Confident and robust, Jubilee Hitchhiker is an comprehensive biography of late novelist and poet Richard Brautigan, author of Troutfishing in America and A Confederate General from Big Sur, among many others. When Brautigan took his own life in September of 1984 his close friends and network of artists and writers were devastated though not entirely surprised. To many, Brautigan was shrouded in enigma, erratic and unpredictable in his habits and presentation. But his career was formidable, an inspiration to young writers like Hjortsberg trying to get their start. Brautigan’s career wove its way through both the Beat-influenced San Francisco Renaissance in the 1950s and the Flower Power” hippie movement of the 1960s; while he never claimed direct artistic involvement with either period, Jubilee Hitchhiker also delves deeply into the spirited times in which he lived.
As Hjortsberg guides us through his search to uncover Brautigan as a man the reader is pulled deeply into the writer’s world. Ultimately this is a work that seeks to connect the Brautigan known to his fans with the man who ended his life so abruptly in 1984 while revealing the close ties between his writing and the actual events of his life. Part history, part biography, and part memoir this etches the portrait of a man destroyed by his genius.
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William Hjortsberg is the author of eight books, including Alp, Gray Matters, and Falling Angel, as well as the screenplays Legend” and Thunder & Lightning.” He lives in Montana with his wife, painter Janie Camp.From Booklist:
*Starred Review* It’s not uncommon for a biography to begin with the subject’s death, but Hjortsberg’s account of Richard Brautigan’s suicide, in 1984, at age 49, is jolting in its explicitness, a foretaste of the fervency of this all-embracing portrait of the author of such era-defining works as Trout Fishing in America (1967) and The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster (1968). Hjortsberg (Nevermore, 1994) knew Brautigan and spent 20 years conducting revelatory interviews and gathering the visceral details that make this an exceptionally intimate, vital, meticulous, and involving biography and anecdotal chronicle of the West Coast literary counterculture. Brautigan never knew his father and lived a life of “grinding poverty” in Washington and Oregon with his scrappy mother and various stepfathers, picking fruit, fishing, idolizing Hemingway, and writing. After surviving a breakdown, incarceration, and electroshock treatments, Brautigan hitchhiked to San Francisco in 1956 and began the hard labor of transforming himself from a shy and awkward “country bumpkin” into a cutting-edge writer and iconic eccentric. Hjortsberg delves incisively into Brautigan’s volatile friendships and doomed marriages, struggles to get published, leeriness of fame, heavy drinking, and increasingly disturbing behavior, concluding that Brautigan, for all the wit and whimsy of his work, was forever haunted by the “bleakness” of his childhood. A prodigious work of scholarship, remembrance, and empathy. --Donna Seaman
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