The River Swimmer.

Author:Harrison, Jim
Position:Book review

By Jim Harrison

The author of 35 books, Jim Harrison, a poet at heart, returns to fiction--and fine form--with two powerful novellas about place and identity. His previous fiction includes novella collections Legends of the Fall (1979), The Woman Lit by Fireflies (1990), and The English Major (2008), as well as the novels Wolf (1971), A Good Day to Die (1973), Dalva (1988), and The Great Leader (2011), among many others.


THE STORY: In the first novella, The River Swimmer, 17-year-old Thad is at the height of his powers, taking in the wonders of the world for the first time and discovering his place in it. A dedicated swimmer--any water will do, and he sets his sights on swimming more than 100 miles from his home in Michigan to Chicago--he encounters "water babies," perhaps the spirits of dead infants, as well as the vagaries of a society that will inevitably change him. In the second, The Land of Unlikeness, aging academic and art appraiser Clive makes a life-altering decision after a return home to Michigan to visit his mother prompts him to give up "his dream of the world's idea of success." Both novellas feature characters anchored deep in place and seeking "a sense of absolutely belonging on Earth."

Grove. 198 pages. $25. ISBN: 9780802120731

Kansas City Star ****

"The 75-year-old Harrison may or may not be reflecting on his own relevance, but his 35th book, The River Swimmer, proves that he's got nothing to worry about. ... The two novellas masterfully treat themes that will be familiar to Harrison's readers--the disjunction between contemporary life and rural terrain, our inability to escape the past, the vapidity of urbanity." TED HART

Minneapolis Star Tribune ****

"Ever since writing Legends of the Fall 30 years ago, Jim Harrison has produced a steady stream of novellas demonstrating what a writer can do in approximately 100 pages. ... Harrison deftly depicts how a meeting with an old girlfriend, an attempt to make peace with his estranged daughter, as well as rediscovering the simple joy of sketching with oils all gradually change Clive." STEVE NOVAK

New York Times ****

"The best and the occasional worst in Mr. Harrison have always, like some Siamese twins, shared vital organs. To separate one, you'd have to kill the other. This is a patient--he is among the most indelible American novelists of the last hundred years--you wish to keep alive." DWIGHT GARNER

NY Times Book Review...

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