Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Review: The English Major by Jim Harrison

Let’s start off the week with a little literary fiction, in the form of Jim Harrison, former Michigan resident, and his 2009 Michigan Notable Book and National Bestseller, The English Major.

The English Major. Jim Harrison. Grove Press. 2008. 255 pages. $14 US. ISBN 9780802144140.

Had me from the first line.

“It used to be Cliff and Vivian and now it isn’t.”


The rest of the book is equally enthralling as Cliff’s road trip takes him through all fifty states… well, he doesn’t make it through them all, but the sixty-something year old man does get to California and back to Michigan by way of Montana, the Dakotas, and through a whirlwind affair with a rather annoying former student of his. During the trip he also pursues the mission of renaming all the states from the banal ones given to them by equally banal white men.

The English Major has Harrison’s unique brand of wit and a main character who the author unflinchingly portrays as realistic, frumpy, and thoroughly entertaining. It’s interesting to see an over-middle-aged character starting life over with a positive outlook, or at least a less than dismal one. Los Angeles Times writer Susan Salter Reynolds hits it right on when she says “The English Major is to midlife crisis what The Catcher in the Rye is to adolescence.”

Weekend was good. J and I rode horses around the state land and up Clintonia. Followed by a good meal of homegrown lamb and beef, with sides of potatoes, caramelized onions and mushrooms, and salad, all homegrown except the lettuce (don’t even ask), little tomatoes, and mushrooms. And don’t forget the cake. Gram is famous for her cake. So now it’s back to the desk and the humdrum of real life. Getting grad school app off today.


Rowenna said...

Sounds like a good one...banal state names?!? Indiana isn't creative enough for ya? :) What about the fabulous "Indianapolis" as a city name, eh? Eh?

Sounds like a good read, though--may have to check that out when I recover from my own road trip :)

Ax said...

And if you can spell Connecticut and Ontonagan, MI without spell check you get extra points :p