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Selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Off to the Side is the tale of one of America's most beloved writers. Jim Harrison traces his upbringing in Michigan amid the austerities of the Depression and the Second World War, and the seemingly greater austerities of his starchy Swedish forebears. He chronicles his coming-of-age, from a boy drunk with books to a Selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Off to the Side is the tale of one of America's most beloved writers. Jim Harrison traces his upbringing in Michigan amid the austerities of the Depression and the Second World War, and the seemingly greater austerities of his starchy Swedish forebears. He chronicles his coming-of-age, from a boy drunk with books to a young man making his way among fellow writers he deeply admires — including Peter Matthiessen, Robert Lowell, W.H. Auden, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and Allen Ginsberg. Harrison discusses forthrightly the life-changing experience of becoming a father, and the minor cognitive dissonance that ensued when this boy from the "heartland" somehow ended up a highly paid Hollywood screenwriter. He gives free rein to his "seven obsessions" — alcohol, food, stripping, hunting and fishing (and the dogs who have accompanied him in both), religion, the road, and our place in the natural world — which he elucidates with earthy wisdom and an elegant sense of connectedness. Off to the Side is a work of great beauty and importance, a triumphant achievement that captures the writing life and brings all of us clues for living.


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Selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Off to the Side is the tale of one of America's most beloved writers. Jim Harrison traces his upbringing in Michigan amid the austerities of the Depression and the Second World War, and the seemingly greater austerities of his starchy Swedish forebears. He chronicles his coming-of-age, from a boy drunk with books to a Selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Off to the Side is the tale of one of America's most beloved writers. Jim Harrison traces his upbringing in Michigan amid the austerities of the Depression and the Second World War, and the seemingly greater austerities of his starchy Swedish forebears. He chronicles his coming-of-age, from a boy drunk with books to a young man making his way among fellow writers he deeply admires — including Peter Matthiessen, Robert Lowell, W.H. Auden, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and Allen Ginsberg. Harrison discusses forthrightly the life-changing experience of becoming a father, and the minor cognitive dissonance that ensued when this boy from the "heartland" somehow ended up a highly paid Hollywood screenwriter. He gives free rein to his "seven obsessions" — alcohol, food, stripping, hunting and fishing (and the dogs who have accompanied him in both), religion, the road, and our place in the natural world — which he elucidates with earthy wisdom and an elegant sense of connectedness. Off to the Side is a work of great beauty and importance, a triumphant achievement that captures the writing life and brings all of us clues for living.

30 review for Off to the Side: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    J.K. Grice

    This book was an inside look at an author I have to come to enjoy, the late Jim Harrison. I loved this memoir by a great old "YOOPIE.";) This book was an inside look at an author I have to come to enjoy, the late Jim Harrison. I loved this memoir by a great old "YOOPIE.";)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jen Hirt

    I lost track of how many times I made Paul listen to a passage from this ornery memoir which is a crazy thicket of anecdotes and witticisms about writing, drinking, eating, working, not working, failing, failing some more, and succeeding in the most improbable of ways. Harrison's charmed and cursed and crusty life is perhaps not the best "how-to" for writers, yet I found the ups and downs of his writing life to be fascinating. Of all the weird details, I'm most taken by his actual need, when he I lost track of how many times I made Paul listen to a passage from this ornery memoir which is a crazy thicket of anecdotes and witticisms about writing, drinking, eating, working, not working, failing, failing some more, and succeeding in the most improbable of ways. Harrison's charmed and cursed and crusty life is perhaps not the best "how-to" for writers, yet I found the ups and downs of his writing life to be fascinating. Of all the weird details, I'm most taken by his actual need, when he was younger, to sit still in thickets in order to calm his mind and focus his good eye (he's blind in the left). Also, I don't know how the man isn't dead at this point -- from the alcohol, the cocaine, the gout, the years of unpaid taxes, the Hollywood shenanigans, and the hunting mishaps -- but thank god he isn't. One of the best books I've read this year; as always with good books, I'm sorry I didn't know about it sooner.

