50bookchallenge #27/50: An Unfortunate Woman, Richard Brautigan

It’s Novem­ber and I’m only halfway through my goal of fifty books for the year, so yes, I’m look­ing at the slimmest vol­umes on the shelf. I tore through this last night before bed and this morn­ing before break­fast. I’m left with bit­ter feel­ings about it and almost wish I had­n’t read it. I feel good for hav­ing bought it and help­ing to sup­port Ianthe Brauti­gan, but the psy­chic act of read­ing this book which Richard Brauti­gan nev­er chose to have pub­lished seems cru­el and sad.

This is not a nov­el and it is not poet­ry. It’s not even a mem­oir. I think it can be most accu­rate­ly described as a jour­nal, although he does refer to it as his book. There are snip­pets from his life told in frag­ments, all dark­ly obsessed with death and in par­tic­u­lar death by sui­cide. But this is not enough of a theme to make a col­lec­tion of writ­ings a coher­ent work, and it’s so clear­ly his direct expe­ri­ence to just be embar­rass­ing and more than a lit­tle sad.

This is, to my eye, authen­tic. It’s Brauti­gan’s voice and Brauti­gan’s humor. But it did­n’t seem like a work meant for oth­ers, more a per­son­al jour­nal, per­haps what would have been part of Richard Brauti­gan’s blog if tech­nol­o­gy had per­mit­ted in 1982. But if he had want­ed it pub­lished, he cer­tain­ly had the tech­nol­o­gy to do so. This had not been sub­mit­ted to an edi­tor and hav­ing read it I doubt he intend­ed to. It reads more like a sui­cide note than a nov­el, and reminds me of Brauti­gan’s genius only in that the end of it was approaching.

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