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Dr John Barber re Richard Brautigan P5

The Beatles connection, and a mysterious film script of The Hawkline Monster...

READERSVOICE.COM: Were The Beatles fans of Richard Brautigan? Who at Apple became interested in recording him? Is there a CD on the market of these recordings?

JOHN F. BARBER: Barry Miles, manager for The Beatles record label Zapple, hints that Paul McCartney and John Lennon knew of Brautigan and his work, but the choice of Brautigan for inclusion in an experimental spoken-word record album project may have been entirely up to Miles who was given complete control over the project.

An album of Brautigan reading his poetry, stories, and selections from his novels was slated as the third release by the new record label. Music by John Lennon and Yoko Ono was the first. The second featured electronic music composed and played by George Harrison. Brautigan’s album, “Listening to Richard Brautigan,” was never released by Zapple, which folded because of mismanagement. The album was eventually released by Harvest Records. There is a CD, called “Sounds Like Richard Brautigan,” which collects the contents of the original record album, “Listening to Richard Brautigan.” I see if for sale frequently on eBay but I’ve never been able to find any other source of distribution, which makes me think this CD is an unauthorized reissue.

RV: Do you think his books, like The Hawkline Monster, would lend themselves to movie adaptation or would they be too dependent on the style of writing? Have you heard of any moves to film his novels?
JB: I think you could argue that any of Brautigan’s books might lend themselves to movie adaptation. The question, the problem, would be, how, since his work lends itself so readily to idiosyncratic interpretation. Despite this, there have been several attempts to make films from Brautigan’s works. Brautigan himself wrote a screenplay based on his novel The Hawkline Monster. He refused to make the changes requested of the first draft and the project was abandoned.

A screenplay of the novel A Confederate General from Big Sur was written by Brandon French in 1972 but the film was never made. Brautigan’s daughter, Ianthe, and her husband, Paul, made a short film based on the novel So The Wind Won’t Blow It All Away. And there are a number of independent, student film makers looking to make films from Brautigan’s novels and stories.

RV: Is there a copy of Richard Brautigan’s film script of The Hawkline Monster published anywhere, and does anyone have an option on it, as far as you’re aware?

JB: Film director Hal Ashby bought the film rights to The Hawkline Monster and they reverted to his estate after his death. Several people have expressed an interest in making a film from this Brautigan novel but I know of no definite plans at this time.

There is a copy of Brautigan’s original film script in a private collection but it is not published anywhere.

RV: Was Richard Brautigan’s speaking voice the same as the way he writes? Was it like reading one of his books when listening to him talk, or vice versa?

JB: Brautigan’s quirky imagination and creativity lent magic to his day-to-day life just as it did to his writing. His daughter, Ianthe, writes about this in her memoir, You Can’t Catch Death, as does Keith Abbott in his Downstream from Trout Fishing in America.
As for my personal experience with Brautigan, he often spoke about topics and in ways that reminded me very much of his writing. The details of life he chose to focus on and share his feelings about often seemed very similar to what I might read in one of his novels or poems. Talking with Brautigan was always a treat in that he continuously challenged the thinking of the so-called status-quo.

RV: Where would you rate Richard Brautigan among the great American writers? In the top ten?

JB: I would rate Richard Brautigan as a genius writer, one who was never properly understood or appreciated. As for where his legacy might stand in relation to other writers, I would only say that he continues to glow with the strange light of those buried in Watermelon Sugar.

If you haven’t read any of Richard Brautigan’s novels, The Hawkline Monster would be as good a place as any to start. -ed.

copyright Simon Sandall-.