  3. 4 out of 5

    M. Sarki

    https://rogueliterarysociety.com/f/of... In the past I have not been kind in my thoughts and statements regarding Jim Harrison’s poetry. I still feel the same way. But his novellas, novels, essays, and memoirs are top-notch. Through the years there have been countless biographies and memoirs promising readers to be the very best of their genre. And many of them have lived up to this hype. And what happens in these cases is the reader is led to other important works and interesting characters. For https://rogueliterarysociety.com/f/of... In the past I have not been kind in my thoughts and statements regarding Jim Harrison’s poetry. I still feel the same way. But his novellas, novels, essays, and memoirs are top-notch. Through the years there have been countless biographies and memoirs promising readers to be the very best of their genre. And many of them have lived up to this hype. And what happens in these cases is the reader is led to other important works and interesting characters. For me, there has never been a more tantalizing literary subject than Jim Harrison. And why it took me so long to finally read his first memoir is something I regret. This book is that good. What surprisingly comes through on these many pages is his remarkable humility. I suppose Harrison’s rough and often unapproachable demeanor left an impression of a self-importance that is proven debunked by his own words. Harrison was truly a recluse, but nonetheless he still made many disagreeable efforts to get out and read his work publicly and sign a few books. His life, by choice, was obviously not easy, but he lived simply enough to survive. Being a connoisseur of literary digression I thoroughly enjoyed the many detours and u-turns Harrison took me on, and I felt that old familiar regret that another great book would again end too soon. I wish I would have read this memoir first before tackling all the others that came afterwards. I generally felt Harrison’s other memoirs were so good that this one would not measure up to the rollicking fun his other books provided as well as playfully honest insights into the world he inhabited. There is much to learn within a Jim Harrison memoir. I cannot stress enough the importance of reading everything you can that has been written by this man. Whether it is his deep and undying love for wife and family, gourmet cooking, hunting wild animals, abusing drugs and alcohol, meaningful lasting friendships, struggles with depression, eating fine food, getting lost, and the myriad other subjects he discovers as part of his craft, there is never a dull moment and always something to be learned within the events both good and bad throughout his life. Sadly the great man is gone, but his work remains, and that was his plan all along.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chris Giles

    “On Saturday mornings I’d take our daughter, Jamie, about two at the time, on visits to the farms run by the agricultural department of the university. Together we studied pigs, cows, chickens, and horses. Of all farm animals horses have the best natural odor. It was pleasant, albeit melancholy, to see these animals anew through a child’s eyes and fantasize about living on a small, remote farm where I’d make a simple living and study my Rimbaud in peace. Never at the time could I admit my unlike “On Saturday mornings I’d take our daughter, Jamie, about two at the time, on visits to the farms run by the agricultural department of the university. Together we studied pigs, cows, chickens, and horses. Of all farm animals horses have the best natural odor. It was pleasant, albeit melancholy, to see these animals anew through a child’s eyes and fantasize about living on a small, remote farm where I’d make a simple living and study my Rimbaud in peace. Never at the time could I admit my unlikely candidacy for marriage, the statistically pathetic chances for success when a young man just shy of twenty-one marries a girl two days short of nineteen. At the time our main instruments of survival were a profound sexual happiness and the fascination of caring for the child. There was also the growing interest in something good for dinner every evening, keeping in mind the minimal budget which in itself promotes good cooking. Over the years I’ve noted how rarely divorce occurs when a couple happily cooks together, which also promotes a free sensuality in the bedroom, or wherever for that matter. Making love in a car, a pine grove, or a pasture did wonders for what they insist on calling ‘mental health.’”

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ann Pearlman

    Harrison's memoir is like one of his road trips, meandering, never certain where you might stop next. Sometime that made me restive, like driving on a straight road through the same landscape for days. Sometime that ended up in spectacular unexpected places. Sometimes his writing about writing is breathtaking: "There is a wonderful "brainlessness" to novel writing. I mean that you are using so much of your mind you forget that it exists." Sometimes his writing about life is breathtaking too: "I'll j Harrison's memoir is like one of his road trips, meandering, never certain where you might stop next. Sometime that made me restive, like driving on a straight road through the same landscape for days. Sometime that ended up in spectacular unexpected places. Sometimes his writing about writing is breathtaking: "There is a wonderful "brainlessness" to novel writing. I mean that you are using so much of your mind you forget that it exists." Sometimes his writing about life is breathtaking too: "I'll just see how far this life carries me. There's a lot left to be described. My life could have been otherwise but it wasn't."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Luna Saint Claire

