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Just Before Dark Paperback – September 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Best known for his fiction, Harrison here sorts magazine pieces written over four decades. "Food" celebrates the pleasures of cooking, eating and drinking, with exuberant disdain for trendy health-consciousness. "Travel and Sport" defends hunting and fishing as time-honored, ecologically sound pursuits that, practiced responsibly, draw us closer to the natural world. "Literary Matters" includes book reviews and dissections of the author's own working methods. Harrison, who came of professional age in the 1960s, favors a casual, intimate journalistic style that reveals as much about himself as his topics. We learn about the loss of an eye when he was seven and the deaths of his father and sister when he was 19. While a few phrases and stories turn up more than once, and while some of the early-'70s sporting pieces display a hip swagger that now seems hilariously dated, the essays taken together suggest the life experience and philosophy that underpin such novels as Legends of the Fall and Dalva.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Poet, novelist, gourmet, and self-described "amateur naturalist," Harrison's wide interests make eclecticism one of the hallmarks of his writing. This volume, drawn from over 25 years of work, collects pieces that first appeared in forums as diverse as Sports Illustrated , Antaeus , and The Psychoanalytic Review , as well as several unpublished essays. While not all the material has held up equally well, few of the pieces are without moments of insight or pleasure, and some, such as "Passacaglia on Getting Lost," are near-classics. The unifying thread is Harrison's passion for the genuine, for a life lived exuberantly and deeply. Whether describing the pleasures of a good poem, a good meal, a fishing trip, or a walk in the Michigan woods, Harrison is really celebrating the things he loves. For larger collections and where interest warrants.
- Lawrence Rungren, Bedford Free P.L., Mass.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (September 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 061800193X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618001934
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #641,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Johnson on June 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
Harrison's Just Before Dark sets itself apart from other works of non-fiction and leaves the reader astonished. Out on the landscape of Hemingway's A Movable Feast, Steinbeck's Travels With Charlie, and Faulkner's Go Down Moses; Harrison has brought forth his expedient andric style in this collection of indelible truths. Divided into Food, Travel & Sport, and Literary Matters the book is saturated with wisdom, humor, and insight into every subject from, bird hunting with a French Count, to bar pool, to Ernest Hemingway, to Zen writings. Whether it's sharing with the reader travel tips through America's dirt roads or showing us the complex simplicity in a walk at dusk, Harrison gives the reader an escape that is based in reality yet woven in the fantastic. In my personal copy stars or markings may appear next to titles or lines. By doing this I realize that I am inevitably suggesting that one story transcends another and therefore is somehow healthier than the rest but no assumption could be more crooked. My tattered, marked, and exhausted copy sits as reminder that some books are truly priceless.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Timothy J. Bazzett on February 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is vintage Harrison, but some of it in the sense of simply "old," rather than good. Oh, they're not really bad, because they all contain that strange mix of machismo, arrogance, and self-deprecating humor we've learned to expect from Harrison. But these essays, dating from the 70s and 80s are, many of them, from his still-struggling-to-make-it days, when he was forced out of necessity to write magazine pieces for quick cash. There are, however, some gems scattered here and there amongst the gravel. Harrison fans will very likely differ on which pieces here are the best ones, depending on where they are "coming from," both in a literary sense and a geographic one. Since I come from Reed City, where Jim spent his own formative years, I tend to enjoy most those essays in which he remembers those rural Michigan times - "The Violators," "Night Walking," "The Last Good Country," and, my personal favorite, "A Memoir of Horse Pulling," in which Harrison remembers watching those mighty heavyweight mammals - Belgians and Percherons - who were once the main attraction at county fairs all around Michigan and the Midwest, back when his dad was agricultural agent based here in Reed City. There is also the crazed, Jabberwocky fun he has in "A Chat with a Novelist," in which he "interviews" his old Michigan State college chum, Tom McGuane. And there are some concise and interesting reviews of books too, by John D. MacDonald, Peter Matthiesen, Farley Mowat, and even Ernest Hemingway.

Just Before Dark is, admittedly, an uneven sort of collection, but if you take it in small doses (I suggest you keep it in the "powder room") it can be quite palatable. I'm happy I read it, if only for the already mentioned favorites. In the intervening years since these pieces were written, Jim Harrison has become much more than just a Michigan writer. He is on his way to becoming a permanent fixture in American literature. - Tim Bazzett, author of SOLDIER BOY: AT PLAY IN THE ASA
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Nieradka on December 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
I own almost every Jim Harrison story collection and I haven't found a dud tale in any of them. Whether his subject is Native American malaise or the bored-with-everything sex lives of Ivy League wives and ex-wives...he tackles them with heart, humor, and an almost invisible touch of the Author's Voice. To call him a Naturalist isn't quite enough. Think Thoreau, only re-incarnated in Bukowski's body.
So we all know his fiction is amazing...but this non-fiction collection is a revelation! Here and there I've come across his magazine pieces and they alone merit the cover price of whatever mag they're in. But to have all these in one sleek, trade-paperback edition is priceless.
Life is hard and full of boredom and too much work. And none of us have time to experience all that we wish we could...Enter: Just Before Dark by Jim Harrison. Everything becomes an adventure...eating, reading, traveling, culture, art, America, nature...it's all there and rendered with that same invisible touch.
And each piece is short enough to be digested in one sitting. Do yourself a big favor and pick this one up. Go about your busy day and grab just fifteen minutes or so and let Harrison bring the great big world to you.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Gunning on July 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
These reviews must be to hard for the authors to read. The only easy ones would the indifferent reviews since the negative ones are upsetting and the great ones are embarrassing. This review is the latter. Being Fifty it's hard to have any heroes these days, especially living heroes but, Jim Harrison fit's the bill. My other hero Neil Welliver, the painter, reminds me so much of Harrison in his individual thinking, direct approach, outspokeness and belief in their own vision. Descartes could have said "If you don't think for yourself, you don't exist" but this would have been a rather hard line for Descartes at the time( the Pope and all). Harrison(not too concerned about the Pope) does take that hard line in all his work and, like Welliver, has created individual, strongly felt and clearly defined worlds and opinions. These worlds help the viewer or the reader find strength, direction and inspiration to work on worlds of their own.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By mruppel87 on February 11, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great book for anyone who enjoys reading about nature, literature, food, hunting and living an active life. Harrison is truly a master at his craft and I wish he were more prolific. Totally a guy who you could sit down, grab a beer and spend an entire day with, as is evidenced in the work. some of the pieces leave more to be desired and some are a bit lengthy, but overall an excellent read.
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