Posted by: Sally Ingraham | June 13, 2009

The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster

BrautiganA passing comment about Tom Robbins brought Richard Brautigan into my life. According to my friend Colin, everything good about Robbins writing had been done first, and better, by Brautigan. This excited me, because while I have generally liked the few books I’ve read by Robbins, his somewhat overblown opinion of his own cleverness has always irked me.

Early this morning (and very late at night) I read the last book in the collection of three that I got through ILL a few weeks ago. The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster is a collection of poems. Being poetical is what Brautigan is good at – even his prose reads like poems in fat paragraphs.

His writing is odd, funny, sad, and full of images that pop out of the page. An especially vivid moment from In Watermelon Sugar keeps floating back into my mind:

He took it out of his pocket and handed it to me. I didn’t know how to hold it. I tried to hold it like you would hold a flower and a rock at the same time.

Phrases such as this give me shivers because they startle and delight me. They send me deeper into the experience while at the same time pulling me a little out of it, and it is the balance of that which thrills me.

The poem that I liked the best so early this morning, while lying in bed wrapped in Bach’s Cello Suits and close to sleep, was The Horse That Had a Flat Tire.

Once upon a valley
there came down
from some goldenblue mountains
a handsome young price
who was riding
a dawncolored horse
named Lordsburg.

(I love you
You’re my breathing castle
Gentle so gentle
We’ll live forever)

In the valley
there was a beautiful maiden
whom the prince
drifted into love with
like a New Mexico made from
apple thunder and long
glass beds.

(I love you
You’re my breathing castle
Gentle so gentle
We’ll live forever)

the prince enchanted
the maiden
and they rode off
on the dawncolored horse
named Lordsburg
toward the goldenblue mountains.

(I love you
You’re my breathing castle
Gentle so gentle
We’ll live forever)

They would have lived
happily ever after
if the horse hadn’t had
a flat tire
in front of a dragon’s

I’ve been to Lordsburg, NM, which amuses me and adds a little something extra to the poem for me. It is the lines about the beautiful maiden whom the prince/ drifted into love with/ like a New Mexico made from/ apple thunder and long/glass beds that I especially like though.

I’ll be looking for more Brautigan for sure, but now I’m late for work so I’ll wrap up this post with the very last line in Trout Fishing in America:

Sorry I forgot to give you the mayonaise. (Mayonnaise spelled Brautigan style!)


  1. Ooh, I love your sentence about certain phrases sending you deeper into the experience while at the same time pulling you out of it. I know just what you mean. I’ve been resistant to Brautigan for silly reasons – years ago, he was the favorite author of someone I didn’t like – but I should let it go and give the man a chance. He plainly has a lot to offer. Thanks for the review!

  2. I do hope you try some of his work. I’ll be curious to see what you think. 🙂

  3. Everyone must read some Richard Brautigan.

    My personal favourites are Sombrero Fallout, Willard and His Bowling Trophies, and Revenge of the Lawn.

    Buy, borrow, or steal them today.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: