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Interview

WILLIAM HJORTSBERG p5

William Hjortsberg talks about An Unfortunate Woman, and mentions some other favorite books and authors…

Richard Brautigan’s fame might not be near its peak of the late 1960s and 1970s, but his style still influences a lot of writers. His work remains fresh, and it’s a pleasure to read.
“I really hope that Richard gets the renaissance that he truly deserves because he’s sort of fallen out of favour. I think he’s an important writer. It’s what sustained me through this giant book. It’s about time. Here’s this important American writer who’s now being totally ignored.”
An Unfortunate Woman wasn’t published until 1994. (It was written in 1982. Brautigan died in 1984.)
“Ianthe Brautigan [Brautigan’s daughter who owns the copyright to his works] got An Unfortunate Woman published which had only been published in French,” said Mr Hjortsberg. “I actually love that book. I think it’s one of his best books and it’s so …it’s like a journal. And I used it, because I have all the interviews with the real people involved and I was able to track him, his movements by reading that book very carefully because he kept it like a journal. And it was at a time when he so needed money and he needed to have a success and you’d think that he would play it safe, but Richard, he could only do [go] where his genius took him and so he probably wrote his most experimental book ever…He bought this little notebook in Japan Town in San Francisco and he said at the beginning ‘I’m going to end this book…This book is only going to be as long as this notebook. And when I get to the end of the last page it’s going to stop’. And he also said ‘I’m not going to go back and re-read what I wrote the day before. So I may be repeating myself here’. I mean whoever heard of that? That’s exactly what he did. It was more or less about what he was doing at the moment. He really did live in a house where a woman had hanged herself. You know, all this stuff was really true.”
He said there is enough material for a couple of other books by Brautigan, featuring work from his Tokyo travels for example. Personally, I’d love to have a one-volume collection of his poetry.
Jubilee Hitchhiker is the definitive biography of a great writer. Mr Hjortsberg has made sure the wind won’t blow it all away.
In addition to Richard Brautigan’s works, Mr Hjortsberg liked Swedish writer Par Largerkvist, especially The Dwarf, and another book called Barrabas. “Which are just brilliant books. Of course the guy won the Nobel prize.” He also liked A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes; Gunther Grass, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, James M. Cain, Ross MacDonald and Jim Thompson. And Hemingway, who was also a favorite of Richard Brautigan.

– copyright Simon Sandall.