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You Can't Catch Death: A Daughter's Memoir Paperback – July 10, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

His daughter was 24 when quintessential '60s author Richard Brautigan (Trout Fishing in America) killed himself in 1984, and the obituaries were almost as painful for her as his tragic act. "I did not recognize the dignified, brilliant, hysterically funny, and sometimes difficult man who was my father in anything they wrote," says Ianthe Brautigan, who makes it her business to capture those qualities in this poignant memoir. Her recollections of an unsettled childhood bouncing between two free-spirited parents' bohemian homes (in San Francisco, Montana, Hawaii, and Japan) are remarkably free from bitterness, even when she chronicles drunken phone calls from her suicidal father. Alcohol was Richard Brautigan's fatal weakness, prompted by severe depressions rooted in an impoverished, unhappy childhood. But Ianthe also depicts his tenderness and warmth, the magical sessions of impromptu storytelling with writer buddies like Tom McGuane and Jim Harrison, the glamour of meeting movie stars Peter Fonda and Margot Kidder. She comes to terms with the past that always haunted her father when she makes a trip to Oregon to see her grandmother, estranged from Richard for 25 years. Without presuming to solve the mystery of his death, the author reclaims the values of Brautigan's life and work in her touching, sensitively written book. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Richard Brautigan (1937-1984) made a big splash with Trout Fishing in America (1967), whose unbuttoned prose found a ready-made audience in the burgeoning counterculture. Brautigan completed 11 more books of fiction and nine of poetry before he took his own life; he is now remembered as a campus favorite, and a notorious drinker. His daughter Ianthe aims to supplant that portrait with a more complex and tender view; her raw, affecting and largely admiring memoir recalls "R.B." as a father and as a writer. Rather than follow his life, or her own, from the late '60s to the early '80s, Ianthe breaks her book up into short sectionsAsome narrative, some meditative, some impressionisticAin a manner mildly reminiscent of Trout Fishing itself. In one three-page segment, the adult Ianthe tells her own daughter about Richard's suicide. In the next two pages, Ianthe recalls the bike she got for her ninth birthday. The piece after that (one paragraph) is purely lyrical: "Sometimes the love I have for my father overtakes my whole being... " (A series of single paragraphs, scattered throughout, describe Ianthe's dreams.) The elder Brautigan comes off as energetic, affectionate, playful, outrageous and needyAincreasingly so as the '70s wore on. His death and Ianthe's progressive reactions to it dominate much of the book. Ianthe's memoir creates a vivid sense of her continuing loss and shows how she has come to terms with it. Her work should please "R.B."'s still-ardent fans, who will seek (and find) facts about a father, and leave with a new, moving knowledge of his daughter. Author tour. (June) FYI: Ianthe's memoir appears at the same time as her father's newly published novella, An Unfortunate Woman, a forgotten manuscript she discovered (see review in this issue's Fiction Forecasts).
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; First Edition edition (July 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312264186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312264185
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #894,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Corky Gilbert on May 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Although I began reading You Can't Catch Death with the expectation that it would be about her father, Ianthe Brautigan quickly set me straight; this book is about her. Reading the book provides a fascinating look at her turbulent childhood with a talented, but troubled father. A father who clearly loved his daughter but, just as clearly, didn't quite know what to do with her.
Brautigan the younger is a skilled wordsmith whose first book displays a polish and readability usually associated with more `seasoned' authors. Whether or not you appreciate Richard Brautigan, after reading this book you will appreciate his daughter.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By MARTIN AVERY on June 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I love this book. It is as painful to read as going to the funeral of a friend or a writer whose work you loved. It is as rewarding as the grieving process. We've been wondering about Brautigan's daughter, the girl with the stange name, Ianthe, and this book of hers lets us know all about her. This memoir she has taken so long to write suggests she has struggled to find her own voice, as a writer, and I am happy to report that her father's style has influenced her enormously. That's a very good thing. I will look forward to the publication of the next Brautigan and I will be as sad it is not by Richard as I am happy it is by his daughter, Ianthe. Write a novel, Ianthe, write short stories and short short stories, too. We'll be waiting patiently for you.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Mary G. Longorio VINE VOICE on October 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In an effort to reconcile memories, dreams and fears with real life, Ianthe Brautigan writes of her life with father, Richard Brautigan. After he took his own life in 1984, she was left with memories and what-ifs. This book is her journey into remembering and discovering her father and his life. Within the pages of this book lies a healing journey, back to the terrible drinking times, back to the grandmother she never knew, back to treasured morinings at her father's San Francisco apartment, and other times shared with her father. Photos capture the fragments of that life, and let us glimpse again at the shy, wild-haired Brautigan. Somewhere in facing down deamons and fears of this past life, I feel she somehow reclaims her own life and is no longer afraid of the future. This book had a powerful impact on me. The story of a daughter trying to gather the pieces of her life and to set them out to study, is a portrait of courage and grace.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This was a lovely book. I remember how saddened I was to learn that Richard Brautigan had taken his own life. His books had been a source of pleasure during my college years. I picked up this book in hopes of some insight into the reason for his death and was rewarded with much more than I could have hoped for. The vignettes of life with her father and dealing with his death were so immediate. The scenes stay in my mind and the beauty of the writing stays in my heart. This is a beautiful portrait of Richard Brautigan, his daughter and their love for one another.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jim Rickman on July 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My first Richard Brautigan work was "Trout Fishing In America" which I read in the late 60s. I was -- and still am -- enchanted by his poetic visions of life. There is something very pure and absolutely wonderful in the way he wrote. For the next several years, I made it a point to seek out his books whenever I visited bookstores. Then, in the mid-70s, life became busy with family and work, and I lost touch with this sensitive poet and his little books of sparkling wit and beauty. In May 2000, I unpacked a box and found again Brautigan's beauty books that had been packed away for the preceding 25 year or so. I stopped unpacking, went outside, sat down beneath a tree, and read the books I had of his again -- "Trout Fishing In America", "In Watermelon Sugar" (my favorite), "The Pill Versus The Sprinhill Disaster", and "Rommel Drives On Deep Into Egypt". The sweet memories of his writings flooded back to me -- here was a truly sensitive soul so full of music and poetry, a unique way of seeing the world, and a beautiful way of expressing it. My interest rekindled, I wanted to find all the books I had missed of his in the intervening years, and learned of his suicide in 1984... I discovered his daughter's book, and read the story of her father through her eyes. It's also a book about herself, about her coming to grips with the tragedy and terrible pain of her father's death, about her journey to Oregon to see her father's mother and come to grips with the poor and abusive boyhood that Richard had kept hidden from his family. We see Richard Brautigan and come to know him as the sensitive, troubled, eloquent, and deeply beautiful soul he was, and we hear it through his daughter's tenderness and love. Yes, I'm sure Richard would be very proud of his daughter -- and very happy too. I truly hope we hear more from Ianthe. She has her father's gift of poetry and expression, and she has her own voice.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Carey on September 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
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Ianthe Brautigan stays on target throughout her memoir -- as the daughter of Richard Brautigan, and the daughter of a father who killed himself. Brautigan turns out to be an articulate author, and she expresses her feelings very openly. I feel callous saying that this is an enlightening read for R. Brautigan fans, because much of I. Brautigan's drive derives from her troubled feelings about him. But the book is also a biography of her father, the ways he lived (as well as the way he died, which is vividly described). While reading, I felt it was a reliable biography, from the POV of someone very close to him, who understood him, and had her own experiences with respect to growing up his daughter; it was a reliable/subjective biography, which turned out to have merits of its own that an outsider can't match -- for better or worse. What it loses in objectivity, it more than overcomes.

No doubt I. Brautigan has had many other life experiences too, but very impressively she keeps to her misssion to tell the story of her father, his life, his death, her relationship to and evolving feelings about it. I did not expect it to be as well-done as it is. Kudos, as well as my sympathy to the author who indeed had an unfortunate and difficult time due to his suicide. Regarding R. Brautigan, fans will appreciate her anectodes and stories, despite their coming from the place they do -- of having to learn that she can not "catch death."
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