Hjorstberg clearly intends his plus page tome as an homage to his long-time friend and neighbor. As the litany of sodden sediments and sentiments continue, it becomes clear Hjorstberg, by his own account a man of more moderate inclinations, has come not just to bury Brautigan, or to praise him, but to reap some kind of endurance award for having simply put up with the petulant poet for so long.
Asked if he wanted to see the grave of Jim Morrison, who Brautigan knew, the poet instead took a pilgrimage to the stone marked Apollinaire. One likes to think that he would have been happier in the company of beautiful losers like the author of Alcools and Dada-istas like Max Jacob and Henri Michaux, than on his own fantastic journey into the mythic land of his Wild West origins, where he found fame, fortune, and ruin. Your email address will not be published. Location: 6 p.
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Paul Wilner is a San Francisco writer. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your email address will not be published. Richard refused to have any of it cut, preferring the illusion of privacy provided by the dense foliage. The house was gloomy inside as well. Raw ceiling beams and dark redwood walls had been unaltered since drying bouquets hung from the rafters when the place had been the summer home of Mary Elizabeth Parsons, who wrote the influential guidebook The Wildflowers of California: Their Names, Haunts and Habits first published in On September 16, , the musky smell of congealing blood lingered in the enclosed air, not the sweetness of dried flowers.
The loud radio echoing from the kitchen drowned an insistent buzz of gathering flies. As it grew dark, the automatic timer controlling the electric lights switched on. A little later, the phone rang. After four rings, the answering machine picked up and the tape of Richard's voice sounded bland and noncommittal: "This is the recorded voice of Richard Brautigan. He's not in right now. Leave a message when you hear the beep and I may return your call. Richard had set the machine on "answer only," making it impossible to leave a message. No answer, just the buzz of disconnection.
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The caller was painter Marcia Clay, an old friend from San Francisco who had reunited with Brautigan only two days earlier after a four-year estrangement. She'd phoned an hour before midnight the previous night. He said he'd call right back but never did. Marcia waited ten minutes and phoned back, getting Richard's answering machine message. Alone on a hot night in the city, she made a third attempt to reach him, hearing only the noncommittal message.
JUBILEE HITCHHIKER: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan | Rain Taxi
For the next few days, the old house remained a noisy tomb. No one came around to visit. Brautigan had alienated himself from most of his poet friends in Bolinas and had recently been eighty-sixed from Smiley's for his unpleasant, erratic behavior. Occasionally, the phone rang. Although she wrote in her diary that she didn't "have the energy or interest to play cat and mouse with him," Marcia Clay kept trying to reach Richard. Montana poet Greg Keeler tried to leave a message. Richard's attorney in Livingston phoned three times the following week.
Jonathan Dolger, his New York literary agent, made several calls. He had good news regarding the possible sale of the film rights to Dreaming of Babylon to Warner Brothers. They all got the answering machine with its disconcerting click.
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At some point early in October, one of the neighbors came over, annoyed by the blasting radio. Because the stairs to the upper deck had rotted and been removed, whoever it was knocked on the door of the true first floor, a nearly empty spare bedroom and storage area.
No answer. Brautigan had departed on one of his lengthy journeys without having the decency to turn off the damned radio.
Wanting to silence the round-the-clock radio playing, the irate neighbor found the central power breaker by the meter and switched off all the electricity to the house. Upstairs, all was quiet now, except for the metallic drone of the flies. There were many, many flies, a nightmare population of blowflies, houseflies, bluetails, and greenbottles swarming everywhere in the melancholy twilight of the shaded main room.
They clustered densely about Brautigan's corpse. Thickening blood and the enormous head wound provided powerful attractions for these rapacious insects. The inexorable process of decay began the moment his body hit the floor a couple weeks before. With the power switched off, the automatic timer failed to trigger the lights that night and the house remained shrouded in darkness.
The Zenos next door thought nothing of it. Richard was always coming and going mysteriously. He had his own peculiar reasons for the way he did things. He had mentioned that he might leave for a hunting trip to Montana in early October. Maybe he decided not to leave the light-timer on. It was a perfect vanishing act. The dead poet had managed to completely disappear. The long, hot California fall days merged into weeks. Heat accelerated the process of decomposition and the eager swarming flies, finding easy access through the massive cranial damage, deposited thousands of their eggs inside Brautigan's body.
When they hatched, the cadaver teemed with maggots, the rice-sized larvae writhing in his decaying flesh. At the same time, the batteries in the answering machine began wearing down and the recorded message grew distorted, the words slurred, like a man underwater. Even this final echo of the poet's voice began to die. If no one in Bolinas seemed to care that Richard Brautigan had disappeared either they were no longer talking to him and just didn't give a damn or else he had told them he was leaving on an extended journey , others among his closest friends began to grow concerned.
At one point, Klyde Young, a housepainter and friend of Brautigan's who had done odd jobs for the writer off and on for the past dozen years, ran into Jim Zeno in Stinson Beach. Young was alarmed to hear that no one had been to Richard's house in more than two weeks. Table of Contents, books by william hjortsberg, Title Page, Dedication, part one: - flowerburger, one: john doe number 9, two: honor thy father, three: american dust, four: tacoma ghosts, five: dick porterfield, six: midnight driver's ed, seven: pounding at the gates of american literature, eight: white wooden angel of love, nine: the rub of a strange cat, ten: family album, eleven: reno, twelve: frisco, thirteen: on the beach, fourteen: ginger, fifteen: the general, sixteen: scorpio rising, seventeen: scaling mount parnassus, eighteen: gone fishing, nineteen: the fastest car on earth, twenty: o, tannenbob, twenty-one: moosemelon, twenty-two: aborted dreams, twenty-three: the museum, twenty-four: the emperor's new clothes, twenty-five: digger daze, twenty-six: rx: dr.
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Shop Books. Read an excerpt of this book! Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. At times this book feels like the notes to a biography rather than the thing itself. The facts tell of a rise and decline that were equally swift. They were the last important novels he ever wrote. View all New York Times newsletters. Details abound, some telling, some trivial. But for long stretches Brautigan seems absent from the action, as if the book were a first-person video game, recording the beds or bars its protagonist entered while leaving the protagonist himself off-screen.
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By the end Hjortsberg seems to be toying with us, withholding anything that might be revealing. And sometimes more is less. At the end of this long, mostly well-written book, the work of finding Richard Brautigan remains to be done. Life may lie in the details, but biography lies in managing them. Tell us what you think. Please upgrade your browser. See next articles.
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