By MICHAEL CAINES
It now turns out that I was wrong when I wrote in a TLS piece published earlier this year, in the July 20 issue, that the American writer Richard Brautigan left a bad joke of a suicide note. According to longstanding rumour, it read: "Messy, isn't it?" But according to a letter published in last week's issue, the story is apocryphal; it originates in a book called Elvis Presley's Twin: A metabiography by W. Lambert Gardiner.
I didn't get it from there (and not from Wikipedia, either, where this detail in Brautigan's entry has only recently been updated), but I did see the story repeated in at least one review of Jubilee Hitchhiker, the recent biography of Brautigan by William Hjortsberg, and heard it dropped into conversation as fact during one of the early meetings of the Brautigan Book Club. But Brautigan's daughter Ianthe now confirms that it's not fact but fiction.