In the books of the Richard Brautigan Library, the humanity is so thick it's almost unbearable.

"Do I have a jaundiced view of youth because I, myself, am no longer young?" muses Gladys Hunt of Eugene. "I would like to know why life is so different than it used to be."

The Richard Brautigan Library is three bookshelves in the basement of the Clark County Historical Museum. Amid its 311 volumes are books about frontier adventure, nuclear war scenarios and entire lifetimes of regret.

(Carleigh Oeth)
(Carleigh Oeth)

Every book is united in one respect: None has been published by any commercial house, and none of them ever will be.

These shelves exist because poet and novelist Richard Brautigan described a library of unpublished books in his 1971 novel, The Abortion: An Historical Romance. And 27 years ago in Vermont, a man named Todd Lockwood decided he would create the library for real.

Lockwood fielded submissions from as far away as Saudia Arabia but in 1995, he ran out of money. The collection was orphaned until 2010, when John Barber, a Brautigan scholar, arranged to have the library brought to a new Vancouver home.

In the dusty-tiled basement of the historical museum, the identically bound volumes take on an almost unseemly intimacy. Grammatical errors have been preserved, as has a great deal of sadness. Reading each volume feels like spying creepily on a life, a rear window onto human needs that feel far too naked to be made public.