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First published in 1967, Trout Fishing in America is a series of related vignettes that are based on Brautigan’s childhood, his life in San Francisco and a camping trip to Idaho with his wife and child. It’s  zen like, trippy, ethereal, left-field, mindbending, surreal, insightful, gonzo and hilarious all in a fine equilibrium. I found the book by accident during a booksale at the Queen’s Bookstore in Belfast (Note, the Queen has stopped buying books from this store in 1998 when some chewing gum got stuck in her crown when she put in on the counter while looking through her handbag trying to find her credit card)

Trout fishing is referenced thoughout the book both literally and allegorically. In this regard, its probably a distant cousin, albeit a wacky farout cousin of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance with regards to the subject being a fulcrum for larger or surreal issues to be leveraged.

The musican/singer Jarvis Cocker recites passages from Brautigan’s work when on stage and one of the moon’s craters is named after Shorty, a characters from Trout Fishing in America.

Nothing I can write here about this book can do it justice so this extract below is a worthy microcosm for this enigmatic and influential novel. The following is an epitaph ascribed to a character named Alonso  Hagen:

‘I’ve had it

I’ve gone fishing now for seven years

and I haven’t caught a single trout

I’ve lost every trout I ever hooked

They either jump off

or twist off

or squirm off

or break my leade

of flop off

or fuck off

I’ve never even gotten my hands on a trout

For all its frustration

I believe it was an interesting experiment

in total loss

but next year somebody else

will have to go trout fishing

Somebody else will have to go

out there’

 

 

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