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Friday, March 8, 2013

Richard Brautigan in 9000 clicks

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.

Lance Armstrong sued for writing novels?

Is this the face of a novelist?
"It's not about the book: 
  Speculations on Lance
  and fiction vs. memoir 
                                   by Hugh Gilmore

Many people who read a lot of books emphatically do not like reading fiction. Their reasons for this aversion vary enormously but most seem to distill down to this: they want to read a story that is “true.” Sometimes they add the justification that they want to “learn something” from what they read. After all, since life is too short, why waste time on mere entertainment? 

Other readers have said things like, “I was really enjoying that book – in fact, I was halfway through it – when I learned it was a novel and not a true story. Boy, was I disappointed!” I don’t think my brain is working well enough today to even begin to explain the complexities behind such ideas, but I do want to take some time out to enjoy the entire truth-versus-fiction phenomenon. 

I now segue, yes, to the Lance Armstrong hornswoggle-that-won’t-lie-down has now spread to the world of book publishing. On January 22, in Federal Court in Sacramento, according to Bloomberg News, a man named Rob Stutzman filed a formal complaint of interest to the publishing industry. (Stutzman v. Armstrong, 13-00116, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California [Sacramento].) 

At issue: Stutzman claims that he never would have bought Armstrong’s book, “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life,” (2000) had he known it was not true.