Richard Brautigan's Search for Control over Death
01 Oct 1985-American Literature-Vol. 57, Iss: 3, pp 434
TL;DR: The irony of man's condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.
Abstract: LUDWIG Wittgenstein once noted that "Death is not an event in life. Death is not lived through."1 However, as Kierkegaard and others have forcefully argued, the prospect of death is life's central fact and the repression of this fact life's primary task. For Ernest Becker, moreover, man's heroism lies in his impossible efforts to transcend creatureliness, to deny death by means of "lifeenhancing illusion."2 Among such illusions might be placed statements such as Wittgenstein's and the fiction of Richard Brautigan. As Becker writes early in The Denial of Death, "The irony of man's condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive" (p. 66). For Becker, this dilemma is inherent to consciousness, a consequence of human nature more than nurture. His views thus oppose those of Marcuse or Norman 0. Brown, whose works speak to the desire for unrepressed living while pointing an accusing finger at society as the cause of repression. Yet throughout the Sixties, Brautigan created characters seeking not greater freedom but greater control over their lives: over their creatureliness, their thoughts and emotions. But further, although shrinking from life should not be seen exclusively as a result of social antagonism toward freedom and self-expansiveness, society can exacerbate this existential timidity. And in Trout Fishing in America (completed 196I,
TL;DR: In this article, London seems to strongly imply that animals survive through instinct; men of limited mental capacity fail; and human beings who exercise good judgment, tempered with emotional insights are the human being who win out over a hostile environment.
Abstract: W hat London seems to be suggesting, then, in “T o Build a Fire,” is not any kind of animalistic return for man to a presymbolic state of existence in order to survive; on the contrary, he seems to strongly imply that animals survive through instinct; men of limited mental capacity fail; and that human beings who exercise good judgment, tempered with emotional insights are the human beings who win out over a hostile environment. J a m e s K . B o w e n , Southern Oregon College
TL;DR: In this paper, a post-modern genre called "metaphysical detective story" is proposed to examine the questions of being and knowing in a novel called "Dreaming of Babylon" by Brautigan.
Abstract: The present article attempted to analyze Richard Brautigan’s Dreaming of Babylon: A Private Eye Novel 1942 (1977) in the light of a new genre called metaphysical detective story. As a postmodern genre, metaphysical detective story subverts the conventions and features of traditional detective stories in order to go beyond simple murder mysteries and become a literary phenomenon which examines the questions being. The central questions of the paper are: Can we trace elements of metaphysical detective stories in Richard Brautigan’s Dreaming of Babylon? What is the implication of the novel as a metaphysical detective story? To answer these questions, first the features of metaphysical detective stories are introduced, and then these features are studied in the novel through the concepts of ‘parodic detective’, ‘dreams’, and ‘circular narrative’ to see how the novel has subverted and altered the tropes of hard-boiled detective stories and has become a philosophical novel picturing a bleak world, in an absurd life. The present study argues that Dreaming of Babylon is turned into a postmodern novel which deals with life in the postmodern world and explores the questions of being and knowing through its comical detective and his daydreaming in which he becomes the hero that he wants to be in life.
28 Apr 2010
TL;DR: This paper explored the historical context of Brautigan's work and studied his style and presented diverse interpretations in a mutually inclusive way that complemented the multifaceted qualities of his writing.
Abstract: Sarah E. Plummer “How is a Woman Like a Watermelon” examines two of Richard Brautigan’s novels, In Watermelon Sugar and An Unfortunate Woman, as they relate to each other in ways that offer a better understanding of each. This paper enriches an understanding of Brautigan’s work by exploring the historical context of his writings, studying his style and presenting diverse interpretations in a mutually inclusive way that complements the multifaceted qualities of his writing. By studying Brautigan’s novels in a comparative manner, the essential and distinctive principles that drive Brautigan’s work—his manipulation of genre, use of memory and a complex first person narrator as an author persona—are better understood. Because of Brautigan’s use of the first person, this study advocates an analytical psychological analysis aimed at discerning underlying emotion within apparent personal detachment, the use of projection as a defense mechanism, and the psychological associative value of words, images and memories. An inclusive and comparative study that foregrounds these psychological elements will ultimately allow for a more complete and subtle analysis of Brautigan’s work.
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