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2 by Jim Harrison

Songs of UnreasonSongs of Unreason by Jim Harrison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jim Harrison is one of my favorite poets and truly an American treasure. This book further seals his reputation as he explores his primitive self and nature. As a poet, he grows more powerful with age. Highly recommended.

The Ancient Minstrel: NovellasThe Ancient Minstrel: Novellas by Jim Harrison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a collection of three novellas, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The first is a semi-autobiographical but much fictionalized account of a writer like Harrison himself as he struggles to raise pigs and keep writing. There's much to amuse in Harrison's jaunty take on himself, but the story feels a bit sluggish. The second and longest is "Eggs," about a woman whose passion is raising chickens who becomes somewhat obsessed with having a child, even though she has no interest in a mate or marriage. Harrison's treatment of women is always a little troubling to me (young women often seem to fall for considerably older men for no discernible reason) and a story about a woman whose obsessions run towards reproduction seems a bit obvious and sexist. This story, too, ends rather abruptly and goes off on tangents, some lovely and necessary, some not. While I appreciate stream of consciousness writing, there also needs to be a point to the rambling. Finally, the last and shortest story is about an old man nearing retirement who is obsessed with and having something of an affair with a fifteen-year-old girl (see my previous comments about Harrison's treatment of women). While this story has the clearest arc of the bunch and the least meandering, its characters and messages are disturbing. Harrison is still a powerful writer and I will read anything he writes, but this is far from his best work.

[I received an advanced electronic copy of this book through Netgalley. This book is due to be published March 1, 2016.]

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