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on June 18, 2000
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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on February 18, 2010
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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on November 17, 2014
it is one of those rare finds --an eclectic treasure ----that touches you
and reminds you of what a human being is all about. His faults and imperfections
add a dimension like a refreshing shower after a blistering hot day..
It is an antidote to the snake bit technological frenzy that we are caught up with.
The writing emits a pheromone and essence that submerges one and says calm down. .
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on December 11, 2009
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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on March 29, 2016
This book, along with Thomas McGuane's The Longest Silence and Russell Chatham's Dark Waters are my three favorite non fiction books and saved my bacon and sanity when it came to outdoor writing about the so-called blood sports when I finally discovered them in the eighties.
The literate man's approach to sporting arts, writing and living right with rod and gun.
Jim Harrison knew his stuff when it came to being outdoors. I treasure this book.
The writing is concise, original and fun. With none of the usual bravado and B.S. one usually associates with huntin' n' fishin' books.
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on July 27, 2000
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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on February 11, 2012
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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on January 19, 2016
A revealing self-portrait of a national treasure.
Candor and humor are never lost in this man's writings.
Sober, thoughtful and adventurous prose.....as always.
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on June 28, 2015
I did not enjoy reading Just Before Dark.Although a fan of Jim H. writing style , in this one he seems a bit full of himself.
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on May 7, 2015
Harrison may be an old drunken lech, but he's our old drunken lech. Long may he wave.
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