Jim Harrison died yesterday. For those of you not in the know, Jim Harrison was a writer a very good one, whose characters remained with you long after you put any of his books down. That is one of the measures of greatness in writing – how memorable how heartfelt the characterization’s are. After all, writing is two dimensional in a three dimensional world and what is on the page must spark your brain enough for the words to become alive and take on the additional dimensions and thoughts we live by.
I was going to write about something else today but felt the need to pay homage to Jim Harrison, who was very much a renaissance man. He examined excess and his limits in how he lived, in how he wrote. Jim Harrison is very much representative of that era 50 years ago when we had drug and sex experimentation, when San Francisco was a real city for anyone who wanted to put up with its weather, topography, and costs, when chefs were first discovering the joys of cooking with local product and quality over quantity, when we lived through the Vietnam War and the homecoming for those we abandoned to fight for God knows what reason in that dark, dank, jungle, when a great schism developed between those who experimented with drugs and those who were abhorred by them, when politics was more than a gesture and the Black Panthers and Brown Berets fought to reclaim their communities from the oppressors, when we had our last political candidates who were loyal to the people and the New Deal and FDR, way before the neo-liberals and Bill and Hillary and Barack, back in the day before we became shocked into believing that after a loss or two that the only way to vote was the lesser of two evils, when Dylan and Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti and Brautigan were young, when City Lights was a beacon, when Jann Wenner understood being one of the people and so did Rolling Stone, when we were less cynical and strident in our beliefs and we took to the streets for protest and J. Edgar lined up in his gun sights anyone who doth protest too much, when Jim Harrison, a poet, burst onto our scene with his early novella, Legends of the Fall and among his rewards were two movie deals reducing his art to mediocrity and signaling that indeed, the era had petered out.
Jim Harrison, like all those who gave us his craft to widen our imagination, was a physical therapist who helped with our mental health and mental development
So to Jim Harrison, writer, poet, individual, experimenter, good-bye dear friend I never met, salud!
“In both places, far from the self-regarding literary soirees of New York, for which he had little but contempt, and the lucre of Hollywood, where he had done time as a dazzlingly dissolute if not altogether successful screenwriter, he could engage in the essential, monosyllabic pursuits that defined the borders of his life: to walk, drive, hunt, fish, cook, drink, smoke, write.
The result was prodigious: 21 volumes of fiction, including “Legends of the Fall” (1979), a collection of three novellas whose title piece, about a Montana family ravaged by World War I, became a 1994 film starring Brad Pitt; 14 books of poetry; two books of essays; a memoir; and a children’s book.” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/28/arts/jim-harrison-free-spirited-writer-dies-at-78.html