In Watermelon Sugar

Is an absurd little book that forever changed me in some small but significant way.

Several decades ago, a friend lent me an odd little book with the title of In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan. It was the late 1960s–a time of experimentation in the arts and otherwise, and Richard Brautigan was a writer of the times, exploring his own inner-worlds and outer limits.

In Watermelon Sugar is an otherworldly rambling about strange disconnected things like mentally evolved tigers, a place where the sun shines a different color every day, and where people travel to the length of their dreams. The book is written in pieces of poetic language all interconnected into a wandering storyline. It made little sense to me (still doesn’t), but the book has a feeling to it, a poignant spirit, and a rhythm in the words that stuck in my mind. The story also feels symbolic in so many ways, but how so, I am not exactly sure.

I am sure that everyone who has read this book has a different memory of it. Mine is this: I was 16 that summer and living at South Lake Tahoe, a large body of crystal blue water surrounded by white sand beaches, evergreen forests, and snowcapped mountains. So, my memories of the book have always been tied with the sand, the sun, the smell of Coppertone suntan lotion—and watermelon sugar.

And, when I say “watermelon sugar”, I’m not referring to its flavor. The threads of watermelon sugar that bound this book together portrayed to me a sweetness of life, which Richard summed up in the nostalgia he had toward a place he called home. Everything there was coated in watermelon sugar.

While the book In Watermelon Sugar may seem a bizarre little read, it inspired me in this way: After reading it, I felt that Richard had set me free, giving me permission to be an artist or writer in whatever sense I chose to be.

Not only that, but the book set up a place inside of me—a nostalgic inner-space, which is still triggered by the summer sun and sweet watermelon sugar forever married in a place called home.

In Watermelon Sugar, by Richard Brautigan.

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