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Jubilee Hitchhiker

I have mixed feelings upon finishing William Hjortsberg's biography on Richard Brautigan (which I won't go into here, because I already did here), but the one side of it I enjoyed more than any other was his journey through the writing and publication process. Before his major works were published, Brautigan, like most writers, received a lot of rejections, and the recurring reason was that publishers felt his work lacked cohesiveness as a novel. Known for short works with short, often disjointed, chapters and an arguably nontraditional plot structure and language style, Brautigan was probably considered experimental for his time, off-kilter, at the least.

What fascinates me is that he never once took such rejections as any kind of sign that he should change the style of his work. Somewhere in his head, he held such a certainty about, and passion for, the type of work he was doing that he could persist and proceed without doubt, until his career finally took off and he could bask in the results of his hard work. Perhaps I was partly getting caught up in the drama of "persistence in the face of rejection" narrative, laid out in a biographical format.

Partly. The other part of me was forcing myself to admit that my intrigue over Brautigan's professional rise comes from the fact that I am a writer with a lot of doubt. I have a passion for the craft, but I've never had the kind of solid direction in my work that Brautigan had. I'm constantly veering off into different language styles and poetic forms and what-have-you. If my work evolves into a different style, I often wonder if it's the style in which I'm meant to express myself. How does one know? In my entire body of work, published and not, there's only been one project that's struck me with such meaning and significance that I knew instantly it was the direction my work was meant to take. But I can't replicate that every time, because I don't know how I came to that conclusion. It just felt right, like home or a warm puppy or a Toaster Strudel.


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