YOU CAN’T CATCH DEATH by Ianthe Brautigan
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A Daughter’s Memoir
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A daughter remembers her father—the writer Richard Brautigan (, p. 733)—and tells the story of the insuperably cruel legacy left her by his suicide when she was 24.

Richard Brautigan's spectacular literary success took shape in the 1960s, when Ianthe was still a little girl, but even then the intensity of her love for her tall, gangly, eccentric, sensitive, and talented father was unbounded. Her earliest memories, in fact, can take on the tedium of excess as she recalls the tiniest details of childishly awed and timid visits to him (her parents were separated) in his writerly and half-shabby San Francisco apartments and houses. Once the facts of Brautigan's 1984 suicide are revealed, however, with all their pathetic and awful details, the horrible loss of a father and the gaping wounds it left in this intelligent daughter become understandable and the narrative's details take on a purposefulness that gains steadily in fascination. Ianthe's memoir itself is often poetic, told in memory-chapters sometimes only a few lines long, some of them piercingly lovely. There are gripping truth and pain, however, in Ianthe's recollections of life with her father on the Montana ranch he bought when she was a teen—and where his true suicidal alcoholism began inexorably revealing itself. Brautigan's childhood (he was born in 1935) was cruel, poor, and abusive, and he hid his past and family from Ianthe all but totally. Her own book takes wings near its end, though, when, a decade after his death, she goes back to see for herself, and to find his ancient mother, creating not only a superb early biography of her famous father but a wonderful story in and of itself.

A moving and revealing portrait of a daughter's love and an important writer's life.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-312-25296-X
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2000


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