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The River Swimmer


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Jim Harrison is one of America’s most beloved and critically-acclaimed authors—on a par with American literary greats like Richard Ford, Anne Tyler, Robert Stone, Russell Banks, and Ann Beattie. His latest collection of novellas, The River Swimmer, is Harrison at his most memorable: a brilliant rendering of two men striving to find their way in the world, written with freshness, abundant wit, and profound humanity.

In The Land of Unlikeness, sixty-year-old art history academic Clive—a failed artist, divorced and grappling with the vagaries of his declining years—reluctantly returns to his family’s Michigan farmhouse to visit his aging mother. The return to familiar territory triggers a jolt of renewal—of ardor for his high school love, of his relationship with his estranged daughter, and of his own lost love of painting. In Water Baby, Harrison ventures into the magical as an Upper Peninsula farm boy is irresistibly drawn to the water as an escape, and sees otherworldly creatures there. Faced with the injustice and pressure of coming of age, he takes to the river and follows its siren song all the way across Lake Michigan.

The River Swimmer is a striking portrait of two richly-drawn, profoundly human characters, and an exceptional reminder of why Jim Harrison is one of the most cherished and important writers at work today.

From Publishers Weekly

Nov 19, 2012 – The two novellas that constitute Harrison’s fine new collection are, as usual, quite different in scope and content. “The Land of Unlikeness” features Clive, 60 and divorced for two decades (“the starkest rupture in his life”), taking advantage of a forced three-month leave from his professorship at an Ivy League college in New York to care for his octogenarian mother, now watching birds on the family farm in northern Michigan. His younger sister, Margaret, who is embarking on a month-long European vacation, informs Clive that his old high school flame Laurette is back in town. Clive reflects on his rift with his alienated daughter, Sabrina, while he rekindles his artist’s ambitions despite his thwarted early career as a painter. As Clive relates his rustic origins through frequent, wistful reminisces, he has a “crotch painting experience” with Laurette, who remains the “overwhelming love of his life.” Margaret’s return home from Europe coincides with Sabrina’s visit for a friendly family reunion. The short title novella, a tall tale set in northern Michigan, finds 17-year-old Thad Love, a swimming prodigy, after getting injured in a fight with his girlfriend’s father, improbably swimming over 100 miles to Chicago, where he meets a new girl who takes him to France, where Thad is more seriously injured swimming the Loire river. Harrison’s (Legends of the Fall) novellas are each striking in their own ways, rich and satisfying.

Customer Reviews

The River Swimmer

Knowing that Harrison is an old man, I am thrilled and thankful whenever new work of his is published. The River Swimmer carried me along and eased me into bits of magic. Namely the water babies. It's easy to remember that Harrison is a poet while you read this.

The River Swimmer

This is the sixth or seventh time I've had the joy of reading one of Jim Harrison's collections of short stories and/or books. He has this wonderful gift of relaying that a man finds himself once he can embrace the fact that he is not the center of the universe but a mere spec on the road to Kingdom Come.

Through his stories he relays that in surrender to his insignificance, man finds a peace that allows him to experience all the wonders and beauty of the natural world.

The River Swimmer
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  • $15.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Jan 08, 2013
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Seller: The Perseus Books Group, LLC
  • Print Length: 240 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings