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
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).
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