Skip to content

Waltzing With the Captain: Remembering Richard Brautigan by Greg Keeler

December 28, 2014


Richard Brautigan was a novelist, poet and short story writer who came to fame in the late sixties. A complicated, brilliant, hilarious, cantankerous alcoholic who killed himself with a shotgun in 1983, Brautigan bridged the beats and the hippies stylistically. Or perhaps that is just a stereotype because he was a San Francisco writer. In truth, there was nobody like him. He is one of my favorite writers.

I’ve read everything I can get my hands on by or about Brautigan. William Hjortsberg’s 800+ page biography currently keeps my nightstand from floating away, but there are a number of shorter, more personal memoirs that have popped up over the years: You Can’t Catch Death by his daughter, Ianthe; Downstream from Trout Fishing in America by Keith Abbott; a rare memoir by Beverly Allen, who knew Richard and modeled for some of his book photos; and this book, by a friend of Richard’s in Montana who, in Keeler’s words, “drank with him and drove him around for a few years.”

That’s the charm in this book: it reads like someone drinking and remembering stories about an old friend. Keeler knew Brautigan later in his life, during his Montana years, as he struggled with his flagging fame. There’s a lot that happened before or otherwise outside the scope of this book. But there are plenty of stories about Brautigan here to give a sense of the man—the good and the bad. Keeler doesn’t sugarcoat or protect his old friend. He simply remembers him. Like everything I’ve read about him, it is a cocktail of humor and melancholy. Richard could be vibrant and he could be cruel. His brilliant creative talents are, as in any memoir of him, colored by the ultimately destructive act of his suicide. Keeler balances all the ingredients in what reads not as a wholly new take, but an honest and welcome addition to the legend.

NOTE: I first found this book used on Amazon, listed at nearly $250. It can be purchased directly from the publisher for $15 here.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2015 7:04 pm

    I recommend you read Greg Keeler’s memoir Trash Fish for a few more vignettes of The Captain.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: