Trout Fishing in America

Trout Fishing in America


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Richard Brautigan was a literary idol of the 1960s and 1970s whose comic genius and iconoclastic vision of American life caught the imagination of young people everywhere. He came of age during the Haight-Ashbury period and has been called “the last of the Beats.” His early books became required reading for the hip generation, and on its publication Trout Fishing in America became an international bestseller. An indescribable romp, the novel is best summed up in one word: mayonnaise.
This new edition includes an introduction by the poet Billy Collins, who first encountered Brautigan’s work as a student in California.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547255279
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 01/19/2010
Edition description: Anniversary
Pages: 112
Sales rank: 174,238
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Richard Brautigan (1935-1984) was the author of ten novels, nine volumes of poetry, and a collection of short stories. He lived for many years in San Francisco, and toward the end of his life he divided his time between a ranch in Montana and Tokyo. Brautigan committed suicide at the age of forty-nine.

Read an Excerpt



The cover for Trout Fishing in America is a photograph taken late in the afternoon, a photograph of the Benjamin Franklin statue in San Francisco's Washington Square.

Born 1706 — Died 1790, Benjamin Franklin stands on a pedestal that looks like a house containing stone furniture. He holds some papers in one hand and his hat in the other.

Then the statue speaks, saying in marble:


Around the base of the statue are four words facing the directions of this world, to the east WELCOME, to the west WELCOME, to the north WELCOME, to the south WELCOME. Just behind the statue are three poplar trees, almost leafless except for the top branches. The statue stands in front of the middle tree. All around the grass is wet from the rains of early February.

In the background is a tall cypress tree, almost dark like a room. Adlai Stevenson spoke under the tree in 1956, before a crowd of 40, 000 people.

There is a tall church across the street from the statue with crosses, steeples, bells and a vast door that looks like a huge mousehole, perhaps from a Tom and Jerry cartoon, and written above the door is "Per L'Universo."

Around five o'clock in the afternoon of my cover for Trout Fishing in America, people gather in the park across the street from the church and they are hungry.

It's sandwich time for the poor.

But they cannot cross the street until the signal is given. Then they all run across the street to the church and get their sandwiches that are wrapped in newspaper. They go back to the park and unwrap the newspaper and see what their sandwiches are all about.

A friend of mine unwrapped his sandwich one afternoon and looked inside to find just a leaf of spinach. That was all.

Was it Kafka who learned about America by reading the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin ...

Kafka who said, "I like the Americans because they are healthy and optimistic."



As a child when did I first hear about trout fishing in America? From whom? I guess it was a stepfather of mine.

Summer of 1942.

The old drunk told me about trout fishing. When he could talk, he had a way of describing trout as if they were a precious and intelligent metal.

Silver is not a good adjective to describe what I felt when he told me about trout fishing.

I'd like to get it right.

Maybe trout steel. Steel made from trout. The clear snow-filled river acting as foundry and heat.

Imagine Pittsburgh.

A steel that comes from trout, used to make buildings, trains and tunnels.

The Andrew Carnegie of Trout!

The Reply of Trout Fishing in America:

I remember with particular amusement, people with three-cornered hats fishing in the dawn.



One spring afternoon as a child in the strange town of Portland, I walked down to a different street corner, and saw a row of old houses, huddled together like seals on a rock. Then there was a long field that came sloping down off a hill. The field was covered with green grass and bushes. On top of the hill there was a grove of tall, dark trees. At a distance I saw a waterfall come pouring down off the hill. It was long and white and I could almost feel its cold spray.

There must be a creek there, I thought, and it probably has trout in it.


At last an opportunity to go trout fishing, to catch my first trout, to behold Pittsburgh.

It was growing dark. I didn't have time to go and look at the creek. I walked home past the glass whiskers of the houses, reflecting the downward rushing waterfalls of night.

The next day I would go trout fishing for the first time. I would get up early and eat my breakfast and go. I had heard that it was better to go trout fishing early in the morning. The trout were better for it. They had something extra in the morning. I went home to prepare for trout fishing in America. I didn't have any fishing tackle, so I had to fall back on corny fishing tackle.

Like a joke.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

I bent a pin and tied it onto a piece of white string.

And slept.

The next morning I got up early and ate my breakfast. I took a slice of white bread to use for bait. I planned on making doughballs from the soft center of the bread and putting them on my vaudevillean hook.

I left the place and walked down to the different streetcorner. How beautiful the field looked and the creek that came pouring down in a waterfall off the hill.

But as I got closer to the creek I could see that something was wrong. The creek did not act right. There was a strangeness to it. There was a thing about its motion that was wrong. Finally I got close enough to see what the trouble was.