    “My life could have been otherwise, but it wasn’t” This is the last line of Jim Harrison’s delightful memoir, Off to the Side. Harrison is a naturalist, sportsman and beautiful writer. The memoir is filled with insights and reminisces, gritty and full of food, alcohol, friends, books, bird dogs and fishing as are his novels and novellas. Harrison is an American treasure. An apt quote of Harrison’s – “It's what you do, not what you don't do.” “My life could have been otherwise, but it wasn’t” This is the last line of Jim Harrison’s delightful memoir, Off to the Side. Harrison is a naturalist, sportsman and beautiful writer. The memoir is filled with insights and reminisces, gritty and full of food, alcohol, friends, books, bird dogs and fishing as are his novels and novellas. Harrison is an American treasure. An apt quote of Harrison’s – “It's what you do, not what you don't do.”

  7. 4 out of 5

    Colleen O'Neill Conlan

    After falling in love with Harrison's fiction (True North, the novellas in Legends of the Fall,) I was eager to read this memoir that a friend - another Harrison lover - loaned me. Why is it, when we are taken with an author's writing, we wish to know more about his/her life and background? Sometimes it confirms our speculations, sometimes it adds new insights to the writing, and sometimes it sort of muddies our ideas of "who" this author is. This memoir did all of this for me. In his fiction, Ha After falling in love with Harrison's fiction (True North, the novellas in Legends of the Fall,) I was eager to read this memoir that a friend - another Harrison lover - loaned me. Why is it, when we are taken with an author's writing, we wish to know more about his/her life and background? Sometimes it confirms our speculations, sometimes it adds new insights to the writing, and sometimes it sort of muddies our ideas of "who" this author is. This memoir did all of this for me. In his fiction, Harrison artfully spans years and generations, sometimes within a paragraph. You do have to pay attention, but you never feel lost or plunked from time to time or place to place. In the memoir, he trawls all over the place and goes off on tangents, sometimes returning to his running narrative with an abrupt "Back to the early days." Luckily, his tangents are interesting and worth the ride. He also switches back and forth from his first person telling to the "you" of second person. I don't know if this is a technique of distancing himself or if it is meant to make his experience more universal, but I found it a little jarring, as it pulled me out of the storyline. But those are just quibbles. This guy has lived an extraordinary life of art, has traveled and eaten and drunk widely and gloriously, and his body of work - fiction, poetry, essays, memoir, and children's fiction - is just as wide and glorious. His most famous book is probably Legends of the Fall, made into an award-winning film. Harrison writes of his years as a screenwriter, trying to adapt his books. After many years of living and supporting his family on roughly $10K/year, he's suddenly in the money (and then out of it again), and offers his version of being swallowed by the Hollywood machine and spit out the other side. Dude knows a lot of actors, directors, producers and other industry types, and seems to have become close friends with many of them, most notably, Jack Nicholson. Nicholson believed in Harrison enough to bankroll his living expenses for a year, and their friendship seems authentic, a relationship between men who like to live large (in living experience, not necessarily in buying it). I have thought of Harrison as an extremely "male" writer, as a man's man, and this memoir confirms that. There is a long and honest section about his "Seven Obsessions" - alcohol; stripping [watching, not performing]; hunting, fishing (and dogs); private religion; France; taking solo road trips; and his immersion in nature and identification with American Natives. These preoccupations are carried throughout this book, and I've noticed his fiction abounds with these same thematic touchstones. Interestingly, he talks about hunting and fishing not as manly pursuits, and how that judgment came (from others) as our country became more urban/suburban. He offers many, many of these kinds of anthropological/sociological insights. I'd say the guy is a true observer, hence his chosen title. But I'll stick with my sense of his über-maleness anyway. The man is exceedingly well-read, but of the dozens and dozens of authors he has read, met, admired, obsessed over, or otherwise referenced, the ones he names are nearly all male. Reminds me of an older male professor I had who worked at the public library in his town during the summers. He said women would read anyone, male or female, while men would only read other men. However, Harrison does note Native American author Linda Hogan, and mentions the novellas of Katherine Anne Porter and Isak Dinesen as influencing his decision to write his own novella, Legends of the Fall, so I'll give him points for that and bump it up to four stars.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Timothy

