Richard Brautigan (January 30, 1935 - September 14 ?, 1984) was an American writer, best known for the novel Trout Fishing in America. Brautigan's work became identified with the counterculture youth movement of the late 1960s, even though he was said to be contemptuous of hippies (as noted in Lawrence Wright's article in the April 11, 1985 issue of Rolling Stone ). Brautigan's eccentric appearance and manner did not help to dissuade this conception of him and his work.
Brautigan was born in Tacoma, Washington, and grew up with his mother in Eugene, Oregon, where they lived in a small shack in a state of poverty. In 1955 he was arrested for throwing a rock through a police station window, supposedly in order to be sent to prison and fed. Instead he was sent to Oregon State Hospital and treated there with electroconvulsive therapy.
In 1957 he moved to San Francisco and married Virginia Adler. Their daughter Ianthe Elizabeth Brautigan was born in 1960, but the marriage broke up soon after.
By the beginning of the 1960s Brautigan had published three volumes of poetry. Throughout the decade that followed, he became greatly involved in the burgeoning San Francisco scene, often appearing as a performance poet at concerts and participating in the various activities of The Diggers. In the spring of 1967, Brautigan was Poet-in-Residence at the California Institute of Technology.
During the 1960s several of Brautigan's short stories appeared in Rolling Stone and were later collected in The Revenge of the Lawn.
From late 1968 to February 1969, Brautigan recorded a spoken-word album for The Beatles' short-lived record label, Zapple. The label was shut down by Allen Klein before the recording could be released, but it was eventually released in 1970 on Harvest Records as Listening to Richard Brautigan.
Brautigan's writings are also characterized by a remarkable and humorous imagination. The permeation of inventive metaphors lent even his prose works the feeling of poetry. To his critics, Brautigan was willfully naive. Lawrence Ferlinghetti said of him, "I always kept waiting for Richard to grow up as a writer. I never could stand cute writing. He could never be an important writer -- like Hemingway -- with that childish voice of his. Essentially he had a na├»f style, a style based on a childlike perception of the world. The hippie cult was itself a childlike movement. I guess Richard was all the novelist the hippies needed. It was a nonliterate age." This negative view of his work from the new literary establishment took hold in the late 1970s and early 1980s, though it could be said that his unpopularity was based on fashion and wilful misunderstanding. "He was a great artist," said novelist Don Carpenter, "I don't think his work has ever been really recognized for its impact. He's unique. His ability to compress emotion into such small space was second to none." Brautigan once wrote, "All of us have a place in history. Mine is clouds."
In 1984, at age 49, Richard Brautigan died of a self-inflicted .44-calibre gunshot wound to the head in Bolinas, California. The exact date of his suicide is unknown, but it is speculated that Brautigan ended his life on September 14, 1984 after talking to Marcia Clay on the telephone. Robert Yench, a private investigator hired by Brautigan's agent to find him and inform him of a new contract offer, found Richard Brautigan's body on the living room floor of his house on October 25, 1984.
"When the 1960s ended, he was the baby thrown out with the bath water," said his friend and fellow writer, Tom McGuane. "He was a gentle, troubled, deeply odd guy."
Brautigan's daughter Ianthe Elizabeth Brautigan describes her memories of her father in her book You Can't Catch Death (2000).
In April 1994 a Santa Barbara teenager named Peter Eastman Jr. legally changed his name to Trout Fishing in America.