Gray Matters

Click here to purchase Gray Matters by William Hjortsberg

Part of the publicity for Alp involved my inclusion in a Life magazine article about “young authors.” I didn’t feel all that young back then. At 28, I was the same age as Stephen Crane when he died. Nevertheless, I told the interviewer that I wrote novels “on whim,” a bit of an exaggeration as it didn’t apply to my two previous unpublished manuscripts. This was the period of the world’s first heart transplant operations and one night, high at a party, I made a wisecrack to the effect that if science kept moving in this direction, one day we’d just throw away our vulnerable bodies and simply preserve our brains in some elaborate home entertainment center. Adrift in my hangover the next morning, I thought that if I actually wrote novels on whim, I might as well go for a spin with my crazy brain notion. The end result, after a year of work, was Gray Matters.

My second published novel fared far better than my first. The book went into a second printing, was condensed for Playboy, had a good paperback sale and appeared in several foreign editions (it’s still in print in France.) Later, it won a Playboy Editorial Award (Best New Fiction Contributor.) Gabriel Garcia Marquez came in second. He went on to win the Nobel Prize, so I guess he doesn’t hold any grudges.

This photograph was taken by my first wife in the winter of 1970. We were living in Barra de Navidad, a tiny seaside town on the Pacific Coast of Mexico between Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco in the state of Jailisco. Our house had electricity and running water, was a block from the beach and rented for $25 a month. “Marian” was the only photo credit she requested. For more of Marian’s excellent photography check out the Life section.