    If you're a reader of Jim Harrison poetry and fiction etc, if you're a reader of literature of all kinds you might enjoy this memoir. It is a sort of rambling and I almost gave up on it but I am glad I read it and I would recommend it. The part I liked the least was his experiences in Hollywood. If you haven't read Harrison start with Dalva or his novella Legends of the Fall. He is a Michigan treasure. If you're a reader of Jim Harrison poetry and fiction etc, if you're a reader of literature of all kinds you might enjoy this memoir. It is a sort of rambling and I almost gave up on it but I am glad I read it and I would recommend it. The part I liked the least was his experiences in Hollywood. If you haven't read Harrison start with Dalva or his novella Legends of the Fall. He is a Michigan treasure.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Shaffer

    A wild, poetic, if somewhat disjointed memoir. Warrants five stars for including an entire chapter on his favorite strip clubs.

  10. 4 out of 5

    JmeDoom

    Jim Harrison's memoir, Off to the Side, is just as gritty, scrutinizing, and lush as his novels and novellas. Harrison's life of the mind makes excellent reading, and he doesn't seem to make any excuses for his failures or take too much credit for his successes. Harrison's work in Hollywood gave him access and interesting insight into show business during the eighties and nineties. His reflection on those times and his utter distaste for his life then is filled with witty observations and candid Jim Harrison's memoir, Off to the Side, is just as gritty, scrutinizing, and lush as his novels and novellas. Harrison's life of the mind makes excellent reading, and he doesn't seem to make any excuses for his failures or take too much credit for his successes. Harrison's work in Hollywood gave him access and interesting insight into show business during the eighties and nineties. His reflection on those times and his utter distaste for his life then is filled with witty observations and candid appraisals. His writing has always been filled an intoxicating blend of wine, food, sex, and natural history. Harrison's descriptions of his life and his process will be valuable and heartening to any aspiring writers. But more importantly, he reflection on a life lived with gusto and exuberance will be inspiring to any anybody who wants to live a life that is passionate and full of wonder.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Oelger

    I really wanted to like this book. Really did. I tried to read it several years ago and could not get through it. Tried again after Harrison's death and I still did not like it any better. I feel bad for Harrison. Like a lot of us, he lived a very contradictory life. But I ended up feeling bad for him. Unfortunately, not sure I would have liked the guy if I had known him. And that's too bad, because like the book, I really wanted to like him. I just didn't. I really wanted to like this book. Really did. I tried to read it several years ago and could not get through it. Tried again after Harrison's death and I still did not like it any better. I feel bad for Harrison. Like a lot of us, he lived a very contradictory life. But I ended up feeling bad for him. Unfortunately, not sure I would have liked the guy if I had known him. And that's too bad, because like the book, I really wanted to like him. I just didn't.

  12. 5 out of 5

    James Goertel

    Just finished rereading Jim Harrison's memoir, 'Off to the Side' - which I first read ten years ago - and it strikes me upon this second reading that what drew me to it in the first place was that it seemed to describe a 'writing life' that I aspired to. Ten years on, I now have that life, the life of a writer. 'Off to the Side' is easily one of my top ten books, fiction or non-fiction. Just finished rereading Jim Harrison's memoir, 'Off to the Side' - which I first read ten years ago - and it strikes me upon this second reading that what drew me to it in the first place was that it seemed to describe a 'writing life' that I aspired to. Ten years on, I now have that life, the life of a writer. 'Off to the Side' is easily one of my top ten books, fiction or non-fiction.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Vaughn

    the man is a genius. john mcphee's prose is clear and simple and proof of extensive editing. jim h's prose is robust, muscular, full of throwaway lines--it pretends to have escaped the editor but, of course, this cannot be true. the man is a genius. john mcphee's prose is clear and simple and proof of extensive editing. jim h's prose is robust, muscular, full of throwaway lines--it pretends to have escaped the editor but, of course, this cannot be true.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cara

    One of my favourite writers of all time. I take him a little at a time.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Perez01

