Friday, September 14, 2007

Connective Tissue

So Dorn and Brautigan crossed paths. I had forgotten that fact until leafing through a compilation of Dorn's work called "Way West: Stories, Essays, and Verse Accounts, 1963-1993."

Dorn and Brautigan met briefly in Colorado, lived near each other in North Beach, and hung out later in Montana. They seemed to hit it off. Dorn wrote a memorial to Brautigan after Brautigan's death. It appears in this collection. A very strange essay indeed, printed side-by-side with a more conventional eulogy by Dorn's ex-wife.

This paragraph struck me as a quirky (Rob Hardy uses this word correctly to describe Dorn's poetry) piece of literary criticism and personal reminiscence:

"There is a distant similarity between Brautigan and Twain. It consists almost solely in a natural innocence…regarding the evil disposition of mankind. But whereas Twain’s treatment of the condition is streaked with acid intelligence, Brautigan’s is amazingly tolerant, if not gleeful, and resembles an anthropologist’s understanding more than that of a literary man."
The contrast works in a way because an anthropologist carefully observes and records, which is what Brautigan did so well. Twain was as much an agitator and opinion-shaper as he was a trenchant observer.

Much of the time, about nearly everything, Dorn was offended, disgusted, pissed off, or suspicious. In Dorn's view, a "literary man" would use his pen as a cudgel, so it's interesting that the swashbuckling Dorn could be friends with and respect the work of the understated Brautigan.

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