previous chapter
The Gentle on the Mind Number
next chapter

The Gentle on the Mind Number

The caveat that death makes adamant is significantly ignored by all who keep on breathing. In this case, it is no different nor would Brautigan presumably have wanted it to be if he was at that point in any sense concerned. Despite the meager industrial interests already at work on the bleak legend, i.e., those who will tell us the true story, of what deadend circumstances, etc., the fact is still that Richard took responsibility as ever, and killed himself as factually as he'd do anything, like turn out a light or write a novel. He was not sentimental in that respect, albeit he could cry like a baby if drunk enough and with sufficient drama in the occasion. But he could stop it on a dime, and I can't believe, drunk or sober, that he ever finally looked on the world with other than a cold eye—not hostilely but specifically.

What's often forgotten is that he was a remarkably articulate writer, a determined one in its resources. His particular teacher was Jack Spicer and there is no one who more called for, literally demanded, that writing be intelligent, perceptive, conscious recognition and employment of words and the complex system of their event. Brautigan's writing seems so simple, " . . . the lobby is filled with the smell of Lysol."

The Lysol sits like another guest on the stuffed furniture, reading a copy of the Chronicle , the Sports Section. It is the only furniture I have ever seen in my life that looks like baby food.

Rolling Stock , no. 9 (1985).


It's like an ultimate dominoes, ultimate attachments, endless directions and digressions, but all a surface or a skin of unvarying attention, a wild, patient humor, an absolute case in point.

Trout Fishing in America is dedicated to Jack Spicer and Ron Loewinsohn. There's a great picture of Loewinsohn and Richard they used for the cover of a magazine they edited together in the sixties, Change . Brautigan was in his middle thirties before the big time hit him. He said once his average annual income had been about $950 up till then. His childhood was classically awful, dirt poor, mother, step-father to whom he's given when the two separate and his mother takes his sister. He told a story once of cooling himself in his sister's hair, locked in fever, in some bleak motel they were living in. He hauled himself up from nothing to be the most influential writer of his specific generation, prose or poetry, you name it. You could hear him and you didn't forget it. It was like, think of this, this trout, like this . He was a great pro.

He was a loner and that didn't seem to be easy except for the situation of writing. He loved his daughter very much and tried to be and was a careful, resourceful father. He was very proud of her.

This attempt to say something is a weird and lonely exercise. I hate it that no one was there to say goodbye, or hello—that he could be dead that length of time, almost a month, with no one's coming by. They thought he'd gone to Montana. The people there must have thought he was in Bolinas. I know that he didn't make it easy to get next to him, like they say. Still that's a distance no one needs.

One time we were leaving some chaos of persons together, in the 60s it must have been, and just as we were at the door, Richard, looking back in at it all, smiles and says, let's leave them with the gentle on the mind number . . .

Help Yourself

Sir Richard Comma
three dots for a dime

drummed into my head
abstract pavement

as opposed to dirt
no move from the end

to the middle. Style's
a hug, a friend's


true pleasure.
To be home

is to have a friend.
Van Gogh in Amsterdam—

streets an easy size,
the canal in harvest moon

moonlight, walking with
David Gascoyne, with

Michael Hamburger.
Richard's friendship—

dear Richard met me,
you know what talk's like?

Now he's dead. You figure it out, i.e., you got something to do you better do it now, friend. Onward.


previous chapter
The Gentle on the Mind Number
next chapter