In Watermelon Sugar

In Watermelon Sugar
by Richard Brautigan
Houghton Mifflin/Seymour Lawrence
(reprint, Boston 1989)

Reality is a poor excuse not to enjoy the work of Richard Brautigan. It is also the best excuse. Either way, I recommend you set reality aside; let it rest awhile; if you find you need it later, chances are it will still be there. If it isn�t, well, as they say, good riddance.

Brautigan�s gentle vision, melancholy humor, and ear for language are all beautifully evident in his short impressionistic novel, In Watermelon Sugar. The story begins simply and in earnest:

In watermelon sugar the deeds were done and done again as my life is done in watermelon sugar. I�ll tell you about it because I am here and you are distant.

Wherever you are, we must do the best we can. It is so far to travel, and we have nothing here to travel, except watermelon sugar. I hope this works out.

And work out it does. Effortlessly, Brautigan builds a bridge composed of dry timber and sad, sweet images, and places them beneath a colored sky and sun in a comfortable living room as big as one�s imagination will allow. One end of the bridge is at the reader�s feet. The other is in a small community of peaceful souls once shared by mournful tigers, which ate people with regret, sang, apologized in English, and offered to help the narrator with his arithmetic even as he was being orphaned. The narrator, now an adult, holds nothing against the tigers � and, indeed, nothing against anyone. Life is simply the thing it is. Not everything can be explained, nor does it need to be:

. . . Fred had something strange-looking sticking out of the pocket of his overalls. I was curious about it. It looked like something I had never seen before.

�What�s that in your pocket, Fred?�

�I found it today coming through the woods and up from the Watermelon Works. I don�t know what it is myself. I�ve never seen anything like it before. What do you think it is?�

He took it out of his pocket and handed it to me. I didn�t know how to hold it. I tried to hold it like you would a flower and a rock at the same time.

�How do you hold it?� I said.

�I don�t know. I don�t know anything about it.� . . .

To me, that simple confession, �I didn�t know how to hold it,� perfectly describes Brautigan�s feelings toward life itself. How do you hold something that is infinite, delicate, and always changing? The answer: You don�t. You write a book instead, give it to the world, and hope it takes root in watermelon sugar.

Richard Brautigan was born January 30, 1935, in the Pacific Northwest. He lived for many years in San Francisco, and was called by many �the last of the Beats.� He committed suicide in Bolinas, California, at the age of forty-nine.

Note: This review is also included in the Richard Brautigan Archives.

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Richard Brautigan

Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
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Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

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A few words about my favorite dictionary . . .

From In Watermelon Sugar
by Richard Brautigan

. . . I guess you are kind of curious as to who I am, but I am one of those who do not have a regular name. My name depends on you. Just call me whatever is in your mind.

If you are thinking about something that happened a long time ago: Someday asked you a question and you did not have the answer.

That is my name.

Perhaps it was raining very hard.

That is my name.

Or somebody wanted you to do something. You did it. Then they told you what you did was wrong � �Sorry for the mistake,� � and you had to do something else.

That is my name.

Perhaps it was a game that you played when you were a child or something that came idly into your mind when you were old and sitting in a chair near the window.

That is my name. . . .

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