For Harrison Fans He’s Front And Center (Not Off to the Side)

by | Mar 15, 2006

You see clearly that the linear is a hoax and the last thing the tectonics of consciousness follow is our world of letters and numbers. The bursting of your nuerons follows paths that make the grandest computers look like McGuffey’s Readers. This doesn’t make me pessimistic about the usefulness of computers only that they don’t create works equivalent to Shakespeare of Mozart nor are the meant to. Curiously humans have always been more interested in process than subject. A laptop at base is a stick used by a chimpanzee to get the delicious ants out of a hole in a log. -Jim Harrison, Off to the Side, p.125

I’m reading Jim Harrison’s memoir, Off to the Side (which I picked up for $2.00 at Bluffton Coffee House). Harrison has long been one of my literary heroes.


He’s such a learned man. In fact, as I progress through the book, I’m compiling a list of words he’s using that I do not know well, nor use. Fitzgerald is another author I do this with. One of Harrison’s words that resonates is “pablum”. Pablum means trite, insipid, or simplistic writing, speech, or conceptualization. In other words, it’s the exact opposite of Harrison’s work.

Harrison’s fiction has been translated into 23 languages. He’s particularly big in France. Bookpage explains why:

“I asked a French critic a couple of years ago why my books did so well in France. He said it was because in my novels people both act and think. I got a kick out of that,” Harrison says, and then adds, “I read a lot of memoirs to see how people did it a couple of years ago. A lot of them are too full of whining and they pretend they didn’t have a philosophical, mental or spiritual life and just describe what happened. I couldn’t do that.”