09 March 2009

Excerpts from Jim Harrison's "The English Major"


I recently finished Jim Harrison's latest novel, The English Major.  Harrison, a native of my home state of Michigan, is my favorite contemporary author, and The English Major is the best "fun read" I've had in a long time.  In trademark Harrison style, it is both hilarious and poignant, and it contains some great passages.  Excerpts below.

...
I tried to dismiss a pinprick of homesickness beneath my breastbone but then thought that homesickness like marital love was mostly a habit.  What I missed was no longer there or on the verge of disappearing.  I mean Lola was in dog heaven and the farm which had been sold to a stockbroker and his family from Chicago was to become a horse operation.  The barn and my cozy workshop would likely be remodeled into stables, the orchard uprooted for pasture, and our old home razed in favor of what Viv said would be "French provincial" whatever that was.
...
Dad once warned me about this when I was mourning the loss of a girlfriend to a quarterback.  I was a lonely lineman.  I moped and moped, and then when we were cutting wood on an icy October morning he told me that self-pity was a ruinous emotion.  "Look at the world, not up your ass," he said.  It took me awhile to figure this out.
...
She also liked to say that my dead father would wish me to be a "success" when my dad never spoke about such things except to say that successful people never had much time for important things like hunting, fishing, drinking, and wandering around in the woods.
...
Dad certainly wouldn't own a cell phone which only made the wandering man a target with the number providing a guaranteed bull's-eye.
...
Up to this point I hadn't questioned the rightness of my trip but suddenly I wondered if I were truly suited for travel.  Reality seemed to be crumbling and I was wise enough to understand that reality stayed the same so it was my mind that was crumbling.
...
To my dad who was a young man during the Great Depression the only truly hopeless greivance was not to have a job, or not to have "work" as he called it.
...
I'm sort of neutral in terms of religion but ever since I was a kid I've thought moving water to be the best thing God made.
...
Everyone pretty much pans out in the middle ground or less.  In college I thought I was destined to go overseas but I didn't.  We don't quite get started except on our livelihood which is probably the story of mankind.

Jim Harrison
  --The English Major