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An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey (original 1994; edition 2001)

by Richard Brautigan

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273941,545 (3.62)7
Member:bookdreamer
Title:An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey
Authors:Richard Brautigan
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Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:brautigan, fiction, have read, library

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An Unfortunate Woman by Richard Brautigan (1994)

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
This small treasure, written back in 1982, was Richard Brautigan's last book before his suicide. His daughter held up its publication because of the haunting memories contained in the book. The waiting was certainly worth it for his fans. Much of how Brautigan's writing brings me pleasure is not clear to my conscious mind, and I'm a little afraid of ruining the magic for myself by overanalyzing his style. His mind and his writing had an openness and a sweetness to it that could lead his readers anywhere—you simply wanted to follow his lead without any fear or judgment.

This book was a writing experiment in which he purchased a 160-page notebook and simply had to fill every page. In form, the book is somewhat of a six-month diary. It has dated entries, but Brautigan doesn't seem able to leave it at that. Many times it seems that the subject, setting, time, and everything else changed several times within a single sentence. His mind jumped around making connections that were many times surprising, but they always "worked." There's a comfort to his writing, even when it's disturbing—it’s always an interesting place to be. One minute he's focused on a shoe in a Honolulu street, next, he'll be describing a tiny spider creating cobwebs in the hairs on his arm ... then ... wait ... he's pondering the reason some unfortunate woman hanged herself in his apartment house. Mixed in are countless other events, nonevents, hard days and nights of drinking, tales of Brautigan and women, and a most disturbing phone conversation between the author and his distant daughter.

What's this all about? Why does anyone want to read these ramblings? My answer would have to be to experience this wonderfully fascinating man's mind, to go along for the ride, and, at the same time, to be thoroughly entertained.

(5/01) ( )
  jphamilton | Jul 27, 2014 |
This is an odd little book. I have never read a book by Brautigan before but have heard good things. It turns out those good things were true in this instance. This book was Brautigan's last book and was published after his suicide which makes the last line particularly haunting if you are at all familiar with Greek Tragedy: Iphigenia, your daddy's home from Troy!

It is hard to explain this book because it is technically about the deaths of two women one from hanging and another from cancer however it is composed of talk on all sorts of things from travelling, sexual exploits, and having your picture taken with a chicken in Hawaii. Brautigan's writing shares a similarity with Vonnegut's but I can not pin point exactly what it is.

The book is quite short at only 110 pages but packs quite a few laughs and doesn't really ever seem to be explicitly serious. All seriousness was understated and just below the surface. I enjoyed this book quite a bit. ( )
  dtn620 | Sep 22, 2013 |
`You old hippy, you', the bookseller said to me when I bought this. What a cheek, I thought.
  jon1lambert | Oct 18, 2009 |
The last chapter in a unique American Author's life. Found and published by his daughter, it's a poignant story of endings.. chosen and unchosen. ( )
  jastbrown | Jan 27, 2009 |
An aimless, plotless narrative lost in time, but in a good way. A middle-aged man is alone, bored with his life, daydreaming, rambling, contemplating death and the past few months of his life, and, above all, writing the book you're reading. He's depressed and addressing depressing subjects, but it still somehow manages to be fairly uplifting, happy book. Brautigan's just got a way of saying things that never fails to make me smile. It's probably his most candid book, although he never quite lets you trust whether it's autobiographical or not. ( )
  comfypants | Oct 29, 2008 |
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Epigraph
Iphigenia
A new home you make for me, Father
Where will it be?

Agamemnon
Now stop—it's not right
For a girl to know all of these things.

Iphigenia
Father, over there when you have done
All things well, hurry back to me from Troy!

Euripides,
Iphigenia in Aulis
Dedication
First words
I saw a brand-new woman's shoe lying in the middle of a quiet Honolulu intersection.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312277105, Paperback)

In this posthumously released novel, Richard Brautigan's voice--quipping, punning, strewn with non sequiturs--comes like a rattling of chains. Brautigan took his own life in 1984; An Unfortunate Woman was written in the years immediately preceding, and the writer's imminent death haunts the book. It bears the subtitle A Journey, and Brautigan means this quite literally. We follow the first-person narrator in his peregrinations from Montana to San Francisco to New York to Alaska to Honolulu and back to San Francisco, with a detour across the bay to Berkeley--and that's leaving out Canada altogether. Pulling him like a wispy thread throughout is the hanging death of a San Francisco housemate who had cancer. We never learn her story, just that his book's "main theme is an unfortunate woman." She's a constant glancing reference.

Brautigan uses a journal format, with digressions galore, to explore the contingency of his own existence. He tells of loves past, homes past, the kitchens of friends and the beds of strangers. But like the old free-lovin' hippie he is, he never commits to any single story. Of one fellow he meets in Ketchikan: "He is one of those people who in a normal book, unfortunately not this one, would be developed into a memorable character." The author is forever warning you of a digression ahead or a story he'll get back to later. His references to the book in progress read, in this rueful context, not so much as self-indulgent cuteness, but as a kind of sad knowledge of the unkempt ways of his own mind. An Unfortunate Woman will not bring Brautigan many new fans, but devoted readers will find the dark, self-revealing side of a man who felt middle age like a blow to the head. --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:26:57 -0400)

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