Richard Brautigan was one of the heroes of my late 60’s childhood and early adolescence – a writer of tremendous originality and sensitivity who wrote some of the most astonishing stories I had ever come across. Along with Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick, he shaped my idea of what a writer in America could do. One of his great visions is honored today by The Brautigan Library, ‘a home for “the unwanted, the lyrical and haunted volumes of American writing” without passing judgement as to content and technique.’
Brautigan’s Library is the subject of several stories in The Abortion, and prefigures the internet world of self-publishing by nearly fifty years. Anyone can contribute anything to this library. It is always open, always staffed, accepts every book no matter what shape it’s in, and allows the author to place the book anywhere they like inside the library, which is organized by no other system than that. It’s a beautiful idea, and it’s also very funny, and it also rings very true. I want to share some samples:
A History of Nebraska by Clinton York. The author was a gentleman about forty-seven who said he had never been to Nebraska but had always been interested in the state. “Ever since I was a child it’s been Nebraska for me. Other kids listened to the radio or raved on about their bicycles. I read everything I could find on Nebraska”
It’s the Queen of Darkenss, Pal, by Rod Keen. “I work in the city sewers,” he said, handing the book to me. “It’s science fiction.”
Your Clothes are Dead by Les Steinman. The author looked like an ancient Jewish tailor. “They are, you know,” he said.
Hombre by Canton Lee. The author was a Chinese gentleman about seventy. “It’s a Western,” he said. “About a horse thief. Westerns is my hobby, so I decided to write one myself. Why not? I spent thirty years cooking in a restaurant in Phoenix.”
Bacon Death by Marsha Patterson. The author was a totally nondescript young woman except for a look of anguish on her face.
Breakfast First by Samuel Humber. The author said that breakfast was an absolute requisite for traveling and was overlooked in too many travel books, so he decided that he would write a book about how important breakfast was in traveling.
It reminds me also of my years as a (judgmental ostrich) bookseller, when people would bring in their self-published books to stock on consignment, and I would always accept them, although none ever sold a single copy, other than the ones I purchased myself. I still have some of those, including “Lie Detector Man”, the autobiography of a man who gave lie detector tests, “Reagan The Son of a Bitch” by a out-and-out loon, and my favorite, a spiral-bound, photocopied book called “Knitting my Way through Britain”, in which the author chronicles all the knitting she did on various bus trips throughout that island, accompanied by photographs of the medications she was taking, and the handwritten prescriptions by various doctors – definitely a unique edition.