Selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Off to the Side is the tale of one of America's most beloved writers. Jim Harrison traces his upbringing in Michigan amid the austerities of the Depression and the Second World War, and the seemingly greater austerities of his starchy Swedish forebears. He chronicles his coming-of-age, from a ...
Selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Off to the Side is the tale of one of America's most beloved writers. Jim Harrison traces his upbringing in Michigan amid the austerities of the Depression and the Second World War, and the seemingly greater austerities of his starchy Swedish forebears. He chronicles his coming-of-age, from a boy drunk with books to a young man making his way among fellow writers he deeply admires -- including Peter Matthiessen, Robert Lowell, W.H. Auden, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and Allen Ginsberg. Harrison discusses forthrightly the life-changing experience of becoming a father, and the minor cognitive dissonance that ensued when this boy from the "heartland" somehow ended up a highly paid Hollywood screenwriter. He gives free rein to his "seven obsessions" -- alcohol, food, stripping, hunting and fishing (and the dogs who have accompanied him in both), religion, the road, and our place in the natural world -- which he elucidates with earthy wisdom and an elegant sense of connectedness. Off to the Side is a work of great beauty and importance, a triumphant achievement that captures the writing life and brings all of us clues for living.
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Publishers Weekly, 2002-08-26 "I'm not sure I'm particularly well equipped to tell the truth," writes Harrison. But with such a colorful life, there's not much need to tell lies. Bus boy, gardener, gourmand, novelist, screenwriter, drunkard-Harrison has done it all. Now add successful memoirist to that list. After a rugged outdoor childhood in Michigan, where an accident left him blind in one eye, Harrison moved to New York with vague ambitions to be a poet. Denise Levertov soon recognized his talent and launched Harrison on a literary career that eventually included teaching at SUNY Stony Brook, writing for GQ and Esquire, authoring several popular novels (The Road Home; Legends of the Fall) and writing Hollywood screenplays. Throughout, Harrison befriended an impressive gang of fellow free spirits: Jack Nicholson, Jimmy Buffett, Tom McGuane, among others. He swingingly recounts trout fishing with Richard Brautigan, bingeing with Orson Welles, arguing gay poetry with W.H. Auden and drinking with just about everybody. Alcoholism, Harrison writes, was his constant enemy, the writer's "black lung disease," as his friend McGuane once said. But he had other vices, too: strippers, cocaine, hunting, long walks in the woods by himself-all of which fed into Harrison's characteristic mix of freewheeling boho sensibilities and earthy western melancholy. A man as willing to shoot a grouse as trip on psychedelics-he claims to annually experience God-like visions and swears that he was once transformed into a wolf-Harrison is never less than intriguing. This fine memoir is a worthy capstone to a fascinating career. Agent, Bob Dattilla. (Nov. 19) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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