Wednesday, June 04, 2014

“Brown Dog” by Jim Harrison – A Journey Within

Brown Dog by Jim Harrison – book cover
Amongst many things Jim Harrison is known for his magnificent and captivating novellas, particularly the ones revolving around a reckless Indian from Michigan who has never had a lot of luck, Brown Dog. Choosing to reunite all of the novellas in a single book, Harrison put together Brown Dog, a compilation of all the titular character’s stories until today, as well as an entirely new one.

Without giving away too much of the various plots, all of the stories are basically centered on Brown Dog moving above and beyond his comfort zone and that which he knows, plunging into more or less extreme scenarios and discovering not only the world, but also himself in the process.

Just to give you an idea, one story has him overindulging in the pleasures of the flesh (drinks, food, women), another one has him adopting two children, while the final one (the one never published before) has him going on a road trip in search of redemption.

There is a lot of fun to be had in these novellas for a few reasons. To begin with, Brown Dog is a rather spirited and, in certain ways, a strange person, the kind about whom there is always more to learn about. Each and every story gives us a greater glimpse into the kind of person he is, what drives him, his wants and desires, helping to create a very real and human character, the kind most people can probably relate to in some way, if not root for.

As you can imagine, there is a healthy dose of comedy in these stories, but it’s not so much about specific jokes as it is about the whole tone of the narration and the various characters’ approach to life. Each novella is unique in itself, and they all feel as if they are taking place in this somewhat surreal world, one separate from everything else, one where Brown Dog is desperately trying to find his place and some peace of mind. Though there certainly are numerous reflections on more complex subjects, they are rather well balanced-out with Brown Dog’s propensity to stick to the basic and try to see things in simple terms.

All in all, whether you are looking to get acquainted with Brown Dog, Jim Harrison, or want to re-explore the character, I most certainly suggest that you consider getting this collection. If you have a bit of patience as a reader and like it when actions and events are given thought rather than simply noted, then you are very likely going to enjoy yourself with this one.

Jim Harrison (December 11, 1937)

Jim Harrison (December 11, 1937 - March 26, 2016)

Jim Harrison is an American author whose poems, reviews, essays and novels often revolved around nature, the great outdoors, and everyone’s favorite: food.

Many of his works were adapted to the silver screen, and some of his more famous ones include Legends of the Fall and Wolf: A False Memoir. He was awarded, amongst other things, three National Academy of Arts grants and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

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