Bob had told me that in India the peasants will tie a madman to a tree next to a river and the water would draw off his madness. Instead, see what Harrison has to say about Rose, who is often the love of Brown Dog's life: She was born mean, captious, sullen, with occasional small dirty windows of charm.
My argument is this - men are perverts and to offer the inner monologue of a middle aged man confronted with a young woman in a short skirt without a little salaciousness would be dishonest. The last story, "The Beige Dolorosa", is a calm portrait of a middle aged man in an uncomfortable but, ultimately, necessary transition and discovery of himself. Harrison's books offer extraordinary humor, nature, desperation, discomfort and personal discovery in equal measure and this collection is one of his best.
There's something Hemingwayesque in author Jim Harrison's approach -- with manly men fishing for tarpon off the Florida coast, cutting pulp up in Michigan, or rounding up cattle on an Arizona ranch -- but what elevates this book above pastiche is the self-awareness that the characters have; the sense of playing at the work of the real men. In "Julip", the title character -- named after both the drink and the flower -- is a 21-year-old woman, more vital than beautiful, who uses her attractiveness to seduce and manipulate three rich middle-aged men who find her irresistible. All three of these main characters are homeless in a way (or at least only have homes at the discretion of others), and while they all seek to find meaning (or have meaning thrust upon them, as in Brown Dog's case), only Julip seems to truly transcend her circumstances (and likely only because she has meaningful work she loves). Work is an important consideration for all of the characters: "The Boys" -- a painter, a writer, and a photographer -- dabble in the real work of men on their annual fishing trip, but that is questionably achieved with high tech equipment, champagne and caviar lunches, and their catch-and-release policy; Brown Dog can do the hard labour of a working man but really covets the ritual and medicine of the Natives; and while Caulkins enjoys playing at cowboy, his quixotic quest to rename the birds becomes his true vocation.
Jim Harrison is one of our very best American writers. An ostensible member of the Michigan-Montana-Key West gang that includes Richard Ford and Tom McGuane, Harrison is a muscular writer in the sense that he prefers the straightforward approach, as when, in a story in the present volume titled The Seven-Ounce Man, a character called Brown Dog discovers, or better, reflects, upon a slice of his most recent past: In the cabin it occurred to him that he had done so much worrying he had been neglecting his drinking. Julip-Harrison (for she is nothing if not a descendent of her author-father) is a direct kind of gal, who goes to bed with a half-baked southern Georgia lawyer in lieu of a fee, and who describes old boyfriend Jim Crabb (another dog trainer) in these poignant termsShe had known him since childhood, and if anything the sense of general dreariness he filled her with had increased. He was, simply enough, the lamest head she had ever met. Of Charles, Arthur and Ted, Harrison writers: In previous times more slack would have been cut for this threesome, but this is an age when not much slack is cut for anyone. The Seven-Ounce Man In the Seven-Ounce Man, Harrison returns to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which is home turf to a continuing character named Brown Dog, B.D. for short. In this case, B.D. who has fallen under the watchful eye of the FBI and the Michigan State Police for interfering with a university anthropological dog (short for excavating an Indian burial mound), is intent on looking up an old love, Rose, an Ojibway trailer-woman. As Grandpa used to say, it is not in the nature of people to understand each other, Just get to work on time, that was the main thing. Caulkins, without career, retires to southern Arizona to get his bearings and, worried-over by his married daughter, comes into contact with nature for the first time. And it is the natural worldthe thriving green grasslands just north of Mexico, the rolling hills and long-vistaed mountains, and the abundant bird life above allthat revive Caulkins and return to him a humanity he has lost. All at once Caulkins realizes the deeply spiritual consequences of the natural world. In his own way, and with great art and dignity, Harrison asks each of us to convert himself, to re-spiritualize himself, to constitute a chorus of one.
Julip is composed of three novellas, "Julip", "The Seven Ounce Man", and "The Beige Dolorosa". (Two stars.) My favorite story was the last, "The Beige Dolorosa". (Come to think of it, it might have been Jim Harrison, but I'm not sure.) "Dolorosa" tracks a literature professor who has lost his position under squalid circumstances and winds up camped out on a ranch in southern Arizona. All three stories are about men (even "Julip"), and though Harrison is the most manly of writers, he is manly in the older, less strident way of Hemingway and is not afraid of the faults and peccadillos that define manhood at least as much as swagger and machismo.
My argument is this - men are perverts (God love them) and to offer the inner monologue of a middle aged man confronted with a young woman in a short skirt without a little salaciousness would be dishonest. The last story, "The Beige Dolorosa", is a calm portrait of a middle aged man in an uncomfortable but, ultimately, necessary transition and discovery of himself. Harrison's books offer extraordinary humor, nature, desperation, discomfort and personal discovery in equal measure and this collection is one of his best.
The title character defies the reductionist categories of virgin or whore by simply being a dog trainer who uses her knowledge of human and animal nature to navigate the world she finds herself in. In Harrison's story, it culminates in sorority girls taking offense at being called attractive and conspiring to stage a rape as a conspiracy/witch hunt.
Much of Harrison's writing depicts sparsely populated regions of North America with many stories set in places such as Nebraska's Sand Hills, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Montana's mountains, and along the Arizona-Mexico border.