“It used to be Cliff and Vivian and now it isn’t.” With these words, Jim Harrison begins a riotous, moving novel that sends a sixty-something man, divorced and robbed of his farm by a late-blooming real estate shark of an ex-wife, on a road trip across America. Cliff is armed with a childhood puzzle of the United States and a mission to rename all the states and state birds, the latter of which have been unjustly saddled with white men’s banal monikers up until now. His adventures take him through a whirlwind affair with a former student from his high-school-teacher days twenty-some years before, to a “snake farm” in Arizona owned by an old classmate, and to the high-octane existence of his son, a big-time movie producer who has just bought an apartment over the Presidio in San Francisco. Now in paperback, Jim Harrison’s riotous and moving cross-country novel, The English Major, is the map of a man’s journey into, and out of, himself. It is vintage Harrison—reflective, big-picture American, and replete with wicked wit.
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The title of Jim Harrison's latest novel, THE ENGLISH MAJOR, could lead someone to expect a military story. But this is about a guy who majored in English in college and became a farmer. Really. Odd title aside, this story of a man who gives up the farm and wanders the country is a wonderful piece of work. Narrator Mark Bramhall is the epitome of the rural farmer. His voice, his inflections, his astonishment at the ways of city folk make it easy to ride with Cliff on an American road trip as he tries to forget the wife who abruptly divorced him and sold the farm out from under him. Bramhall's sometimes hushed tones mask the character's world of torment and desire to scream out loud. M.S. © AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine
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