Fishing for Truth
Now, Brautigan's spirit may be doing cartwheels. Best known for Trout Fishing in America, a whimsical, surreal 1967 novel that sold millions, the San Francisco Bay-area writer has reemerged in his only child's You Can't Catch Death, a memoir that recalls his gentleness and the darkness that led to his suicide at 49. Ianthe, 40, also decided to publish his 11th—and last—novel, An Unfortunate Woman, previously available only in a 1994 French edition. Fellow author Thomas McGuane describes the stream-of-consciousness meditation as "fresh, guileless and unpredictable." Ianthe found in it "the father I knew and loved," she says. "I could hear his voice again."
One of the most influential writers of the '60s, Brautigan was a mischievous eccentric and doting father. Ianthe, who lived primarily with her mother, Virginia Aste (now a candidate for the U.S. House from Hawaii), hung out on weekends with her dad, spending long nights in restaurants watching him drink with pals. "We had a lot of fun," she says. "But his despair was horrifying."
Oddly, the counterculture hero thought Ianthe was too young to marry in 1981 (she and husband Paul Swensen, 41, a TV producer, live with daughter Elizabeth, 14, in Santa Rosa, Calif.), and their conflict fuels part of Woman, which Ianthe at first found painful to read. Writing helped exorcise her sadness, and Ianthe feels closer to him than ever. "I couldn't save Dad. But I can embrace him."