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Dr John Barber re Richard Brautigan P3

The Brautigan Bibliography...

READERSVOICE.COM: When did you start your website?

JOHN F. BARBER: I started my website, The Brautigan Bibliography (http://www.brautigan.net) during the Thanksgiving holidays of 2001. I have continued to add to it since then.

The various parts of my website now offer quite a bit of information about Brautigan, his life, and his work. It also asks a lot of questions, and encourages readers to help provide the answers, if they can, or to help with the fleshing out of the details.

I’ve had readers from around the world contribute information and help with the research, and I am very grateful for their time and effort, as well as their interest in my work.

RV: How long have you been collecting information, and maybe items relating to Richard Brautigan? What are your favorite pieces or books in your possession?

JB: I first started collecting things associated with Brautigan in the spring of 1982, just before taking a course in creative writing taught by him at Montana State University. I’ve continued collecting Brautigan items since then because of my continued interest, both as a reader and a scholar, in both him and his work.

As for favorite pieces or books . . . I have a copy of a 1956 issue of the Fallon Standard in which two Brautigan poems, “Storm over Fallon” and “The Breeze,” were first published. These poems were not the first he ever published, but this was their only appearance in print as they were never collected in any of his later publications.

I also like this piece because it prompts the sort of questions about Brautigan I talked about earlier. For example, what was he doing in Fallon, Nevada? We know that he was on his way to San Francisco from his boyhood home in Eugene, Oregon, but why did he stop in Fallon? Barney Mergen, writing a tribute to Brautigan in 1985, said Brautigan appeared at his door in Reno, Nevada saying “Hello, I’m Richard Brautigan and I’m a poet.” Brautigan had apparently found Mergen’s name in the University of Nevada literary magazine, Brushfire, and thought he “might be sympathetic to a homeless poet.”

So, was Brautigan in Reno because he thought he might connect with other poets? Or, was Brautigan in Reno to see Robert Geoffrey “Tex” Porterfield, his step-father? Porterfield and Brautigan’s mother had divorced in 1950, and Porterfield was the father of Brautigan’s step-sister, Sandra Jean. Did Brautigan travel to Reno to visit Porterfield?

And why would he do that, since the few descriptions Brautigan provides of Porterfield in his writings are not overly complimentary? You see what I mean about interesting questions?

RV: What are your favorite Brautigan works and why? Are these your favorite books of all time?

JB: I like much of Brautigan’s work, but not as my favorite books of all time. I like Trout Fishing in America because it was my introduction to Brautigan and his writing.

I like In Watermelon Sugar because I still haven’t figured out whether it is a dystopic parable or an attempt at a psychedelic novel. I also like An Unfortunate Woman because Brautigan was writing this last novel during the time we spent together in Montana and would often give me progress reports. He also included one of our experiences together, the ride I gave him in a yellow school bus, in this novel.

I also really like his collection of stories, Revenge of the Lawn, because each seems so beautifully crafted, even after multiple readings, and this compact, narrative style was completely realistic. This was the way Brautigan told stories as we sat at the VFW bar— naturally, full of keen, humorous observations of the ordinary circumstances surrounding his life.

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copyright Simon Sandall