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Richard Brautigan and the Library of Unwritten Books


This weeks explorations into the arts had me at home rereading some of Richard Brautigan ‘The Abortion: A Historical Romance 1966.

It is based on the idea of a public library where authors can bring their manuscripts, “the unwanted, the lyrical and haunted volumes of American writing’, Such volumes as: Growing Flowers by Candlelight in Hotel Rooms, My Trike and Love always Beautiful, a book rejected four hundred and fifty-nine times. Also mentioned is the Culinary Dostoevsky the author of which, it states, was a cookbook of recipes he had found in Dostoevsky’s novels. ‘Some of them are very good, ‘ he said. ‘I’ve eaten everything Dostoevsky ever cooked.’
Brautigan according to his first wife Virginia Aste, never went anywhere without his Dostoyevsky.

Abortion An Historical Romance, inspired the UK library of Unwritten Books http://www.unwritten.org.uk/con.html a project in which ideas for novels are collectedand stored. It also I believe it inspired Haruki Murakami to write ‘Kafka on the Shore’ in which a similar beguiling heaven for literary enthusiasts is portrayed. Brautigan regularly spent time in Japan seeking inspiration for his writing. After the 1970’s his popularity waned in the US but continued to be read in Europe and was translated into Japanese.
Brautigan was enigmatic in life and death.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti said of him, “As an editor I was always waiting for Richard to grow up as a writer. It seems to me he was essentially a naïf, and I don’t think he cultivated that childishness, I think it came naturally. It was like he was much more in tune with the trout in America than with people.”[8]Brautigan’s writings are experimental, romantic,poetic, ironic and above all humorous and rock bands, writers and filmmakers have borrowed from his books, and in the 70’s at the hight of his fame, children were named: ‘Trout Fishing in America’.

More recently it has inspired Adam Curtis to title a documentary ‘All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace’ after one of Brautigan’s best-known poems. It is to be screened on Mon. 23rd May 2011 BBC2 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/2011/05/all_watched_over_by_machines_o.html
All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace is a BBC documentary series[1] by filmmaker Adam Curtis, well known for other documentaries including The Trap and The Power of Nightmares. It starts on Monday 23rd May 2011 at 9pm on BBC2.

I find Viginia Aste’s interview with Arthur Magazine about their life together the most informative see this link:
http://www.arthurmag.com/2009/12/25/virginia-aste/
Arthur: What do you think he would’ve thought about current technology, the Internet?
Virginia Aste: In “All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace” [1967], Richard anticipated the impact of computer technology. He was happy to get an electric typewriter. It was a lot of work making corrections on copies of his work, and typing it over and over. It took a lot of time. It was a lot of work.
He would’ve been a great fan of the word processor because he couldn’t spell.
I think he ran out of things to write about, unlike Styron and Mailer—who he didn’t like. Alcohol shut down his spontaneity and depressed him and accelerated/exaggerated the parts of his personality that was pessimistic about people. I’m pretty sure he did not believe in God or an afterlife. He believed in art and the arts as the highest people could live for.

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