|One of Brautigan's many personae|
by Hugh Gilmore
What an ordeal. I just finished a very long, tedious, but quite fascinating book whose final, inevitable paragraphs made me quite sad. Once I committed to writing about it, I felt like saying, "I am Lazarus, come from the dead/Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all...” (after T.S. Eliot’s “Prufrock”). Though I’m not sure that I can.
The book is William Hjorstberg’s 880-page biography-down-to-the-last-scrap-of-paper, “Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan.” It was originally published around this time last year. It took me three weeks of daily reading to finish this book. And I never particularly cared for, nor was interested in Richard Brautigan, as poet, novelist, icon or man. And to make matters harder, I read the book on my Kindle.
Do you know what it is like to read an 880-page book on a Kindle? For one thing, the “page” is too small and confining. More importantly, without the benefit of turning a page and seeing a higher page number that helps you mark your progress, the process seems endless. A Kindle indicates the percentage of the total you’ve read so far. To move 10% you must page-click the word equivalent of 88 book pages. At the font size I used, it took about 10 clicks to move 1 %. Close to 900 clicks to move through 10 percent of the book. Two weeks into the book, though I was enjoying it immensely, I wished I were done. I was at 40%. I started pushing. I read at all hours of the day. Last Saturday night I finished. And I was quite sad about how it ended.