"Nothing new here except aggressive aging that comes from working every day of the week. I don't know what else to do. Since age 14 I've been a slave to language. There's a new book about aging — 'Travels with Epicurus.' Penguin. Fine and discreet, elegant, truthful. With age all my opinions drift away. Who am I to say for sure? My people thought they'd see Jesus when they died. Now that we know we have 90 billion galaxies, I'm not inclined to discount anything. How can I say what is not possible in this universe? You can disembowel reality all you want and certainties are hard to find, the towering reality being death. I don't mind. I was never asked. On death, a tour of the 90 billion galaxies would be flattering. Yes? Our curiosity is still in the lead. Wittgenstein said that the miracle is that the world exists."
--from a letter from Jim Harrison to Garrison Keillor, Autumn of 2015
While never directly mentioned in any of my classes while attending Michigan State in the mid 1990s, it still seemed that everyone read Jim Harrison. I always just assumed it was a result of me and my fellow English majors being eagerly on our way towards sharing a common alma mater with Harrison. MSU not necessarily being known for prodigious literary talent, so the success he was beginning to garner at that time providing an opportunity for some old fashioned school pride.
Although over the years I had the fortune to observe his name move beyond Michigander regionalism and towards that of international stature (France being the strongest market for his books, sales in the State's being 'okay'). So perhaps there is a much simpler and meaningful explanation as to why his books were always checked out at the library: he was good. Very, very good. Even, excellent. And with his passing last weekend, its sad to know that what we now have is all that we are going to get. A fact that hit home when I clicked on his page at Poetry Foundation and saw 1937 now forever paired with 2016. Still, with his living and actively writing up to the age of 78, there’s little to feel down about.
This morning the public radio station in town re-aired a 2008 interview with Harrison and during which, Harrison shared some thoughts on one’s personal spirit. When our spirit is cared for and properly maintained, we can stand up to just about anything life might place in our path. When our spirit is neglected, even going up to the grocery store becomes an insurmountable task. I cannot remember the context of the thought, but I can’t help think that it would have been connected to his reason for writing. I say that because its certainly one of the main reasons for my reading his books, repeatedly.