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The River Swimmer: Novellas Audio CD – Audiobook, Unabridged
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Four girls on a trip to Paris suddenly find themselves in a high-stakes game of Truth or Dare that spirals out of control. Learn More
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In his fiction, especially, [Harrison has] hit a deep groove. His meditations on mortality are blended with an antic wit. . . . Mr. Harrison’s new book, The River Swimmer . . . contains some of the best writing of his career. Both novellas burn brightly with what he calls, at one point, unmitigated cupidity,’ not for money or possessions but for life and experience. . . . He is among the most indelible American novelists of the last hundred years . . . Mr. Harrison contains multitudes; like a good rabbit liver pâté, there is a lot of him to spread around. . . . If The River Swimmer is any indication, he remains at the height of his powers.”Dwight Garner, The New York Times
Trenchant and visionary . . . Harrison is a writer of the body, which he celebrates as the ordinary, essential and wondrous instrument by which we measure the world. Without it, there is no philosophy. And with it, of course, philosophy can be a rocky test. . . . I could feel Jim Harrison grinning . . . in his glorious novella The River Swimmer.”Ron Carlson, The New York Times Book Review
[Harrison] has crafted gorgeous and wry sentences out of the quiet raging against the indignities and infirmities of age. And, in Clive, he has created another indelible and soulful rascal. . . . Harrison is one of our greatest voices of aging both clumsily and well and of teasing out hope amid sentimentality and dread.”Ian Crouch, The Boston Globe
You can’t escape your true nature, Jim Harrison’s two new novellas assert. . . . Here, he’s achieved a mood that approximates in modern terms the tranquility of Shakespeare’s late romances. The existential uncertainties that always animate Harrison’s fiction are not so much resolved as accepted for what they are: the basic fabric of existence, from which we pluck as much happiness as we can.”Wendy Smith, The Washington Post
[Harrison’s] latest book of novellas . . .deepens and broadens his already openhearted and smart-minded sense of the way we live now, and what we might do to improve it. . . . Harrison [is] the reigning master of the [novella] form. . . . I have to say that Harrison has been hard put to better his personal best, Legends of the Fall. . . . But with the lead piece in this new book, the autumnal novella he calls The Land of Unlikeness,’ he comes quite close. . . . The new novella is . . . no less intense, as it enriches and enlarges an emotion-charged period in the life of Clive, a divorced Midwestern painter-turned-critic. . . . What does the male version of quality of life really mean? Something like this, something like this. And female readers who don’t give over some time to studying Harrison’s version of it will be as foolish as the men.”Alan Cheuse, NPR
Ever since writing Legends of the Fall 30 years ago, Jim Harrison has produced a steady stream of novellas demonstrating what a writer can do in approximately 100 pages. The trick to a good novella is to give the same richness of story, action and characters as one finds in a full-length novel. At its best, it is a novel shorn of fat, full of story.”Steve Novak, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Tales of manhood and magic . . . Harrison addresses with insight and humor such themes as the human relationship to the natural world, the powers of sexuality and violence, the uses of art, the line between sanity and madness, and the shadow of mortality.”Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times
Exquisite . . . While the first novella is about the constancy of the past to reassert itself in our lives, the second focuses on the inescapable currents that bear us into the future. . . . The two novellas masterfully treat themes that will be familiar to Harrison’s readers the disjunction between contemporary life and rural terrain, our inability to escape the past, the vapidity of urbanity. The writing is sparse but powerful. . . . this diptych of a collection is a joy.”Ted Hart, Kansas City Star
Refreshing . . . The River Swimmer is Harrison at his crusty best.”Bruce Jacobs, Shelf Awareness (online)
Jim Harrison is a master of the novella form.”Steve Byrne, Detroit Free Press
The ways in which [the two novellas] complement and contrast with each other attests to [Harrison’s] range. . . . Everyday epiphanies from a major author.”Kirkus Reviews
[A] fine new collection . . .Harrison’s novellas are each striking in their own ways, rich and satisfying.”Publishers Weekly
Harrison is one of America’s great literary treasures; his rugged, beautifully tough-minded works help define America and its wide-open spaces, and his readers form almost a cult. Here, he will delight them.”Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
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Top Customer Reviews
In "The Land of Unlikeness," a man must choose between "the world's idea of success" and his love of creating art. Twenty years divorced and three years estranged from his daughter, Clive still hasn't gotten his life together. A former artist who abandoned painting for the financial security of academia, Clive is taking an involuntary leave of absence following an unfortunate encounter with an Art Tart. At his sister's insistence, he is using the time to visit his elderly bird-watching mother at his childhood home in Michigan. Since this is the mother who, years earlier, made a speech at dinner that ended with "You failed us, son," it's easy to understand why Clive doesn't want to go home again. Clive's thoughts are occupied by missed opportunities and mild regrets, some of which pertain to a childhood flame who still lives in town. Still, in his less sullen moments, Clive displays the guarded optimism that is common in Harrison's characters: "He had the happy thought that he had zero percent financing on the rest of his life because no one more than nominally cared except himself. He might be going mad as a hatter but it hadn't been that bad so far.Read more ›
More to the point, the first novella in this collection is absorbing, well-paced, and good. The second, "The River Swimmer," contains some of the best Harrison writing I've read: The story is detailed, well-paced, "builds" steadily, and is written in something, I think, like "magical realism." I think Harrison takes some chances in this narration, and it pays off with a story I'll not soon forget. Like it and want to read something else by Jim Harrison? I suggest A Woman lit by Fireflies (novella), The English Major (a recent novel), and Off to the Side (essays). Good luck and welcome to the club!
The River Swimmer contains two novellas, The Land of Unlikeness and The River Swimmer. Like many of Harrison's works, they are stories about unusual rites of passage that are both private and social. Strong but human characters struggle through these passages toward ultimate redemption, making messes as they go.
In The Land of Unlikeness, Harrison writes of a former artist and professor whose life is in shambles. By returning to his place of origin to visit his mother, he slowly forges for himself the rite of passage that allows him to rediscover the happiness of painting he had known as a child. Grounding himself once again in the long-lost land, he remembers his own identity that had fed his early creative efforts. He again becomes a careful observer of the landscape as he redefines the meaning of art itself.
In the second novella, The River Swimmer, Harrison somehow turns magical realism into what seems like logical and natural phenomena. The story's central character is a young man whose goal in life is to swim many rivers under various conditions. Against such a simple seeming goal, the world conspires to build obstacles. He learns quickly that easy offers of freedom often come at a cost of being controlled by others. Overcoming these obstacles helps form the plot of the story, even as the main character strives to be the swimmer he wants to be.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My response to the two novellas in this book is undoubtedly different from that of Harrison’s established devotees. He is a good writer, so that’s not it. Read morePublished 1 month ago by MoseyOn
This is the best book of poetry I have ever read. He is my new favorite poet. I will go back to this one again and again. Highly recommended.Published 2 months ago by Gail
To appreciate The Swimmer, the second story in the book, you have to think of it as an allegory. Readers who didn’t do this had a hard time liking it. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Bohdan Hodiak
I don't have too much to add to the John P. Jonas III review of February 14, 2014. I liked "The Land of Unlikeness" and thought "The River Swimmer" was not... Read morePublished 7 months ago by James Alec
Really some of the best Jim Harrison. I have it on my phone and re-read it frequently.Published 10 months ago by Stephen Wagner