The Ancient Minstrel by Jim Harrison

My stepdad turned me onto Jim Harrison, who is best known for writing Legends of the Fall, which I’ve never read, incidentally. (I loved the movie, though.)

Harrison, who died last year, reminds me of a cross between John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. In fact, he reminds me of a well-known Steinbeck character, Doc. He was an avid outdoorsman, a sensitive poet, a nature and animal lover, but also a womanizer, alcoholic, and over-eater. He consumed life, by all accounts.

The Ancient Minstrel is his last book, a collection of three novellas. The title piece was my favorite, and the one I’m writing about today–a somewhat autobiographical story of an aging writer in Montana trying to deliver on the book he promised his agent. It is witty, lyrical, and brash. Harrison was a keen observer of the subtle-yet-significant moments of life.

He’s not for everyone. If you want fast, car-chase literature, he’s not for you. But if you want to sit a spell, grab a cigarette or a jug of wine and listen to your wise, irascible, inappropriate, old neighbor tell a story, Harrison is your guy.

As I wrote in a previous Great New Books group post, reading Harrison is like reading life itself, with all the pretense sloughed off.


Jessica Null Vealitzek is a writer near Chicago. Her debut novel, The Rooms Are Filled, was published by She Writes Press in April 2014. She can be found online at her web site, on Facebook, and on Twitter.


Have you read The Ancient Minstrel? We’d love to hear what you think — please share in the comments below. Thanks!

Link to buy The Ancient Minstrel at your local independent bookstore (we love them!) or at Indiebound by clicking here.