''If you get hung up on everybody else's hang-ups, then the whole world's going to be nothing more than one huge gallows.''All quotations
an American novelist, poet, and short story writer. His work often employs black comedy, parody, and satire. He is best known for his 1967 novel Trout Fishing in America.
Brautigan was born in Tacoma, Washington, the only child to Bernard Frederick "Ben" Brautigan, Jr. (July 29, 1908 – May 27, 1994) a factory worker and laborer, and Lulu Mary "Mary Lou" Keho (April 7, 1911 – September 24, 2005), a waitress. In May 1934, eight months prior to his birth, Bernard and Mary Lou separated. Brautigan said that he met his biological father only twice, though after Brautigan's death, Bernard was said to be unaware that Richard was his child, saying "He's got the same last name, but why would they wait 45 to 50 years to tell me I've got a son?"
In 1938, Brautigan and his mother began cohabiting with a man named Arthur Martin Titland. The couple produced a daughter named Barbara Ann, born on May 1, 1939 in Tacoma. Brautigan claimed that he had a very traumatic experience when his mother left him alone with his two-year-old sister in a motel room in Great Falls, Montana, where he did not know the whereabouts of his mother until she returned two days later.
On January 20, 1943, Mary Lou married a fry cook named Robert Geoffrey Porterfield. The couple produced a daughter named Sandra Jean, born April 1, 1945 in Tacoma. Mary Lou told Brautigan that Porterfield was his biological father, and Brautigan began using Richard Gary Porterfield as his name. Mary Lou separated from Porterfield in 1946, and married William David Folston, Sr., on June 12, 1950. The couple produced a son named William David, Jr., born on December 19, 1950 in Eugene. Folston was recalled as being a violent alcoholic, whom Richard had seen subjecting his mother to domestic abuse.
Brautigan was raised in poverty; he told his daughter stories of his mother sifting rat feces from their supply of flour to make flour-and-water pancakes. Because of Brautigan's impoverished childhood, he and his family found it difficult to obtain food, and on some occasions they did not eat for days. He lived with his family on welfare and moved about the Pacific Northwest for nine years before the family settled in Eugene, Oregon in August 1944. Many of Brautigan's childhood experiences were included in the poems and stories that he wrote from as early as the age of 12. His novel So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away is loosely based on childhood experiences including an incident where Brautigan accidentally shot the brother of a close friend in the ear, injuring him only slightly.
On September 12, 1950, Brautigan enrolled at South Eugene High School, having graduated from Woodrow Wilson Junior High School. He was a writer for his high school newspaper South Eugene High School News. He also played on his school's basketball team, standing 6 feet 4 inches tall (1.93 m) by the time of his graduation. On December 19, 1952, Brautigan's first published poem, The Light, appeared in the South Eugene High School newspaper. Brautigan graduated with honors from South Eugene High School on June 9, 1953. Following graduation, he moved in with his best friend Peter Webster, and Peter's mother Edna Webster became Brautigan's surrogate mother. According to several accounts Brautigan stayed with Webster for about a year before leaving for San Francisco for the first time in August 1954. He returned to Oregon several times, apparently for lack of money.
On December 14, 1955, Brautigan was arrested for throwing a rock through a police-station window, supposedly in order to be sent to prison and fed. He was arrested for disorderly conduct and fined $25. He was then committed to the Oregon State Hospital on December 24, 1955, after police noticed patterns of erratic behavior.
At the Oregon State Hospital Brautigan was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and clinical depression, and was treated with electroconvulsive therapy 12 times. While institutionalized, he began writing The God of the Martians, a manuscript of 20 very short chapters totaling 600 words. The manuscript was sent to at least two editors but was rejected by both, and remains unpublished. (A copy of the manuscript was recently discovered with the papers of the last of these editors, Harry Hooton.) On February 19, 1956, Brautigan was released from hospital and briefly lived with his mother, stepfather, and siblings in Eugene, Oregon. He then left for San Francisco, where he would spend most of the rest of his life except for periods in Tokyo and Montana.
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