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The River Swimmer: Novellas Audio CD – Audiobook, Unabridged

3.9 out of 5 stars 105 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for The River Swimmer

“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
--This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

About the Author

JIM HARRISON is the author of over thirty-one books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including Legends of the Fall, The Road Home, The English Major, and The Farmer's Daughter. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Playboy, and the New York Times. He has earned a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Spirit of the West Award from the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association. His work has been recognized worldwide and published in twenty-two languages.

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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.; Unabridged edition (January 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1470838567
  • ISBN-13: 978-1470838560
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 5.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,957,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
If you've read Jim Harrison you know what to expect (gentle humor poking fun at the hapless male) and what not to expect (commas) from his writing. The River Swimmer is a short volume consisting of two novellas. The first addresses the familiar theme of Harrison's recent work: the aging man's need to renew his life, his eternal struggle to understand women, and his slightly ridiculous response to sexual desire. The second concerns a young man who endeavors to swim through the bewildering array of obstacles and opportunities that life presents.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Disclosure: I live in Michigan, I've read most of Jim Harrison's fiction and essays, and I've heard him read several times. Basically, I keep coming back to his writing because I very much like it. Why? I think that his protagonists seem very honest. They are not supermen, but people created to be as complex as someone you'd meet on a northern Michigan street, men who are bright, articulate, and introspective, but who sometimes make very human mistakes. More specifically, his heroes are typically (but not always) middle-aged men who love food, art, travel, nature, and women. Harrison can, in one paragraph, beautifully discuss French cuisine and the Impressionists; in the next, he can have his protagonist guiltily and graphically lusting after a long-ago love. Simply, any writer who has his main character dissecting and reviling a bullying, two-faced, materialistic "giant of capitalism," and (in an earlier book) flushing his own cell phone down the toilet, resonates with me. Harrison--as befitting a writer who has endured poverty in his earlier years--is sensitive to inequalities of economic class, or the "haves" and the "have-nots,"--a dichotomy well-represented in northern Michigan.
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!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are many among us who think that anything Jim Harrison writes is worth reading. His most recent book, The River Swimmer, proves this the point. It is fictional writing at its best that is bound to capture the interest of readers who value creative plots, beautiful writing, and a shared wonder of the world.

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.
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