Jim Harrison (1937-2016)

“The wilderness does not make you forget your normal life as much as it removes the distractions for  proper remembering.” J. Harrison

One of my favourite authors passed away earlier this year and I was not even aware of it! Jim Harrison died from a heart attack in Arizona on March 26. I read Legends of the Fall [for the first time] when I arrived in the US in 1987 and then other [if not all] novels like A good day to die or Wolf

“Barring love, I’ll take my life in large doses alone: rivers, forests, fish, grouse, mountains. Dogs.” J. Harrison

What I liked in those novels was less the plot, which often is secondary—even though the Cervantesque story of the two guys trying to blow a dam in A good day to die is pure genius!—, than the depiction of the characters and their almost always bleak life, as well as the love of outdoors, in a northern Michigan that is at its heart undistinguishable from (eastern) Canada or central Finland. His tales told of eating and drinking, of womanising, fishing, and hunting, of failed promises and multiple capitulations, tales that are always bawdy and brimming with testosterone, but also with a gruff tenderness for those big hairy guys and their dogs. Especially their dogs. There is a lot of nostalgia seeping through these stories, a longing for a wild rural (almost feral) America that most people will never touch. Or even conceive. But expressed in a melancholic rather than reactionary way. In a superb prose that often sounded like a poem.

“I like grit, I like love and death, I am tired of irony…” J. Harrison

If anything, remembering those great novels makes me long for the most recent books of Harrison I have not [yet] read. Plus the non-fiction book The Raw and the Cooked.

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