Friday, June 19, 2020

Brown Dog by Jim Harrison


I just spent a couple of days in the company of one of the most likeable characters since The Dude in The Big Lebowski. There are so many similarities in these two feckless yet charming guys that I really suspect that the Coen brothers may have had Brown Dog in mind when they created The Dude. There's a touch of Huck Finn too.

Brown Dog, commonly known as BD, is an easy-going fella who supports himself by odd jobs and cutting pulp wood in the backwoods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He may or may not be part Chippewa--he doesn't remember his parents and his grandpa was silent on the subject.

BD is motivated by three things: women, fishing, and booze--not always in that order. He also has a Thoreau-like appreciation for Nature and solitude--he out-Thoreau's Thoreau, however, as has spent his whole life living simply, not just a few years. 

Living simply in terms of material possesions, that is. BD's life is complicated, mainly because of the above-mentioned predilictions. He falls in love (or lust) at the drop of a hat--or the sight of some skin--and a surprising percentage of the women that arouse him respond favorably--mainly because he's so so goofy and, fundamentally, so sweet. He's not so much a lecher as a passionate devotee of Woman--pretty much any woman.

 This collection of novellas follows BD's peregrinations to escape the law, to recover a bearskin for a friend, to save a mentally disabled child he has been caring for from being put in an institution, to protect an ancient burial site, to win the love of the woman of his dreams--who happens to be a lesbian--and so much more.

Charming, laugh-out-loud funny, bawdy, and philosophical by turns, Brown Dog also features some fine nature writing. Now I'm curious about the Upper Peninsula. And Montana. And Harrison's best known work, Legends of the Fall. 

Very highly recommended.

If you're intrigued, a  nice review HERE will tell you more.

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