothing fancy. [—] There was a green slime growing around the edges of the tub and there were dozens of dead fish floating in our bath. Their bodies had been turned white by death, like frost on iron doors. Their eyes were large and stiff. (TFA, 43)

But there is a more important aspect to the comparison between Hemingway’s story and Trout Fishing in America, and one that suggests something crucial about Brautigan’s autobiographical fiction in general. As the eminent Hemingway critic Scott Donaldson (1977: 245) has noted, although there are no overt references to the war in the story, Nick’s careful, ritualistic way of performing simple actions in the woods suggests that he is a man who has ‘come home badly wounded from the war’. Similarly, the moribund and depressive thematics in Brautigan’s autobiographical fiction is kept at bay by the very interest in the details of the everyday life that the author-narrator is leading, including the fiction he is writing. In this way, the referential and the metafictional are part of Brautigan’s strategy of meticulously recording his life and writing, which can ultimately be viewed as his central survival strategy devised against his own death. (Since Brautigan himself so openly wrote about the depression, alcoholism, insomnia and obsession with death that finally led to his suicide in 1984, I do not think literary criticism need shun such issues.) As I see it, then, it was in part by carefully recording and reflecting on the spatial and chronological coordinates of his life that Brautigan, much like Hemingway’s alter ego Nick Adams, was able to survive for so long, despite himself.

4. Epilogue: On Reassessing Postmodern American Fiction

The above re-reading of Brautigan’s autobiographical fiction as referential as well as metafictional could be taken to suggest that we should rethink some received notions about postmodern American fiction. Most of whatever little Brautigan criticism there is was written in the 1970s and 1980s, and this is also largely true of the more abundant criticism on postmodern American fiction in general. But as early as about a decade ago Tony Hilfer (1992/1993: 7) complained that most postwar American criticism views the symbolical and mythical romance tradition as central in American fiction, at the expense of the realistic and naturalistic novel.12 There is probably much truth in his complaint. However, I would think that as we are able to view the apex of postmodern American fiction in the perspective of a few decades, it is also important to make a somewhat different assertion: critics of postmodern American fiction have tended to exaggerate its metafictional aspect at the expense of its referential – including sociocultural and ideological – one. Hilfer (1992/1993: 7) may be right in claiming that Tony Tanner (1971/1976) in his ground-breaking study City of Words (note the emblematic title) ‘carries the romance reading, perhaps rather too uncritically, through contemporary fiction’. Still, my view is that we should gratefully make use of Tanner (1971/1976), but also start to examine the rather overlooked referential aspect of postmodern American fiction.

By this, I mean that important definitions of and pronouncements on postmodern American fiction should be balanced by the recognition and scrutiny of such an aspect. I am thinking of declarations by, say, Morris Dickstein (postwar novelists illuminate society ‘less through their content than through their experiments in form’; Dickstein [1976: 187]); Manfred Puetz (authors such as Barth, Barthelme, Brautigan, Heller, Nabokov, Pynchon and Vonnegut employ frameworks that often are ‘intensely private fantasies which have no parallells or prefigurations in the past’; Puetz [1977: 241]); and Brian McHale (‘the dominant of postmodern fiction is ontological‘; McHale [1987: 10 italics original]). Each of these statements includes at least a grain of truth, but we should also open our eyes to the quite considerable importance of the referential or epistemological element that makes postmodern American fiction matter much more than if it did not go beyond formal experimentation, imaginative play or ontological scrutiny.

As Josephine Hendin (1978/1979: 4) put it over a quarter of a century ago, ‘novels do not simply report our dislocations, they show how we withstand them’. Unfortunately, Hendin’s study, significantly titled Vulnerable People, on the contrary shows that most characters in postwar American fiction are largely too hurt to have the strength to withstand their dislocations. Her reading of Brautigan’s characters is a case in point: ‘withdrawal and protection are their only answers to American aggression’ (Hendin 1978/1979: 45-46). It is precisely this sort of rather myopic view of postmodern American fiction that we should now be able to leave behind us once and for all.13 Brautigan – and I would suggest this goes for many of his contemporary American novelists, whether postmodern or not – may portray characters wounded by life in all sorts of ways, but the very imaginative and referential strategies he and others employ and the implied assessment of such strategies often go well beyond escapism and defeatism, let alone nihilism. I would certainly not claim that affirmation can be found in all postmodern American fiction, but rather that one of its preoccupations is portraying reactions to dislocations in ways that may ultimately lead to a change in the social reality that produced the dislocations in the first place.



1. For instance, in A Confederate General from Big Sur the narrator is called Jesse; in In Watermelon Sugar the narrator lives in a symbolical place called iDEATH; and in The Abortion the narrator works in a library that receives rather than lends books twenty-four hours a day. Back to text

2. The genre blending is mostly signalled in the subtitles: The Abortion. An Historical Romance (1971), The Hawkline Monster. A Gothic Western (1974), Willard and His Bowling Trophies. A Perverse Mystery (1975), Sombrero Fallout. A Japanese Novel (1976) and Dreaming of Babylon. A Private Eye Novel 1942 (1977). Back to text

3. Of course, this exception may be a slip, but more likely the fact that the narrator does not visit the Big Lost River is one of Brautigan’s many ways of disrupting the structure of his novel, like the famous misspelling of the last word of the novel, mayonaise for mayonnaise. Back to text
4. For instance, it is no coincidence in this death-obsessed novel that the narrator’s last stop is the Big Wood River, Idaho, in the July of 1961, just ten miles from Ketchum, where Hemingway had killed himself a few days earlier (the connection is explicitly made; TFA, 78). Other references to real people, places and books abound. Back to text