The waterfall was just a flight of white wooden stairs leading up to a house in the trees.

I stood there for a long time, looking up and looking down, following the stairs with my eyes, having trouble believing.

Then I knocked on my creek and heard the sound of wood.

I ended up by being my own trout and eating the slice of bread myself.

The Reply of Trout Fishing in America:

There was nothing I could do. I couldn't change a flight of stairs into a creek. The boy walked back to where he came from. The same thing once happened to me. I remember mistaking an old woman for a trout stream in Vermont, and I had to beg her pardon.

"Excuse me," I said. "I thought you were a trout stream."

"I'm not," she said.



Seventeen years later I sat down on a rock. It was under a tree next to an old abandoned shack that had a sheriffs notice nailed like a funeral wreath to the front door.



Many rivers had flowed past those seventeen years, and thousands of trout, and now beside the highway and the sheriff's notice flowed yet another river, the Klamath, and I was trying to get thirty-five miles downstream to Steelhead, the place where I was staying.

It was all very simple. No one would stop and pick me up even though I was carrying fishing tackle. People usually stop and pick up a fisherman. I had to wait three hours for a ride.

The sun was like a huge fifty-cent piece that someone had poured kerosene on and then had lit with a match and said, "Here, hold this while I go get a newspaper," and put the coin in my hand, but never came back.

I had walked for miles and miles until I came to the rock under the tree and sat down. Every time a car would come by, about once every ten minutes, I would get up and stick out my thumb as if it were a bunch of bananas and then sit back down on the rock again.

The old shack had a tin roof colored reddish by years of wear, like a hat worn under the guillotine. A corner of the roof was loose and a hot wind blew down the river and the loose corner clanged in the wind.

A car went by. An old couple. The car almost swerved off the road and into the river. I guess they didn't see many hitchhikers up there. The car went around the corner with both of them looking back at me.

I had nothing else to do, so I caught salmon flies in my landing net. I made up my own game. It went like this: I couldn't chase after them. I had to let them fly to me. It was something to do with my mind. I caught six.

A little ways up from the shack was an outhouse with its door flung violently open. The inside of the outhouse was exposed like a human face and the outhouse seemed to say, "The old guy who built me crapped in here 9, 745 times and he's dead now and I don't want anyone else to touch me. He was a good guy. He built me with loving care. Leave me alone. I'm a monument now to a good ass gone under. There's no mystery here. That's why the door's open. If you have to crap, go in the bushes like the deer."

"Fuck you," I said to the outhouse. "All I want is a ride down the river."



When I was a child I had a friend who became a Kool-Aid wino as the result of a rupture. He was a member of a very large and poor German family. All the older children in the family had to work in the fields during the summer, picking beans for two-and-one-half cents a pound to keep the family going. Everyone worked except my friend who couldn't because he was ruptured. There was no money for an operation. There wasn't even enough money to buy him a truss. So he stayed home and became a Kool-Aid wino.

One morning in August I went over to his house. He was still in bed. He looked up at me from underneath a tattered revolution of old blankets. He had never slept under a sheet in his life.

"Did you bring the nickel you promised?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said. "It's here in my pocket."


He hopped out of bed and he was already dressed. He had told me once that he never took off his clothes when he went to bed.

"Why bother?" he had said. "You're only going to get up, anyway. Be prepared for it. You're not fooling anyone by taking your clothes off when you go to bed."

He went into the kitchen, stepping around the littlest children, whose wet diapers were in various stages of anarchy. He made his breakfast: a slice of homemade bread covered with Karo syrup and peanut butter.

"Let's go," he said.

We left the house with him still eating the sandwich. The store was three blocks away, on the other side of a field covered with heavy yellow grass. There were many pheasants in the field. Fat with summer they barely flew away when we came up to them.

"Hello," said the grocer. He was bald with a red birthmark on his head. The birthmark looked just like an old car parked on his head. He automatically reached for a package of grape Kool-Aid and put it on the counter.

"Five cents."

"He's got it," my friend said.

I reached into my pocket and gave the nickel to the grocer. He nodded and the old red car wobbled back and forth on the road as if the driver were having an epileptic seizure.

We left.

My friend led the way across the field. One of the pheasants didn't even bother to fly. He ran across the field in front of us like a feathered pig.

When we got back to my friend's house the ceremony began. To him the making of Kool-Aid was a romance and a ceremony. It had to be performed in an exact manner and with dignity.

First he got a gallon jar and we went around to the side of the house where the water spigot thrust itself out of the ground like the finger of a saint, surrounded by a mud puddle.

He opened the Kool-Aid and dumped it into the jar. Putting the jar under the spigot, he turned the water on. The water spit, splashed and guzzled out of the spigot.

