In his 1971 novel, The Abortion, Richard Brautigan imagined a home for the “unwanted . . . and haunted volumes of American writing.” In 2010, Brautigan fan John Barber brought to life the Brautigan Library. Wes Enzinna visits the stacks:
Patrons from across the United States have paid twenty-five dollars apiece to house their unpublished novels here, books with titles like “Autobiography of a Nobody” and “Sterling Silver Cockroaches.” The shelves hold 291 of these cheap vinyl-bound volumes, which are organized into categories according to a schema called the Mayonnaise System: Adventure, Natural World, Street Life, Family, Future, Humor, Love, War and Peace, Meaning of Life, Poetry, Spirituality, Social/Political/Cultural, and All the Rest. Bylines and titles don’t appear on the covers. “The only way to browse the stacks is to choose a category and pick at random,” Barber explains. “Are you in the mood for Adventure or the Meaning of Life?”
Why Brautigan is an appropriate namesake:
At the end of his life, Brautigan — despite tremendous commercial success early in his career for works like Trout Fishing in America — couldn’t get his own work published, and he blamed the “eastern critical mafia” for brutal reviews and for ruining his reputation. Brautigan’s work isn’t widely read today — Thomas McGuane’s criticism in 1973 that Brautigan was an anachronism, “nothing but a pet rock! A fucking hula hoop!” has, perhaps, proved prophetic. Yet Brautigan has nonetheless become a patron saint for failed writers, a novelist and poet in whose work — and the peculiar library named after him — thwarted authors find refuge.
Read some descriptions of the Library’s collection over at its website. Dish fave:
The “bits” in SM are about everything and nothing. There is some hard information like the alleged amount of TV watched by an average American in 1988, and where one can buy a spaghetti sandwich. Old adages like “you are what you eat,” are explored, along with questions like: is dancing exercise, how much smoke is in a cigar, what is history, does happiness help you focus better, is a TV more important then a refrigerator. There are tips on living well; words from Asia, commentary, on contemporary American life, and on Modern Art. There are no jokes, no pictures, no answers.
(Photo by Flickr user jvoss)