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Legends of the Fall Paperback – April 15, 1980

4.3 out of 5 stars 183 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

''A triumph.'' --New Yorker

''In place of a single point of view and a restriction of time, place, number of scenes and characters, Mr. Harrison delivers, in eighty-seven pages, a complete two-generation family saga . . . The steady, singing, epic voice assures and reassures us that we are hearing -- as the title claims -- legend, not reality. In compression, unexpectedly, lies credibility.'' --New York Times --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From the Publisher

The publication of this magnificent trilogy of short novels -- Legends Of The Fall, Revenge, and The Man Who Gave Up His Name -- confirmed Jim Harrison's reputation as one of the finest American writers of his generation. These absorbing novellas explore the theme of revenge and the actions to which people resort when their lives or goals are threatened, adding up to an extraordinary vision of the twentieth-century man.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Delta (May 1, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385285965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385285964
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (183 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Charles Jackson on September 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
I was in the Navy in 1983 when I discovered this book lying around the shop. Having nothing else to read on watch at the time I picked it up and became instantly hooked.

A prior reviewer made the analogy that Harrison runs a thread of choices: No matter what we decide to do in life we can never be certain of the outcomes. What is important is that we are able to live with the options we choose for ourselves. All three short stories contained in this book explore this theme and the character they exhibit when faced with challenges. It seldom works out how we, the reader, want it to end but like the protaganist we are able to make peace with it.

I seldom if ever read a book more than once, but I have read this one at minimum seven times. As a very young man trying to find himself in a huge cold world when I discovered Jim Harrison's work, Legends Of The Fall (And Other Short Stories) became a sort of blueprint for what would follow in my life and how would I meet the challenges: Alcoholism, divorce, death, even my spitituality.

The movie follows the story line very closely and for that we can be grateful. The tale is beautiful on its own and punching it up to make the transition would have been a fruitless exercise. That said, the vivid picture Harrison paints throughout while utilizing an economy of words causes the film to pale in comparrison.
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The three novellas by Jim Harrison collected in Legends of the Fall took my breath away when I read them, and made me wonder why in the world it took so long for me to discover Harrison. His language is sparse and clean--reminiscent to a certain extent of Cormac McCarthy's--but it has a musical/poetic rhythm to it that is uniquely his own. His ability to create images, plots, and characters that keep the reader riveted is profound, especially given the fact that he uses (at least in the last two of the three novellas collected here) almost no character dialogue.

The publisher's blurb for Legends of the Fall say that the three stories all deal with the theme of revenge, but this strikes me as a paltry characterization of their richness. What the stories do have in common is that the protagonists in each of them suffer a fall from "innocence." In Revenge, the main character discovers that the "innocence" of honest and passionate romantic love can exact a horrific price. In The Man Who Gave Up His Name, the main character loses a sense of who he is after his "innocence" is shattered by the break-up of a nearly twenty-year marriage. In Legends of the Fall, the main character, an "innocent" child of the Montana plains, is traumatized by the violence of the world.

Yet the fall from innocence in each of these "legends" isn't hopeless. Life lessons are learned in each case, even if the lesson hurts terribly. This is especially evident in the middle novella. Norstrom, the main character, loses his old identity. But in the losing of it, he acquires a more sensitive appreciation of the everyday. It's as if his loss of self leaves an open, receptive space that wasn't there before.
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Like most of the people I know who read this book, I picked it up after seeing the movie. While I enjoyed both in their own right, they are so different that going from one to the other adds nothing to either.
While the movie's most notable qualities are a breath of story and an epic scope, the book is beautiful for its economy of words and distant style. Written in the third person, as opposed to the film's heavy handed first person, the perspective is all knowing, yet reveals few details. The author brings the characters to life to some degree, but what is amazing is that they are interesting given their one dimensionality. The story, short as it is, contains much less of the deep intertwined relations of the movie, but I believe that makes it much improved over the screen version.
While everyone focuses on the title story, the other two that are included are also enjoyable. As a read, each of the stories is quite quick and complete. If you are taking a trip in several staggered stints, this is a good book to take along and pass the time.
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Format: Paperback
Upon watching the film for the first time, I wanted to know more about the characters. The film, although well casted (Pitt,Hopkins,Quin and Ormond),does not do much for the book. The book is a timeless work of art. When reading a book, I tend to feel the pain and suroundings of each chatacter. You can only do this to a point in a film. With the book I was lost in the life, and death of the Ludlow family. It was so wounderful to get inside Tristin and the others and experience what their life was all about. Mr. Harrison has done wounderful works of art. I hope to find more!
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Initially upon reading Harrison's novella, I was disappointed since I wanted so much for it to completely parallel the movie. However, after picking up the story for a second time, my opinions have altered. I found Harrison's straightforward writing to be completely appropriate and rather distinctive. I discovered new depth to several characters who were slighted in the movie. The read was enjoyable and the story is so very memorable.
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