The Ghosts Who Travel with Me:
A Literary Pilgrimage through Brautigan's America

by Allison Green

Ooligan Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1-93201-077-0.
Reviewed by Stacy Holden
Posted on 07/10/2016

Nonfiction: Memoir

Richard Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America was published the year I was born, and it never made it to the must-read list of my adolescent years. Allison Green, however, spent pages upon pages in her diary writing about Brautigan, and the bucket list that she completes at age thirteen includes meeting this countercultural icon. At forty-seven, Green—a novelist searching for a new creative path, a daughter seeking to understand her familial heritage, a woman examining her progression as a feminist—decides to excavate her relationship to this book. Her journey will be physical and philosophical, for her travels through Idaho seeking the sites seen and described by Brautigan allow for much reflection. In this way, the essays in this book provide critical conduits for insights into Green's fragile and yet precious links to previous generations of her family members as well as her creative and intellectual foundations. The journey is fascinating, and readers will find themselves recognizing the author's desire to understand how she become who she is by reflecting on the seminal ideas and experiences of her life.

Many of the sixty-plus essays in The Ghosts Who Travel with Me: A Literary Pilgrimage through Brautigan's America involve long car trips, and the fast-paced prose accentuates the notion of movement. Green's family hails from Idaho, and so the trip to Brautigan's old haunts brings the author to hauntingly familiar places. "As much as I like traveling somewhere new," explains Green, "I have a tendency to look for exactly what I've just left behind." And so this literary pilgrimage to uncover why a strong and smart woman loved an author now identified by so many scholars as a misogynist leads her back to Meridian, where her mother grew up, and Cambridge, where her grandparents are buried. Ultimately, she understands "I'd gone to Idaho to invoke a relationship with ancestors both biological and literary."

In some books, the sum of distinct images and ideas brought forth in separate sentences or paragraphs outweigh an overarching storyline. Green recognized this trait in Brautigan, and his style inspired her own creativity:

Brautigan's books offered more than a bohemian world, where pretty women made their poet lovers paintings and wore nothing under their pretty dresses. His books gave me words and sentences, rhythms, a style. He was the first lyrical writer I'd ever read, the first writer more interested in sentences and words than story.

The innovative and imaginative essays in this memoir read like poetry, and I am provoked by their ideas and imagery.

Allison Green lives in Seattle, Washington, where she teaches English Composition at Highline College. She earned an MFA from Emerson. She is the author of Half-Moon Scar (published by St. Martin's Press) and has also had her writing published by Calyx, Bellingham Review, Defunct, Zyzzyva, Yes! Magazine, The Commons, Jumpstart, Raven Chronicles, Willow Springs, Teacher's Voice, and Evergreen Chronicles. The city of Seattle awarded her a CityArtist grant in 2010.

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