April 13, 2004


ken krimstein

based on some buzz in the blogosphere i read it. i am not that familiar with harrison's work so it was kind of blind. it was an enjoyable read. i found it very carver-esque. i like the idea of making the protagonist a white collar crook. it seemed slight, but a well-felt x-ray into the mind of a modern character -- danbury minimum security must be full of characters like this one...

ken krimstein


We get this fix of stratum, the parfait of intra-generational presence. Even after we leave the scholastic paddock it shapes our sense of place and position. So someone ten years younger, or older, is a 'them'. This is false. It's completely artificial.
Harrison brings the elder American, elder in the sense of silverback, not geriatric, onto the stage, and dances him through his steps as everyman.
That's the whisper. The entire senior class is indictable. The freshmen get some healing from seeing it made clear.
The wound of wrong direction's irrevocable stop, arrival, destination. It led to this, and here it is, from the inside.
And the protagonist is still human.
Anyone wanting to encounter Harrison's intuitive craft and depth, and love of human things, should read Dalva.
The curious would do well with the novella The Woman Lit By Fireflies. Also in the New Yorker some few years back.


I, too, am ignorant of Harrison's work and this story was my first outing with him. I enjoyed it but was not overwhelmed. I think he did what I enjoy short story writers doing--taking a moment, one event, and parsing it for its many layers and struggling to get beyond the surface.


I am a Harrison fan myself and I enjoyed his story very much. It was short, too short to really investigate the characters. I felt Norton's isolation from his daughter, his hope that they might get along this time, that she would forgive him for all the unsaid things that lie between them. I am not putting any of this well, but I thought it a good story. I agree with MSG and recommend Dalva and Woman Lit by Fireflies as works to check out.


The world has no doubt moved on from this small conversation (not me I am planning, if all goes well, to talk with Jim Harrison in late May. Just in case future generations stumble across these hyper textual fragments, here are some random passages from an article called "Living on the Border" by Jim Harrison that appeared in Mens Journal in the Summer of 2002, between the ads for 6 pack abs and shiney or mat black small electronics:

"Frankly, I have no mind for rational solutions to these immense problems. Nothing I ever hear from Washington DC has any relationship with the reality I know down here. I’m seeing, delirium, hunger, acute suffering, which are not solved, assuaged or aired by the stentorian fart breath of the House and Senate.

I’m also wondering if it behooves a writer to try to be right. Yeats warned about cutting off a horses legs to get it into a box. Simon Ortiz, the grand Acomo Pueblo poet, said that there are no truths, only stories…

A historian might very well consider the validity of the Gadsen Purchase, wherein we bought my locale for fifty-two cents an acre from a group of Mexicans that had no right to sell it. The United Nations would question our right to take all of the Colorado River’s water, leaving the estuarine area in Mexico as dry as the bones their people leave up here in the desert. A true disciple of Jesus would say that we have to do something about these desperate people, though this is the smallest voice of all. Most politicians have the same moral imperative as a cancer cell: continue what you’ re up to at all costs. Mean while the xenophobes better known as the xenoids, merely jump up an down on the border screeching, surely a full testament to our primate roots. Everyone not already here must be kept out, and anyone here illegally, if not immediately expunged, should be made as uncomfortable as possible.

So Ana Claudia crossed with her brother and child into Indian country, walking up a dry wash for forty miles, but when she reached the highway she simply dropped dead near the place where recently a nineteen year old girl also died from thirst with a baby at her breast. The baby was covered with sun blisters, but lived. So did Ana Claudia’s. The particular cruelty of a dry wash is that everywhere there is evidence of water that once passed this way, with the banks verdant with flora. We don’t know how long it took Ana Claudia to walk her only forty miles in America, but we know what her last hours were like. Her body progressed from losing one quart of water to seven quarts: lethargy, increasing pulse, nausea, dizziness ,blue shading of vision, delirium , swelling of the tongue, deafness ,dimness of vision shriveling of the skin, and then death, the fallen body wrenched into a question mark. How could we not wish that politicians on both sides of the border who let her die this way would die in the same manner? But then such people have never missed a single lunch. Ana Claudia Villa Herrera. What a lovely name."


In reaction to your post about Jim Harrison, I commented on Ionarts about my experience reading it and Harrison's other work. I liked the story, and I admit that I would not say that about all of the fiction the magazine has been publishing lately.

Charles (Ionarts)

Dave Peters

Harrison has long been a provider of poignant writing about the West and the New Yorker story is the latest example. It's important that the protagonist is not just any white-collar crook but a western white-collar crook. The generational divide in the West is, to me, more interesting than elsewhere. Buffalo cheeseburger trying to understand chicken salad. I was hoping the short story might be an excerpt from a novel under way, perhaps in the tradition of "The Road Home." Anyone know?
Dave (St. Paul)

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