Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Very Public Library

A Very Public Library
The world could be a very different place. We could be waiting for Halloween daily, the goings on of children and candy only to interrupt the goings on of ghouls and ghosts in the bedroom above. In the bed, complete in every way down to the messy hair, we wait for Halloween. My ghoul is pretty, not a ghoul in any sort of traditional way, but we're talking about a very different world. So, as I said, my ghoul is pretty. She wears glasses. She's smart as hell too.
And in this very different world, I'm not me. No, I'm something else entirely. I'm a strange mix of who I am, could be, have been or want to be. In this very different world I'm no more handsome and no more intelligent. I'm just an average fellow and I'm in a motel room, the kind where people live on the outskirts of the world above trick or treaters and fishing streams. We're waiting, me and my ghoul for the doorbell to ring. We're high on Spanish brandy. We're high on poetry. We're discovering it for the first time, we're discovering it together, my ghoul and me the ghost of possibility.
Bees enter the room and buzz a theme or two, their songs are from our youth, or someone else's youth. We're laughing at the whole thing: the impossibility of it, the way it feels, the way it sounds, this whole poetry thing.
We consider 3,859 Rolls Royces. We're thinking of mayonnaise. We're dreaming of Babylon. We're here. It's Halloween and when we start to do what we do this Halloween and the age of Aquarius, we're sure to be quiet when the goblins ring, suddenly we're waiting to cross a street in Denver.

We were separated by ten years and the associated sensibilities. We knew one another when he was the age I am now, and I was ten years younger. He knew Richard Brautigan. Well, not by face, and not personally; Brautigan had died a DIY back in the early 1980s. No, he knew Brautigan by Trout Fishing in America. I remember looking at the old book and admiring it in some sort of tactile way. I admired its age and the mildew smell of it. I wasn't due to read it for a few more months when met it, Trout Fishing in America, again. This time it was someone else to introduce it to me. She read “Sea, Sea Rider.” We laughed. We were all three bartenders, the two who introduced me to Brautigan and myself. We all three had the kind of time that is conducive to reading books. Not to mention in those days we all had money, and the kind of money to hunt up old and out of print books. It was on.
I think Richard Brautigan is best known for Trout Fishing in America, maybe In Watermelon Sugar. Perhaps he's remembered from his poetry. Who knows? I suspect with the vast majority of people, he's not remembered at all.
From my second introduction to his work in early 2002, I read all his novels, his book of short stories, Revenge of the Lawn, and as many volumes of his poetry I could find.
The real turning point, for me, was when I decided to deconstruct The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 when I was in graduate school. I found an academic approach to Brautigan killed everything I found wonderful in his words. I won't bore you with this anymore. But, I will say, I got to know this book backwards and forwards.
What I love about The Abortion is the library. A very public library. Brautigan has conceived of the most democratic of libraries, a library where no one checks books out, but rather they come to deposit them. The very notion that such a library could exist, and that there would be a librarian available 24 hours a day to receive a book is amazing. It's amazing that the library is encouraged to do nothing more than receive entries and the librarian encouraged to spend their time reading them. It's a great idea, it's the freest of free speech.
The Clark County Historical Museum at 1511 Main Street Vancouver, Washington has brought home their prodigal son. Brautigan, from Tacoma, Washington then Eugene, Oregon and then San Francisco, California has left us his legacy in his work. Others have assembled new facets for us to see. The photographs curated in the museum are wonderful to see, courtesy of Erik Weber, photographer, and friend of the late Richard Brautigan. Many of Weber's photos made the covers of Brautigan's books, The Abortion and Trout Fishing in America, namely.
The small museum is a great primer for budding Brautigan fans. And the 200+ collection in “The Brautigan Library” by way of Burlington, Vermont brought tears to my eyes. Yes, there are 200 some books that were brought to a very public library which was the direct translation of Brautigan's library in The Abortion. It was a treat to sit in The Clark County Historical Museum on a trying-to-be-sunny December day in 2010 and open a volume or two written by people who came to the library to deposit their books, deposit their stories.

Items 1-4
Rainbows at night, the circles swimming around avocados and then the cork broke and we decided to drink the remnants of the brandy. Two slugs for each poem. We'd go our way through bowling trophies, wind blowing it all away, and Confederate Generals shoveling mercury with a pitchfork. Our time was our own at iDEATH, iWHISKEY or at the banks of a trout stream. We were sliding down a slope, a slope above a bookstore and that terrible year of 1959.
We were there, all we needed, my ghoul and me, was a record of it written down and bound and cataloged and proud its purpose posterity.

At any rate, as cool as this library is, it's really the coming to life of Richard Brautigan's work. And the rest of the exhibit is well worth the four dollars at the door. There it is for you to see: San Francisco, poetry broadsheets and wonderful photographs. When you're in the area please visit:

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