April 7, 2004: “It is best not to disclaim any low motives…”

It is best not to disclaim any low motives for one’s criticism and embitterment with the forces of ignorance and unbridled commerce, and I must leave it to others to discover the base reasons for my dismay and with the e-mob that lays claim to the portals of the brave new world. I have already aired out my chagrin that Gerard Jones’ long-awaited (at least by his family members) novel, Ginny Good, has scarcely attracted any attention except by the astute and outspoken Ed Champion at his web log, The Return of the Reluctant.

Now comes a great, perhaps greater, crime against good sense and compelling literature. To whit, the complete disregard and roaring silence about the publication in the New Yorker, 29 March issue, of Jim Harrison’s short story, "Father Daughter." I will be, of course, sending out indignant e-missives (not by design, but I am certain my fury at this gross violation of literary common sense will shine through) to those of my acquaintances who have weblogs, for some explanations for their derelictions. One can only hope that there will have been a significant attitudinal correction to greet the publication of Harrison’s new novel, True North.

Harrison’s story is set at a small bistro in Colorado Springs where Norton and his daughter Laura are having lunch. Norton has recently done a nine-month bit for tax evasion, which apparently has left him with 80% of his substantial assets intact. He is divorced from Laura’s environmental lobbyist mother, and this story is about his longing for connection with his college-age daughter and the clues we get as to why the relationship might be as tenuous as it is seems to be in the context of this story. Told with Jim Harrison’s trademark off-handed good humor, "Father Daughter" is a bittersweet tale which resonates with the commanding characteristic for which I prize Harrison’s writing and world view, his great, big hearted humanity:

By the time he hit the noxious traffic of Denver, he had become contemptuous of his own muddiness. There was nothing like family to throw you off-kilter. His parents had been bitterly disappointed at his divorce. His mother had told him that she was ashamed of him, and his father, suspecting infidelity as a cause, had droned, "Son, it’s better to climb the same mountain a hundred times than a hundred different mountains." This kind of otiose country wisdom had always baffled him, and he thought of dreary church potluck suppers, where the strident problems of the outside world were dismissed with a chuckle.

To my way of thinking, almost any paragraph is quotable, and I was tempted to cite the story’s final one, but least someone stumble over this buried journal and feel moved to find this story, I will leave them the joy of that discovery.

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