An Unfortunate Woman
is the last book Richard Brautigan
wrote. It was not published in his lifetime. It was found by his daughter after his death, but not published until a decade later. It's first American printing wasn't until 2000.
Death is all around here. From the suicide in the title, to the dedication, and especially if the reader knows that Brautigan himself would intimately become acquainted with death shortly after writing this book.
It's prefaced by a dedication to a female friend, Nikki Arai, who died of cancer - she was dying during the months he spent writing the novel. The title refers to a woman who committed suicide by hanging herself -- in a house that Brautigan briefly occupied during the writing of the book. Brautigan himself committed suicide in 1984 -- less than two years after completing An Unfortunate Woman.
The tone is somber, questioning. There are no wild flights of fancy that we associate with Brautigan. This isn't Trout Fishing In America or A Confederate General From Big Sur. There is humor, often mordant, but subdued.
The novel takes the form of journal entries covering the first six months of 1982. Brautigan seeks to provide us with a "calendar-map" of his life while traveling across the country; visiting friends, giving lectures, teaching.
There are lapses of days, occasionally a week or two, and one long stretch of over 100 days where no entries are made. Brautigan informs the reader that he's bought a 160 page notebook and that the book ends when the notebook is full.
These are fragments of one man's life. Remembrances that call up other memories. And always lurking, a quiet haunting melody, is death. An Unfortunate Woman is not your standard Brautigan fare, but it is a worthwhile read.