    Off to the side by Jim Harrison Off to The Side is a masterfully self written autobiography, in which readers are set to the upbringing point of view of Jim Harrison’s rough childhood in Michigan. In which his family faced the adversities of being financially unstable, and being witnesses and the forced need of living through rough conditions of the infamous events of the Great Depression and World War II. With all these tough adversities his only escape is literary. As a young boy, whom he was Off to the side by Jim Harrison Off to The Side is a masterfully self written autobiography, in which readers are set to the upbringing point of view of Jim Harrison’s rough childhood in Michigan. In which his family faced the adversities of being financially unstable, and being witnesses and the forced need of living through rough conditions of the infamous events of the Great Depression and World War II. With all these tough adversities his only escape is literary. As a young boy, whom he was filled with books, had lead him into his young adolescent dreams of meeting his idols, in which he has deeply admired throughout his early life. To being put in a highly honored screenwriter of a Hollywood movie. Throughout the unfolding events of his life, he’s been named father, welcoming a new life to the world. Through his eyes of these experiences, Harrisons listing of obsessions and the wisdom of humbleness he presents, has helped him become a person of thought and purpose. Every event is an exposure to his reality as human with the power of literature. This book is best recommended to the people who love to follow up on best known authors life’s, in which you can learn more about the author and follow with the point of view. I recommend this book to the readers who would like to be captured by the author's personal life and the personal connection one can make with the author's life. However, it may change the perspectives upon the author due to these exposure of his life and experiences. But as an author like Jim Harrison, who is mainly know for his novel Legends of The Fall, has caught many readers attention to read his piece of literature of his own personal life.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Geoff Balme

    A pleasure to delve so intimately into the thinking of this favorite writer. Many times when you've experienced a lot of a writer's work you've been able to discern a life from him. I haven't always been pleased with Harrison's stories. Brown Dog is a favorite character though. But I do share his love of the great outdoors and a desire to preserve individuality, and to think of artists outside the boundaries of the major metropolises as more than just "regional". He's the most fun when he's spou A pleasure to delve so intimately into the thinking of this favorite writer. Many times when you've experienced a lot of a writer's work you've been able to discern a life from him. I haven't always been pleased with Harrison's stories. Brown Dog is a favorite character though. But I do share his love of the great outdoors and a desire to preserve individuality, and to think of artists outside the boundaries of the major metropolises as more than just "regional". He's the most fun when he's spouting some anger about something, but he reserves his best poetics for the natural world -- and I hope the animals came to his funeral.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    The first half of “Off to the Side” reminded me of my disappointment at many of Harrison’s last novels (and why it sat unread on my shelve for many years). He philosophizes, he meanders, he writes on points that are dated three years after his death and 17 years after this memoir was published (a whole section on strippers?). In the second half, though, Harrison finally focuses on his life story - the rural Michigan upbringing, an early marriage, unhappy attempts at a conventional job and teachi The first half of “Off to the Side” reminded me of my disappointment at many of Harrison’s last novels (and why it sat unread on my shelve for many years). He philosophizes, he meanders, he writes on points that are dated three years after his death and 17 years after this memoir was published (a whole section on strippers?). In the second half, though, Harrison finally focuses on his life story - the rural Michigan upbringing, an early marriage, unhappy attempts at a conventional job and teaching, lean years as a poet and writer, and finally, success.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Fitzpatrick

    I wish I had once met the author of this amusing and poignant memoir, Jim Harrison. A hearty, full meal of a man; robust, sensual, engaging, spiritual, and unique. As he spins his life’s tale, I was drawn in to the experiences and connections which he’d made. I was amused at his adventures, awed by his incomplete male only catalogue of friends, enlightened about the screenwriters role in entertainment, and intrigued by his sportsman’s life in the natural world. This memoir is to be savored. A ve I wish I had once met the author of this amusing and poignant memoir, Jim Harrison. A hearty, full meal of a man; robust, sensual, engaging, spiritual, and unique. As he spins his life’s tale, I was drawn in to the experiences and connections which he’d made. I was amused at his adventures, awed by his incomplete male only catalogue of friends, enlightened about the screenwriters role in entertainment, and intrigued by his sportsman’s life in the natural world. This memoir is to be savored. A very good read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dis Bins

