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READERSVOICE.COM aims to collect a few interesting reading tips. William Hjortsberg described his book Jubilee Hitchhiker, The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan, as a behemoth. But it’s a lean behemoth, packed with anecdotes and specific information. And like Brautigan’s novels, it’s the sort of book you look forward to getting back to. Jubilee Hitchhiker also lists many of Richard Brautigan’s favorite books.

Richard Brautigan’s books, like the classic The Hawklike Monster, Sombrero Fallout and Trout Fishing in America, have a unique style that still influences writers. One of the many good things about Jubilee Hitchhiker, The Life and Times Of Richard Brautigan, by William Gatz Hjortsberg, is that it mentions a lot of Richard Brautigan’s favorite books. So you can see where his style might have come from. I won’t list these here, but he was fond of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, and a two-volume biography of William Faulkner.
“By Blotner, yes,” said Mr Hjortsberg from his home in Montana. “Richard talked about that a lot. Japanese literature too. He loved Basho, Issa. Those Japanese poets. Eighteenth century I guess they were. Richard was an autodidact. He was self educated basically. And he did it by reading. But he was very knowledgeable about things that were very surprising. The Civil War. He knew a lot about the Civil War. He knew a lot about World War 2. And military history. Things that you would think he didn’t care about but he did. He was the most intriguing person I think I’ve ever known. Richard was just one of a kind.”
Mr Hjortsberg met Richard Brautigan in 1969 when Brautigan gave a reading of some pieces that later appeared in Revenge of the Lawn, in the Jones Room at Stanford University. Mr Hjortsberg had a Stegner Fellowship there at the time, and was writing a novel. After the reading, Brautigan needed a lift back to San Francisco and Mr Hjortsberg dropped him off on his way home to Bolinas, a seaside town. They found they shared an interest in trout fishing. They talked on into the night in San Francisco, before Mr Hjortsberg returned to Bolinas.
They met again in Montana in 1971, when Mr Hjortsberg’s friend author Thomas McGuane (Nobody’s Angel) invited Brautigan to visit. Brautigan, at the height of his fame, arrived with his entourage including official photographer. Messrs Hjortsberg and Brautigan became neighbours and friends in Pine Creek, Montana. He said if he knew at the time he’d be writing a biography of Brautigan he’d have kept notes, like Boswell.
James Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson was an inspiration in writing William Gatz Hjortsberg’s Jubilee Hitchhiker. “I read Boswell’s Life of Johnson back in my late twenties in a little beach town in Mexico. In fact I used that beach town as partial setting for Manana (his latest novel). And I loved that book. In fact I read several other…Yale has published big chunks of Boswell’s journals. They’re just so charming because he was such a roguish guy. He knows everybody. He was friends with Voltaire for crying out loud. He just sucked up to all these famous people and wrote down everything that they said. And his book’s so entertaining, his Life of Johnson. So I had it in my mind, Hey, if I’m going to write a biography it’s got to be as much fun to read as Boswell’s Life of Johnson. So it was always in my mind. It’s my dictum. This stuff better be fun to read. It shouldn’t be torture.”

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– copyright Simon Sandall.