When We Caught Fish


He created his own Kool-aid reality and he was able to illuminate himself by it (10).

Well, that’s the trick, I guess. Trout Fishing in America is the seminal book of the American avant-garde,  circa 1960s, by Richard Brautigan. The title is the theme, heart, and soul of the book.

“Trout Fishing in America Shorty, Mon Amour” (63).

Brautigan references Resnais, of course, but his endearing character, Trout Fishing in America Shorty, is the perfect (quasi) hero of a dark age. For all of its humor, the  book is a lugubrious treatise on the psychic disconnect of a generation.  Any proper noun that is not removed (and demoted) by the article ‘the’ (i.e. ‘the’ woman I travel with, or, ‘the’ baby) is christened, ‘Trout Fishing in America.’ Hotels, people, locals….its all the same.

But I didn’t ruin my birthday by secretly thinking about it too hard (69).

No, no, don’t do that. Brautigan makes the Existentialists look downright cheery and some fifty years out, wanting. At a certain point, after all, the meaninglessness is meaningless.

After he graduated from college, he went to Paris and became an Existentialist. He had a photograph taken of Existentialism and himself sitting at a sidewalk cafe. Pard was wearing a beard and he looked as if he had a huge soul, with barely enough room in his body to contain it (92). 

Composed in a visually and intellectually arresting manner, Trout Fishing in America is a cry, a sob, for an innocence lost. The neurosis is a blinking eye, trying to resist the constraints of a world and society at odds with the simple pleasure of Trout Fishing in America.

We were all silent except for blink, blink, blink, blink, blink. Suddenly I could hear his God-damn eye blinking, It was very much like the sound of an insect laying the 1,000,000th egg of our disaster (39).

In the end, it is all sold off. Another commodity to sell. Aisle four, row whatever, doesn’t matter…the land of the for sale, home of the for hire…the only difference is, no one cares anymore.




6 responses to “When We Caught Fish

  1. Yet another book I’ve always meant to read thanks for the reminder. Have you heard the latest on the British schools . they r dropping american classics like steinbeck & angelou for bronte etc

    • It’s a fairly quick read, if that’s any help.

      It’s a shame they don’t read Angelou and Bronte! Admittedly, I went to an unconventional high school, but I remember I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as one of the first school-assigned books that blew me away. And then, when I switched schools and took my first standard issue English class, I barely recovered from the joy of reading Jane Eyre…Jane! Jane!

  2. Richard Marcus

    You asked if any of your writing bothered me. This was annoying: “For all of its humor, the book is a lugubrious treatise on the psychic disconnect of a generation.”

    Yeah, that did. If anything it was a courageous psychic CONNECT which we attempted because there was no going back or hiding in the last generations total fuck up. There was , as I said, humor and hope. That’s where my “You weren’t there but you make it sound like you know what went on” comes from. Musings about 12th through 19th century writers come with the inferred caveat that we weren’t there. But things get into a gray area when there is a chronological possibility of the critique being as much reportage as opinion.

    “Trout Fishing in America is a cry, a sob, for an innocence lost.” To you. For you. Sure. If that’s what you think it was then why not? But your use of “is”? I’d suggest “”…sounds like it was, perhaps…” I’d follow that with “…but not having been there to absorb, first hand, the satiric nuances, the stoner shrug and the half mocking nod towards existential philosophy being waaay too serious for such a waaay too serious world, I might be taking his writings waaay too seriously. You know, just sayin’”

  3. Of course it’s “for me” – I am the fucking reader- there is no one else here. I see humor in this book, to be sure, and I loved the irreverent brand he was doling out, but hope? Nah. Don’t see it, don’t feel it. You don’t think it matters that he refers to the woman he is with as, well – “the woman he is traveling with,” but of course it does matter – as much as it is a literary device to make a “character” out of her, it also speaks volumes about his heart. Perhaps here, I speak as a woman. Or, maybe I do take it too seriously, but it’s not so funny when you are the broken child of that “stoner” generation. just sayin.

  4. Jessica, don’t let the little bastards get you down.

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