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Life Arts

OWS = Recycled Beatnik Complaints?

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William Hjortsberg

The City Lights Bookstore mural as seen from the Vesuvius Cafe'.

 

 

When William Hjortsberg started reading chapter twelve, "frisco," from his new book "jubilee hitchhiker:   the life and times of Richard Brautigan" (Counterpoint Berkeley hardback $42.50), and got to the lines about the role the City Lights bookstore played in the start of the Beat era in the city at the South end of the Golden Gate Bridge, it seemed rather appropriate to be hearing it with the audience in the poetry room of that very same bookstore.

 

In an era when perpetual growth, unlimited opportunity, and boundless optimism made it seem like America was driving a stake through the heart of poverty and that the starving artists of San Francisco were serving as artist proxies who would voluntarily submit themselves to the rigors of destitute living so that the middle class in the Eisenhower years would have some interesting and entertaining novels available to help amuse those who were enjoying the start of the era of infinite prosperity to know what life as a starving artist would be like rather than experiencing the American Dream firsthand.

 

The story of Richard Brautigan and a legion of others who would become the roster of celebrity artists who converged on San Francisco in the Fifties and Sixties has been fertile ground for almost all of the participants in the events that provided a gold rush opportunity for those luck enough to be there.

 

The World's Laziest Journalist first heard Hjortsberg's name when the mystery book sub-genre of vampire detectives became an obsession.   Two decades ago, Hjortsberg's books had become prized collectors' items and so obtaining a copy of his "Falling Angel" became both a challenge and a necessity.   Our quest led us to Vagabond books, back when they had a brick and mortar presence on Westwood Blvd., in Los Angeles.   We asked if they had the book and they did.   It was a mint condition copy.   We balked at the price but mentioned how a New York Times review indicated that book was an outstanding example of the new sub-genre we were investigating.   The clerk said:   "Oh do you just want to read it?"   We said yes and she scurried off and returned with a battered edition.   It was just a "reader's copy" and much less expensive.

 

That, in turn, led us to read several other Hjortsberg's novels that were not about a vampire detective.  

 

When we passed by the City Lights bookstore on Tuesday, March 20, and saw a flyer indicating that later in the week, Hjortsberg would be reading and signing his new book about Richard Brautigan.   We decided that the event would be a twofer because we have also read some of Brautigan's work.  

 

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BP graduated from college in the mid sixties (at the bottom of the class?) He told his draft board that Vietnam could be won without his participation. He is still appologizing for that mistake. He received his fist photo lesson from a future (more...)
 

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