Sunday, January 20, 2013

Jim Harrison's Cuisine and Art



   I am an amateur painter and have tried all sizes of canvas, large and small. My wife insists that the small, 8 x 10 is the best size to bring out what talent there be. Jim Harrison (b. 1937, Grayling, Michigan) is a writer who also seem to do better with the novella, and he excells when creating a screen of a man's life and but in another book what food is all about.

In 2001 he gave us The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmet (with a nod to Claude Levy-Straus)

     Jim Harrison's first novella, Legends of the Fall (1980), takes place in the Canadian provence of  Alberta, just north of Montana.

     One might jump at "Fall" as a season or a sinful demise,but the story is a more complicated unraveling of the lives of three sons at a time in the West when weapons were common and a scalping knife was still a handy tool, horses and buggies were the transport, when money could be made running whiskey over the borders, and one might encounter a killer bear at any moment in the woods.

Harrison, a cook , gourmet and raconteur doesn't dwell on farm food. Some brandy and the hero's mother and her beef and cabbage  Harrison grew up in Grayling, Michigan, and knows life in the north country.  From these narratives we find a sense of the auto biographical, the message that what is being experienced comes from Harrison's own youth.

In his new novella The River Swimmer: Novellas (reviewed by Ron Carlson in the NY Times Review, January 20, 2013), we find a different milieu. An eager and exceptionally able farm boy, Thad, tours the world (literally) at 17 and finds out about greed and love, and art, well enough to "ruminate" about it, grasp its essence and power, understand it, and teach the subject to another generation.

    In the The Land of Unlikeness, sixty-year-old art history academic In the latter part of the work, we meet Thad at age sixty, now a famous art critic and painter.  He is seasoned and better than most of us; he is kind and sympathetic, knowledgeable and tasteful, but there is a gap: he has not painted in twenty years. 

   He returns to his boyhood farm and undergoes certain changes. He begins to paint again.  Along the way, his tastes have broadened from liverwurst wit onions on rye t


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