"Telegrams of the human soul"
This is not Richard Brautigan, this is Andy Knowlton a huge fan paying his homage to Brautigan in his own Richard Brautigan style! Knowlton is a writer, poet and artist living and working from his life experiences and found materials!
Here is his story!
I did this project because I am a huge Richard Brautigan fan. I first read Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America in 2006 or 2007 and was instantly hooked. I loved his simple, funny and surreal writing style.
Several years later, I was sitting in a café in Kyoto, reading a book by Brautigan called "The Abortion". It's about a strange little library in San Francisco where anyone who has written a book can show up and put the book on a shelf. There's a chapter in "The Abortion" called "The 23", in which the librarian describes the 23 books that were brought in that day. They are weird books brought in by all kinds of whacky characters. As I read this chapter, I really felt like Brautigan's ghost was sitting next to me in that cafe in Kyoto, poking me and daring me to do something with this story. So, I decided in that very moment that I would turn this fictitious library into a real one.
Over the course of five years, I wrote the 23 books, designed the covers and had them printed.
Then, I flew to San Francisco and built a tiny little library for the books, and I put the books on display outside the Presidio Branch Library, which is the location of the library in "The Abortion". It was a really interesting experience speaking with the locals about my library. Many of them were quite familiar with Brautigan, as he'd once lived in that neighborhood.
After displaying my books, I took them up to Washington State University and donated to the real Richard Brautigan Library. At WSU, I met John Barber, who is a Brautigan historian and actually knew Brautigan back when he lived in Montana. We discussed all types of things, including Brautigan's cats, his fashion sense, his taste in music, and his legacy.
So, my books now live at Washington State University. I would love if some students there read some of the books I wrote and got inspired to turn them into movies, or animations. I think it would be awesome if the project could keep on giving birth to new ideas and art.
I did this project to pay homage to Richard Brautigan. He has been a huge influence on my writing style and even the way I look at everyday life. He was a such a unique observer of the world. I think that if you are an artist and strongly influenced by an artist that came before you, it's only right to pay homage to that person in a way that they might be proud of. If Brautigan could see my library, I'm pretty sure he'd get a good kick out of it.
Tussle: What do you think people reading Brautigan now should take from his writing?
Andy Knowlton: His ability to observe mundane, everyday occurrences and write about them in such creative, surreal, magical, often heartbreaking and almost always hilarious ways is what I love and I think a lot of other people love about Brautigan. He's taught me to be a better observer.
Can we recycle his words to create a unique voice? Other than paying homage to Brautigan, do you envision taking this project farther? (like creating an exhibition/protest/collaborative project)
We can certainly take the torch from Brautigan -- as countless artists already have -- and create unique voices that embody his spirit, and hopefully put the torch in good hands when we're done with it. I don't have any immediate plans for taking this project any further than I have, but I'd love it if a student at Washington State picked up one of my books and got inspired to take the project even farther by adapting a story into a movie, animation, comic, song, or something like that. The possibilities are endless.
T: If you were asked or challenged to pick a current topic and protest it in Brautigan style, what would you choose and how would you approach?
AK: Inequality an racism. I guess if I were to protest Brautigan-style, I would write a story, maybe a satire, that metaphorically made obvious the sheer stupidity of racism and try to get that story into the hands of as many racists as possible.
T: As an artist, are you a writer or painter? What does your everyday art practice look like?
AK: I don't really have an everyday practice, per se. I guess I take notes daily. I try to write poetry daily. I spend a lot of time reading and writing and I try hard to be as open as possible to the little things I experience every day. My wife and I have been traveling a lot for the last two years, and I make dolls out of the trash and leave them on the streets, with poems, for people to find. I call them Drunken Poet Dolls. So, I pick up a lot of trash and collect a lot of found items, such as toys, buttons, tiles, photos. All of this is so ingrained in my life that I don't really think of it as a practice, though. It's just how I live. If one day, I feel inspired to paint, I'll paint. If I want to make a song, maybe I'll make a song. Who knows? I don't want to limit myself to one medium.