The ancient minstrel Novellas

Jim Harrison, 1937-2016

Book - 2016

"About an aging writer in Montana who's at the stage of his career when his work is increasingly discussed in terms of his legacy. He indulges his lifelong dream of raising pigs, struggles to write the "big novel" he's rashly promised his editor, and attempts to rekindle the long marriage that has sustained him."--[Cover]

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Subjects
Genres
Short stories
Published
New York : Grove [2016]
Language
English
Physical Description
255 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN
9780802124562
0802124569
Main Author
Jim Harrison, 1937-2016 (-)
  • Ancient minstrel
  • Eggs
  • Case of the howling Buddhas.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* The enduring master of numerous literary forms, Harrison delivers one of his loosest and most playful books yet. In three stylistically varying novellas, he returns to his customary subjects: Montana and the Midwest, womanizing and boozing, the writing life and rural living, aging and—facetiously—himself. The shortest and goofiest tale even revisits a familiar character, retired detective Sunderson from The Big Seven (2015) and The Great Leader (2011), whose age is catching up to his insatiable lust for younger women. Hired on to investigate a Buddhist howler-monkey cult, Sunderson wrestles with ethics while courting a teenage neighbor. In a tamer but more sprawling novella, a Montana farmhand who partially spent her youth in England during WWII recounts her passion for chickens and her vain attempts to find love or, more urgently, get pregnant. And in the delightfully digressive title story—here the most autobiographical—a writer seems to have hit an artistic wall as he turns 70, tending to some piglets to distract himself from his marital woes and the manuscript he owes his editor. The unnamed and restless narrator, like Harrison himself, refuses to allow death's imminence to keep him from living fully, embodying this witty and inspired collection. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

One of our Grand Old Writers, Harrison has a way with novellas—2014's Brown Dog: Novellas earned starred reviews and solid sales—and these pieces are classic. In the title story, a mocking self-portrait of an aging Montana writer facing down his estranged wife, the vagaries of literary success, and a surprise litter of piglets, while "The Case of the Howling Buddhas" features retired detective Sunderson, fresh from Harrison's New York Times best seller The Great Leader and The Big Seven. [Page 62]. (c) Copyright 2015 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Though this latest collection of novellas is one of his slimmer efforts, Harrison (Brown Dog) still has one of the most companionable voices in American letters. The first two entries in this collection revolve around animal husbandry—an aging writer in the grip of a "pig trance" and a woman's lifelong "chicken obsession." The rangy title novella tells the story of "America's best-loved geezer," a figure very much like Jim Harrison, who is looking back on his "50-year slavery to language." Restless, losing his once prodigious libido, and beset by recurring nightmares, the narrator impulsively decides to raise pigs, a late-life crisis manifested in a desire to become the "prince of free-range pork." It's a loose, low-key reminiscence that affords some amusing glimpses into the writer's psyche. In "Eggs," Catherine, a woman living by herself on a Montana farm, finds herself in thrall to a biological impulse to reproduce. Catherine is a strange, independent, and phlegmatic heroine whose story steadily accrues emotional weight as we learn about her alcoholic father, her unhinged brother, her harrowing experience in London during the Blitz, and her romance with a wounded British soldier. Harrison revives his Detective Sunderson in "The Case of the Howling Buddhas." Now retired but no less libidinous, "an old boy on the loose again," Sunderson is enlisted to look into a mountebank cult leader, though the real drama involves the detective's illegal dalliance with a 15-year-old girl. This last novella is also the weakest, the shaggy-dog mystery fitting uneasily with the salacious, and not particularly convincing, erotic plot. Agent: Steve Sheppard, Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard LLC. (Mar.) [Page ]. Copyright 2016 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A collection of novellas by the New York Times best-selling author of Legends of the Fall includes the title story, in which an aging writer struggles with his ex and a litter of piglets; Eggs, in which a woman tries to have a baby after reflecting on her London country youth; and a story featuring Detective Sunderson. 30,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A collection of novellas includes the title story, in which an aging writer struggles with his ex and a litter of piglets; "Eggs," in which a woman tries to have a baby after reflecting on her London youth; and a story featuring Detective Sunderson.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A collection of three novellas by acclaimed author Jim Harrison. The ancient minstrel: An aging writer in Montana indulges his lifelong dream of raising pigs, struggles to write the "big novel" he's rashly promised his editor, and attempts to rekindle the long marriage that has sustained him. Eggs: A Montana woman reminisces about staying in London with her grandparents, and collecting eggs at their country house. Years later, having never had a child, she attempts to do so. The case of the howling Buddhas: Retired Detective Sunderson is hired as a private investigator to look into a bizarre cult that achieves satori by howling along with howler monkeys at the zoo.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

'Among the most indelible American novelists of the last hundred years . . . [Harrison] remains at the height of his powers.' 'Dwight Garner, The New York Times on The River SwimmerNew York Times bestselling author Jim Harrison is one of our most beloved and acclaimed writers, adored by both readers and critics. In The Ancient Minstrel, Harrison delivers three novellas that highlight his phenomenal range as a writer, shot through with his trademark wit and keen insight into the human condition.Harrison has tremendous fun with his own reputation in the title novella, about an aging writer in Montana who spars with his estranged wife, with whom he still shares a home, weathers the slings and arrows of literary success, and tries to cope with the sow he buys on a whim and the unplanned litter of piglets that follow soon after. In Eggs, a Montana woman reminisces about staying in London with her grandparents, and collecting eggs at their country house. Years later, having never had a child, she attempts to do so. And in The Case of the Howling Buddhas, retired Detective Sunderson'a recurring character from Harrison's New York Times bestseller The Great Leader and The Big Seven'is hired as a private investigator to look into a bizarre cult that achieves satori by howling along with howler monkeys at the zoo.Fresh, incisive, and endlessly entertaining, with moments of both profound wisdom and sublime humor, The Ancient Minstrel is an exceptional reminder of why Jim Harrison is one of the most cherished and important writers at work today.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

“Among the most indelible American novelists of the last hundred years . . . [Harrison] remains at the height of his powers.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times on The River SwimmerNew York Times bestselling author Jim Harrison is one of our most beloved and acclaimed writers, adored by both readers and critics. In The Ancient Minstrel, Harrison delivers three novellas that highlight his phenomenal range as a writer, shot through with his trademark wit and keen insight into the human condition.Harrison has tremendous fun with his own reputation in the title novella, about an aging writer in Montana who spars with his estranged wife, with whom he still shares a home, weathers the slings and arrows of literary success, and tries to cope with the sow he buys on a whim and the unplanned litter of piglets that follow soon after. In Eggs, a Montana woman reminisces about staying in London with her grandparents, and collecting eggs at their country house. Years later, having never had a child, she attempts to do so. And in The Case of the Howling Buddhas, retired Detective Sunderson—a recurring character from Harrison’s New York Times bestseller The Great Leader and The Big Seven—is hired as a private investigator to look into a bizarre cult that achieves satori by howling along with howler monkeys at the zoo.Fresh, incisive, and endlessly entertaining, with moments of both profound wisdom and sublime humor, The Ancient Minstrel is an exceptional reminder of why Jim Harrison is one of the most cherished and important writers at work today.