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Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan


Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan Cover

ISBN13: 9781582437903
ISBN10: 1582437904
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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John Riddell, August 5, 2012 (view all comments by John Riddell)
The main lecture hall was packed. Three hundred seats filled. People
standing in the aisles and along the walls. The noisy chatter
subsided. A hush filled the auditorium as Brautigan "lumbered up to
the podium." Keeler [Greg Keeler, Brautigan friend and Montana State
junior faculty member] noted even the "conservative and religious"
dean of Letters and Sciences was in attendance, shocked when Richard
led off his reading with a certain poem (the title of which does not meet the obscenity restriction on this feature).

Say, Pard', kin ah yass kyoo tuh pruf thiss?::

This is a stunning biographical achievement, clearly a labour of love.
Brautigan now has at least one long life (so much deserved, and for
which he worked so hard). Little has been known about him, partly by
his own design. The widely-scattered patches of his life are now
quilted together, perhaps a little seamed in places, but in an organic
and credible narrative fabric. The book is poetic more than scholarly
(in the academic sense), a work that Brautigan himself would have
enjoyed reading, notwithstanding the airing of some fairly dirty
laundry. Had Hjortsberg himself not penned this life, so privileged
and intimate a view of Brautigan would probably never have been
written. But scholars will need to be careful with the wealth of
detail; errors of fact are many (even if only a fraction of the large
total) and of varying importance (it will matter less that Brautigan
would have seen the Three Sisters from Eugene, rather than
Three-Fingered Jack; more to others that it was Jerry Garcia, not Ken
Kesey, who bore the appellation "Captain Trips"). Brautigan was a
severe critic, mirroring in precise detail the fatuous workings of the
society around him. For that reason, most people (academicians in
particular) choose not to read him. But Hjortsberg's analysis hangs
this up to be seen in a bright light: Brautigan's tortured intellect
startlingly metaphorising the social brutality into which he had been
immersed (patient no. 22877 in Oregon's State Hospital, where he
received twelve electro-shock treatments in January 1956, arguably the
one thing most responsible for his literary gift to the world, but at
what personal expense to him we will never know). One might imagine
"Bad Parenting" as an alternate title for this biography. The
author's sense of humour and his skilled use of appropriate ("hip")
vernacular make this long volume a joy to read, as does his personal
sensitivity to the pain Brautigan endured. It is a physically
difficult book to read, for two reasons: first, probably unavoidable,
it is over four arm-aching large-format pounds; and second, certainly
avoidable, it is printed on dazzlingly bright-white paper, almost
fluorescent. The publisher is to be alternately thanked for seeing
this encyclopedic volume to press (it will only be a "best seller"
among Brautigan enthusiasts) and condemned for its carelessness: a
good editor would have checked at least the popularly known facts (710
Ashbury, not "810"), would have rearranged the many misplaced
modifiers ("a wood-burning basement furnace, high at the upper end of
Deep Creek") to aid the reader's long-scanning eye, would have
compensated for the author's apparently never having learned the
pluperfect, and would have proof-read the final text. One
Salieri-like reviewer for the Portland "Oregonian" seemed to cry out
"Too many words!," wanting a 300-page quicker read. But author
Hjortsberg, like Brautigan and his readers, does not have a short
attention span; the impact of the volume as a whole is enormous.
Readers will be guided into an informed re-reading of their Brautigan
collection; the book, though in narrative rather than in list form,
comprises a nearly-comprehensive Brautigan bibliography, far superior
to the poorly-prepared 1990 McFarland edition. The index contains
only names, no titles or subjects (and not all names), entries often
followed by a hundred undifferentiated page numbers. An 812-page
biography with 650-word pages should always have a carefully prepared
index; it is not an expensive thing to do, but it does require time,
something this book more than deserves.
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AnchorJack, July 24, 2012 (view all comments by AnchorJack)
This book is badly overpriced at $11.18 per pound (3.8 pounds @ $42.50). Publisher's Weekly describes it accurately in their review. However, PW failed to note the poor copy editing throughout, including the index (which renders it impossible to locate many items within the text).

Nonetheless, on page 553 I encountered what may be one of the all-time classical proof-reading errors: "He and Jim Harrison had spent the day bird shooting, and a brace of rough (sic) grouse hung from the rafters of the porch ceiling." For this unintended humor I am grateful.

Though I read a great deal, I had not encountered any of Hjorstberg's earlier books. Similarly, based on this book, I know I will not encounter any of his future work.
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Product Details

Hjortsberg, William
Counterpoint LLC
Biography - General
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
10 x 7 in

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Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan Used Hardcover
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Product details 880 pages Counterpoint LLC - English 9781582437903 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Bookended by harrowing accounts of poet and author Richard Brautigan's 1984 suicide, Hjortsberg's meticulously detailed biography of the writer is a study in excess, both in terms of Brautigan's life and Hjortsberg's page count. Described by one friend as 'a painfully shy young man who tried everything in the world to cover up his shyness with a veneer of cool reserve,' the man behind Trout Fishing in America struggled with an inferiority complex that gave way to haughtiness as his star rose, accompanied in equal measure by juvenile behavior that often resulted in shattered furniture, limbs, and friendships. Brautigan begged to be arrested as a teenager and was granted his wish as well as a stint in a mental health facility where he underwent shock therapy. But Hjortsberg (Alp) doesn't dwell so much on Brautigan's mental state as on the minutiae of the author's life-the number of fish caught on a given expedition, the airlines he flew, and dinner tabs are covered in detail, making the book feel as if it was written by an accountant rather than a novelist. Hjortsberg, who was a neighbor of Brautigan's in Montana and spent 20 years compiling the book, offers glimmers of insight into the author, but they're buried beneath acres of plodding procedural prose. Readers with an abiding interest in Brautigan will find this a thorough portrait of the man, but those new to his work will likely pack up and head home long before the journey's end. Photos. "
Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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