Sunday, December 30, 2007

Book Review: Returning to Earth

Returning to Earth by Jim Harrison

Though two other books by Harrison sit on my shelves, this was my first time reading his work. And I felt like I came in late to a conversation. It seemed to me that people who have read and enjoyed Harrison would see similar aesthetics here and be at home. This being my first experience with Harrison, I didn't get it.

There is beautiful writing here. Harrison manages to capture the landscape and the way nature infiltrates the souls of his characters. And though he establishes well the different voices in the multiple first-person narrators, it is this range of voices that makes the book disjointed. The only thing that really carries the novel forward is the notion of death.

Though I'm fond of mortality as a motif, the last couple of years seemed full of aging writers sorting out their anticipation of an inevitable death through their novels. Philip Roth in Everyman, Richard Ford in The Lay of the Land, and nearly everything Updike has written in the last decade centers on this issue. In the end (pun not intended), this Harrison novel did little for me but did not discourage me from giving him a second chance.

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