He was careful to see that the jar did not overflow and the precious Kool-Aid spill out onto the ground. When the jar was full he turned the water off with a sudden but delicate motion like a famous brain surgeon removing a disordered portion of the imagination. Then he screwed the lid tightly onto the top of the jar and gave it a good shake.

The first part of the ceremony was over.

Like the inspired priest of an exotic cult, he had performed the first part of the ceremony well.

His mother came around the side of the house and said in a voice filled with sand and string, "When are you going to do the dishes? ... Huh?"

"Soon," he said.

"Well, you better," she said.

When she left, it was as if she had never been there at all. The second part of the ceremony began with him carrying the jar very carefully to an abandoned chicken house in the back. "The dishes can wait," he said to me. Bertrand Russell could not have stated it better.

He opened the chicken house door and we went in. Theplace was littered with half-rotten comic books. They were like fruit under a tree. In the corner was an old mattress and beside the mattress were four quart jars. He took the gallon jar over to them, and filled them carefully not spilling a drop. He screwed their caps on tightly and was now ready for a day's drinking.

You're supposed to make only two quarts of Kool-Aid from a package, but he always made a gallon, so his Kool-Aid was a mere shadow of its desired potency. And you're supposed to add a cup of sugar to every package of Kool-Aid, but he never put any sugar in his Kool-Aid because there wasn't any sugar to put in it.

He created his own Kool-Aid reality and was able to illuminate himself by it.



And this is a very small cookbook for Trout Fishing in America as if Trout Fishing in America were a rich gourmet and Trout Fishing in America had Maria Callas for a girlfriend and they ate together on a marble table with beautiful candles.

Compote of Apples

Take a dozen of golden pippins, pare them nicely and take the core out with a small penknife; put them into some water, and let them be well scalded; then take a little of the water with some sugar, and a few apples which may be sliced into it, and let the whole boil till it comes to a syrup; then pour it over your pippins, and garnish them with dried cherries and lemon-peel cut fine. You must take care that your pippins are not split.

And Maria Callas sang to Trout Fishing in America as they ate their apples together.

A Standing Crust for Great Pies

Take a peck of flour and six pounds of butter boiled in a gallon of water: skim it off into the flour, and as little of the liquor as you can. Work it up well into a paste, and then pull it into pieces till it is cold. Then make it up into what form you please.

A Spoonful Pudding

Take a spoonful of flour, a spoonful of cream or milk, an egg, a little nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Mix all together, and boil it in a little wooden dish half an hour. If you think proper you may add a few currants.

And Trout Fishing in America said, "The moon's coming out." And Maria Callas said, "Yes, it is."

Another Method of Making Walnut Catsup

Take green walnuts before the shell is formed, and grind them in a crab-mill, or pound them in a marble mortar. Squeeze out the juice through a coarse cloth, and put to every gallon of juice a pound of anchovies, and the same quantity of bay-salt, four ounces of Jamaica pepper, two of long and two of black pepper; of mace, cloves, and ginger, each an ounce, and a stick of horseradish. Boil all together till reduced to half the quantity, and then put it into a pot. When it is cold, bottle it close, and in three months it will be fit for use.

And Trout Fishing in America and Maria Callas poured walnut catsup on their hamburgers.



Mooresville, Indiana, is the town that John Dillinger came from, and the town has a John Dillinger Museum. You can go in and look around.

Some towns are known as the peach capital of America or the cherry capital or the oyster capital, and there's always a festival and the photograph of a pretty girl in a bathing suit.

Mooresville, Indiana, is the John Dillinger capital of America.

Recently a man moved there with his wife, and he discovered hundreds of rats in his basement. They were huge, slow-moving child- eyed rats.

When his wife had to visit some of her relatives for a few days, the man went out and bought a .38 revolver and a lot of ammunition. Then he went down to the basement where the rats were, and he started shooting them. It didn't bother the rats at all. They acted as if it were a movie and started eating their dead companions for popcorn.

The man walked over to a rat that was busy eating a friend and placed the pistol against the rat's head. The rat did not move and continued eating away. When the hammer clicked back, the rat paused between bites and looked out of the corner of its eye. First at the pistol and then at the man. It was a kind of friendly look as if to say, "When my mother was young she sang like Deanna Durbin."

The man pulled the trigger.

He had no sense of humor.

There's always a single feature, a double feature and an eternal feature playing at the Great Theater in Mooresville, Indiana: the John Dillinger capital of America.



I had heard there was some good fishing in there and it was running clear while all the other large creeks were running muddy from the snow melting off the Marble Mountains.

