Farmer by Jim Harrison
New York : Viking Press, 1976. First Edition. Ex-library copy. Hardcover. 160 pages ; 21 cm. $7.95 dust jacket. Normal library markings within this book.
Rural Michigan and a forty-three-year-old farmer/schoolteacher are dual protagonists in Jim Harrison's third novel, an indelible, acutely visceral statement about growth, death, and seasonal change. Joseph is a man of modest expectations, a victim of circumstance and of his own ennui. He is both tempted and repelled by the larger world as represented by his dreams of the ocean and his affair with a nubile young student. What strains against his longing for an easy escape is a sense that the world he knows best—the rocky farmland and the grave, sternly beautiful Rosealee—still holds the greatest mystery and the closest thing to truth.
Farmer is about people the author himself loved, was raised with, learned from— people who, in his own words, "are largely nothing in the nexus of events that makes the public world occur. Now they have disappeared along with the agrarian culture that formed them, the family farm, land that you didn't make a living from but land that gave you life. It was not for the profit but for the living. In retrospect, the wages were the quality of life. Sunday was Sunday. There is no room in this novel for nostalgia because nostalgia is only an accretion of sentiment around something that very likely didn't happen. Joseph needs neither sympathy nor empathy. He has enough energy and candor to understand that our private histories sweep us away in segments we call years, and that these years make a river of our lives and we want terribly for this river to own a measure of grace and beauty."
With Farmer Jim Harrison has evolved as a mature talent, manifesting the sure instincts, the seasoned sensibilities, and the refined craftsmanship of an emerging major writer.
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