5. Lists of autobiographically important place names can also occasionally be found in Brautigan’s poetry. See for instance June 30th, June 30th (J30, 32). Back to text

6. Similarly, a few years earlier Brautigan noted that the poems of June 30th, June 30th, all of which are dated, ‘form a kind of diary’ (J30, 11). Back to text

7. By narrating instant I mean to stress the temporal aspect of narrative commentary that focuses on the very act of narration, as against Gérard Genette’s more mechanistic notion of narrating instance (see Pettersson 1994: 151n6). Back to text

8. The most famous instance of Brautigan’s penchant for cyclical qualities on a smaller scale is the first sentence of In Watermelon Sugar: ‘IN WATERMELON SUGAR the deeds were done and done again as my life is done in watermelon sugar’ (WS, 7). Note also the title of June 30th, June 30th. Back to text

9. For Brautigan’s assessment of the importance of Japan and Japanese literature for his writing, see the Introduction to June 30th, June 30th (J30, 1-11). Back to text

10. It may be worth noting that as the author-narrator goes on to speak of the couple as remaining ‘freeze-framed in grainy black and white’ (UW, 93), he either wilfully forgets that the photograph on the cover is in colour and that they do not appear on it or is speaking of his memory of them as a black-and-white photograph. Back to text

11. This is rather curious, since many of the literary theorists such critics relied on employed Proust in their analyses. Back to text

12. For a similar assessment as the basis for a call for a multidimensional thematics, see Pettersson (2002: 244-247). Back to text

13. There are some signs of this change in American criticism, not least in that the important Postmodern American Fiction. A Norton Anthology, edited by Paula Geyh, Fred G. Leebron and Andrew Levy (1998: xi), in its selection and introduction strongly focuses on aspects such as gender and race, and views postmodern American authors as sharing ‘a new cultural sensibility as a response to an altered world’. Even in the early 1980s some critics saw the strength of Brautigan at his best: Jack Hicks (1981/1982: 153) may have represented the typical critical stance in noting that Brautigan, like Leonard Cohen and Kurt Vonnegut, ‘offers an imaginative recreation of a hostile world’, but Edward Halsey Foster (1983: 120) anticipated a change in Brautigan criticism when noting that although in the lesser novels Brautigan’s protagonists choose escapist solutions, ‘in the best Brautigan books […] escape is not that easy’. In fact, in the first monograph written on Brautigan, Terence Malley (1972: 154) already dismisses Hendin’s view of Brautigan as voiced in her review of Revenge of the Lawn. Back to text

Abbreviations of Brautigan’s Works

J30 – June 30th, June 30th
LM – Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork
SW – So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away
TFA – Trout Fishing in America
TME – The Tokyo-Montana Express
UW – An Unfortunate Woman
WS – In Watermelon Sugar


Works by Richard Brautigan

The Abortion: An Historical Romance. London: Picador, 1974. (Originally published 1971)
A Confederate General from Big Sur. London: Picador, 1974. (Originally published 1964)
Dreaming of Babylon. A Private Eye Novel 1942. New York: Dell/Delta, 1979. (Originally published 1977)
The Hawkline Monster. A Gothic Western. London: Picador, 1976. (Originally published 1974)
In Watermelon Sugar. London: Picador, 1973. (Originally published 1970)
June 30th, June 30th. New York: Dell/Delta, 1978. (Originally published 1977)
Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976.
Revenge of the Lawn. Stories 1962-1970. London: Picador, 1974. (Originally published 1971)
So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away. New York: Dell/Delta, 1984. (Originally published 1982)
Sombrero Fallout. A Japanese Novel. London: Picador, 1978. (Originally published 1976)
Trout Fishing in America. New York: Dell/Delta, 1967.
The Tokyo-Montana Express. New York: Dell/Delta, 1981. (Originally published 1980)
An Unfortunate Woman. A Journey. Edinburgh: Canongate, 2001. (Originally published 2000)
Willard and His Bowling Trophies. A Perverse Mystery. London: Picador, 1976. (Originally published 1975)
Secondary Sources

Bakhtin, M. M. (1981/2001) The Dialogic Imagination. Four Essays. Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Barthes, Roland (1977/1995) Roland Barthes. Trans. Richard Howard. London and Basingstoke: Papermac. (Originally published in French 1975)

Chénetier, M. (1983) Richard Brautigan. London and New York: Methuen.

Dickstein, M. (1976) Black Humor and History. Partisan Review, XLIII: 2, 185-211.

Donaldson, S. (1977) By Force of Will. The Life and Art of Ernest Hemingway. New York: Viking Press.

Foster, E. H. (1983) Richard Brautigan. Boston: Twayne.

Geyh, P., F. G. Leebron and A. Levy (eds.) (1998) Postmodern American Fiction. A Norton Anthology. New York and London: W. W. Norton.

Hemingway, E. (1925/1953) In Our Time. New York: Scribners.

Hendin, J. (1978/1979) Vulnerable People. A View of American Fiction since 1945. Oxford etc.: Oxford University Press.

Hicks, J. (1981/1982) In the Singer’s Temple. Prose Fictions of Barthelme, Gaines, Brautigan, Piercy, Kesey, and Kosinski. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Hilfer, T. (1992/1993) American Fiction since 1940. London and New York: Longman.

McHale, B. (1987) Postmodernist Fiction. New York and London: Methuen.

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