Friday, March 21, 2008

Favorite Author: Jim Harrison


There was a time in my late 20s when I gobbled up Jim Harrison's novels like his characters go through brook trout and whiskey. The Road Home is in my permanent Top 10 Favorite Novels list and Harrison will always be high on my list of favorite authors -- probably at the top of a list of Favorite Under-appreciated Authors if I ever made one.

A few of his later books, such as True North and Returning to Earth, didn't "rattle my brainpan" (to use a Harrison expression) like the earlier books did. They were repetitive and a little tired. Still, I enjoyed them the way I enjoy music from a favorite band even if some of the songs sound the same. Variations on a theme can still sound sweet. And his two recent "faux mysteries," The Great Leader and The Big Seven, were much more lively.

Here is the list of Harrison's prose books, from most recent to oldest. I have read them all except The Ancient Minstrel (2016) and The River Swimmer (2013).

The Ancient Minstrel
The Big Seven
The River Swimmer 
The Great Leader
The Farmer's Daughter (reviewed here)
The English Major (reviewed here)
Returning to Earth
The Summer He Didn't Die
True North
Off to the Side: A Memoir
The Beast God Forgot to Invent
The Road Home
The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand
Just Before Dark
The Woman Lit By Fireflies
Legends of the Fall
A Good Day to Die


Last updated February 2016.

Review: The Pirate's Daughter

The Pirate's Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson spans generations of a Jamaican family, focusing first on Ida Joseph who, as a teenager, has an affair with aging movie star Errol Flynn and bears his daughter May Flynn, the focus of the second half. Usually, I find novels using real people as characters to be irritating, and I am not a big fan of mother/daughter novels, so I had trepidations about reading Cezair-Thompson' s hefty novel.

My worries were put to rest within the first couple of chapters. The Pirate’s Daughter turned out to be a surprisingly delightful read. It has an elegantly constructed plot, complex characters, steady pacing, and a satisfying resolution. The book is about the story, not the writing, which is clean and unobtrusive. Even the author’s use of Jamaican dialect is so natural it blends right into the narrative.

At one point, May is talking with her would-be lover, a character based on novelist and ex-pat Jamaica resident, Ian Fleming, about writing books. He tells her he is thinking of writing a book that would be “Lolita, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and Rebecca all mixed together and set in Jamaica.” Cezair-Thompson may not have accomplished such a lofty goal, but she made a respectable effort. The Pirate’s Daughter is a good book.


If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.

They Had Me With "Ulysses"

The Modern Library’s list of Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century was the trigger of my book list obsession. When I encountered this list in 1999, I had read about 25 of the books on it, mostly in high school and college. Thanks to a Great Books class my freshman year, I had already finished Ulysses, so I figured I had a head start. I decided to read them all.

I finished reading all the books on the list in September 2007. This was before I started Rose City Reader, so I did not review many of them.

I wasn’t a nut about it. It took me seven years to finish the list, which is about a book a month or so. It was a little daunting to realize that there are 121 books on this “Top 100” list because some listed as one book, are really sets, trilogies, etc. But I kept plugging along.

Reading through the list required me to read some classics I had never read (An American Tragedy, Studs Lonigan, and The Secret Agent, for example) and introduced me to some authors I had not encountered before (such as John O’Hara and Lawrence Durell). I certainly did not like every book I read, but I am glad that I have now read them all.

Here’s the list:

1. Ulysses by James Joyce

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

3. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (reviewed here)

4. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

5. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

6. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (reviewed here)

7. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

8. Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

9. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence

10. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

11. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

12. The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler

13. 1984 by George Orwell

14. I, Claudius by Robert Graves

15. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

16. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

17. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

18. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (reviewed here)

19. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

20. Native Son by Richard Wright

21. Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow

22. Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara

23. U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos

24. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

25. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

26. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James

27. The Ambassadors by Henry James (reviewed here)

28. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

29. The Studs Lonigan Trilogy by James T. Farrell (reviewed here)

30. The Good Solidier by Ford Madox Ford

31. Animal Farm by George Orwell

32. The Golden Bowl by Henry James (reviewed here)

33. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (reviewed here)

34. A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh (notes here)

35. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

36. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren (reviewed here)

37. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

38. Howards End by E.M. Forster

39. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

40. The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

41. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

42. Deliverance by James Dickey

43. A Dance to the Music of Time (series) by Anthony Powell  (discussed here)

44. Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley

45. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

46. The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

47. Nostromo by Joseph Conrad

48. The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence

49. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence

50. Tropic of Cancerby Henry Miller

51. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer (reviewed here)

52. Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth

53. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

54. Light in August by William Faulkner

55. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

56. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

57. Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford

58. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

59. Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm

60. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

61. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

62. From Here to Eternity by James Jones

63. The Wapshot Chronicles by John Cheever

64. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

65. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

66. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

67. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

68. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

69. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

70. The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durell

71. A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes

72. A House for Mr. Biswasby V.S. Naipaul

73. The Day of the Locustby Nathanael West

74. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

75. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh

76. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

77. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce (discussed here)

78. Kim by Rudyard Kipling

79. A Room With a View by E.M. Forster

80. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

81. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow (short review here)

82. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

83. A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul

84. The Death  of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen

85. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

86. Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow

87. The Old Wives Tale by Arnold Bennett

88. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

89. Loving by Henry Green

90. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (reviewed here)

91. Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell

92. Ironweed by William Kennedy

93. The Magus by John Fowles

94. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (reviewed here)

95. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

96. Sophie's Choice by William Styron (reviewed here)

97. The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles

98. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

99. The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy

100. The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington (reviewed here)


100 Books in 100 Weeks
The Modern Library List
Doug Reviews the Top 100 Novels
The Treacle Well

(If you would like to be listed here, please leave a comment with links to your progress reports or reviews ans I will add them here.)

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