I also heard there were some Eastern brook trout in there, high up in the mountains, living in the wakes of beaver dams.

The guy who drove the school bus drew a map of Grider Creek, showing where the good fishing was. We were standing in front of Steelhead Lodge when he drew the map. It was a very hot day. I'd imagine it was a hundred degrees.

You had to have a car to get to Grider Creek where the good fishing was, and I didn't have a car. The map was nice, though. Drawn with a heavy dull pencil on a piece of paper bag. With a little square ? for a sawmill.


Excerpted from "Trout Fishing in America"
by .
Copyright © 1967 Richard Brautigan.
Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
The Cover For Trout Fishing In America,
Knock On Wood (Part One),
Knock On Wood (Part Two),
Red Lip,
The Kool-Aid Wino,
Another Method Of Making Walnut Catsup,
Prologue To Grider Creek,
Grider Creek,
The Ballet For Trout Fishing In America,
A Walden Pond For Winos,
Tom Martin Creek,
Trout Fishing On The Bevel,
Sea, Sea Rider,
The Last Year The Trout Came Up Hayman Creek,
Trout Death By Port Wine,
The Autopsy of Trout Fishing In America,
The Message,
Trout Fishing In America Terrorists,
Trout Fishing In America With The FBI,
The Shipping Of Trout Fishing In America Shorty To Nelson Algren,
The Mayor Of The Twentieth Century,
On Paradise,
The Cabinet Of Doctor Caligari,
The Salt Creek Coyotes,
The Hunchback Trout,
The Teddy Roosevelt Chingader',
Footnote Chapter To "The Shipping Of Trout Fishing In America Shorty To Nelson Algren",
The Pudding Master Of Stanley Basin,
Room 208, Hotel Trout Fishing In America,
The Surgeon,
A Note On The Camping Craze That Is Currently Sweeping America,
A Return To The Cover Of This Book,
The Lake Josephus Days,
Trout Fishing On The Street Of Eternity,
The Towel,
Sandbox Minus John Dillinger Equals What?,
The Last Time I Saw Trout Fishing In America,
In The California Bush,
The Last Mention Of Trout Fishing In America Shorty,
Witness For Trout Fishing In America Peace,
Footnote Chapter To "Red Lip",
The Cleveland Wrecking Yard,
A Half-Sunday Homage To A Whole Leonardo Da Vinci,
Trout Fishing In America NIB,
Prelude To The Mayonnaise Chapter,
The Mayonnaise Chapter,
About the Author,
Connect with HMH,

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Trout Fishing in America 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Banoo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first time I've met Trout Fishing in America. And although I fished almost everyday in my youth and caught hundreds of Trout, I never realized that the guy with me was Trout Fishing in America. We'd always stop at Ledet's Supermarket and buy bread, ham, and a small jar of mayonnaise on our way to the trout rooms. We'd sit in our small boat with corks bobbing in the room and eat ham sandwiches. We'd look at the sky and see rabbits, angels, or toaster ovens in the clouds. And we'd appreciate the freedom to sit in a little boat with corks bobbing and eating ham sandwiches... with mayonnaise.This book is a travel book of sorts. It reintroduced me to America. And streams. With trout. In another time. Trout Fishing in America is alright.I remember mistaking and old woman for a trout stream in Vermont, and I had to beg her pardon.'Excuse me,' I said. 'I thought you were a trout stream.''I'm not,' she said.
sanddancer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book is made up of a series of short essays (for want of a better word) that are all vaguely around the idea of ¿Trout Fishing in America¿. In some ¿Trout Fishing in America¿ is more or less what you would think it means, tales of fishing across the USA, but more often the phrase turns up to mean something completely different. It is often the name of a person, it is the name of hotel in one place and in my favourite story, it is a slogan written on school jackets.There were parts of it that I enjoyed but other parts I found frustrating. Brautigan can obviously write and I would have liked to see his talent used in a sustained way rather than the fragmented style here.
Sean191 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I feel the need to somewhat defend this book. Yes, it didn't always make sense. In fact, it rarely did. But I did laugh at more than a couple of passages and it was interesting even if I did have to question Brautigan's sanity (and I felt like mine was in question after a bit of reading). But I don't feel robbed spending the time I spent reading it. It clocks in at just over 100 pages, so it's maybe an hour or two read, so you don't have much to lose. Plus, the ending of the book has to be one of the odder, funnier endings I've read in a long time, if ever. Even better, he indicates a page or two previous that he's ending the book in just that way. That alone is worth the price of admission to me.
dancingwaves on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A really bizarre bok that I did not particularly care for. I still have no idea what it was about ... I have yet to figure out if "Trout Fishing in America" is a real person or an activity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago