What interest might those of you who have never heard of or read Brautigan have in reading Hjortsberg's 800-plus pages? Is there more to it than gossip about the wild times of an aging generation? (Certainly it delivered, at least to me, a high dose of Vitamin G.) As I read I came to believe that Hjortsberg, in his see-through prose and non-judgmental yet unsparing approach, does what a biographer is supposed to do — he gives us a life with all its contradictions and, in this case, grand and sordid eccentricities. Might he have delivered the same in 500 pages? Possibly, but as I drifted in this book and snapped awake, Brautigan and his world came into focus. Hjortsberg also deftly accomplishes the new-journalism feat of putting himself in the place he held in Brautigan's life. Biographies often feel written from the outside in; Jubilee Hitchhiker, like Robert Caro's LBJ opus, feels written from the inside out.

JUBILEE HITCHHIKER: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF RICHARD BRAUTIGAN BY WILLIAM HJORTSBERG | COUNTERPOINT PRESS | 852 PAGES | $42.50

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