    Engaging, surprising, a bit long I enjoyed reading about Jim Harrison's life because of the original way he writes about it and because of his eventful life itself. His writing made me laugh quite a few times. I appreciated his wry humor and astute ability to point out many absurdities of modern life. His self deprecating take on himself was a lesson in humility. He's a great storyteller. I would have given the book 5 stars if I hadn't been so desperate for a comma or two by the end of his long r Engaging, surprising, a bit long I enjoyed reading about Jim Harrison's life because of the original way he writes about it and because of his eventful life itself. His writing made me laugh quite a few times. I appreciated his wry humor and astute ability to point out many absurdities of modern life. His self deprecating take on himself was a lesson in humility. He's a great storyteller. I would have given the book 5 stars if I hadn't been so desperate for a comma or two by the end of his long rambles. Still, it was a fascinating read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    False

    I've been reading all of Jim Harrison. This memoir was interesting in that he has interesting to things to say about loss, poverty, travel, Hollywood and nature. I am not fond of his gourmand books (odd foods and gluttony) but I did like this book as well as some of his poetry books. I've only read one work of fiction so far. We'll see. If you are going to be reading Jim Harrison yourself, start with this book. I've been reading all of Jim Harrison. This memoir was interesting in that he has interesting to things to say about loss, poverty, travel, Hollywood and nature. I am not fond of his gourmand books (odd foods and gluttony) but I did like this book as well as some of his poetry books. I've only read one work of fiction so far. We'll see. If you are going to be reading Jim Harrison yourself, start with this book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Foster Winter

    I admit a considerable amount it bias being a Michigan guy and having spent a memorable afternoon with Jim who was up to then, unknown to me (even though we lived there in the same town at the time). The book was fascinating and would interest at both a celebrity insider level and, much more importantly, those interested in the workings of an incredibly creative mind. I found myself underlining and dog earring pages as I'm sure I will be referring to this book way into the future. I admit a considerable amount it bias being a Michigan guy and having spent a memorable afternoon with Jim who was up to then, unknown to me (even though we lived there in the same town at the time). The book was fascinating and would interest at both a celebrity insider level and, much more importantly, those interested in the workings of an incredibly creative mind. I found myself underlining and dog earring pages as I'm sure I will be referring to this book way into the future.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tim Penning

    I've not been interested in reading writers' memoirs. I just want to read their work. But Ive read so much of Harrison's work since I discovered him when I lived near him in northern Michigan in the '80s that I read his memoir. It was worth it. You learn a lot about the man, his views on life and the writer's life, the publishing industry and Hollywood. Readers and writers will enjoy this memoir. I've not been interested in reading writers' memoirs. I just want to read their work. But Ive read so much of Harrison's work since I discovered him when I lived near him in northern Michigan in the '80s that I read his memoir. It was worth it. You learn a lot about the man, his views on life and the writer's life, the publishing industry and Hollywood. Readers and writers will enjoy this memoir.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Hudson

    I was so sorry when Jim Harrison passed in March 2016, having been an avid reader of his work for the last 20+ years. His life was the embodiment of every bottle of wine he drank, and every 7 course meal he ever consumed -- robust, intoxicating, delicious. It was a big life for which he humbly accepted responsibility with no regrets. As he said, "My life could have been otherwise but it wasn't." There are many fans of his work who are certainly glad it wasn't. I was so sorry when Jim Harrison passed in March 2016, having been an avid reader of his work for the last 20+ years. His life was the embodiment of every bottle of wine he drank, and every 7 course meal he ever consumed -- robust, intoxicating, delicious. It was a big life for which he humbly accepted responsibility with no regrets. As he said, "My life could have been otherwise but it wasn't." There are many fans of his work who are certainly glad it wasn't.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    This was technically a reread, as I was looking for a way into rereading the fifteen or sixteen Harrisons on my shelves. He observes somewhere in here that he enjoys the anonymity of writing fiction-of disappearing into characters that don't exist. He contrasts that with his poetry where he is essentially mining himself. Heartfelt and self-deprecating tale of a life fully lived. This was technically a reread, as I was looking for a way into rereading the fifteen or sixteen Harrisons on my shelves. He observes somewhere in here that he enjoys the anonymity of writing fiction-of disappearing into characters that don't exist. He contrasts that with his poetry where he is essentially mining himself. Heartfelt and self-deprecating tale of a life fully lived.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Matt Mackane

    A rollicking good memoir about poetry, food, drink, hunting, fishing, cocaine, writing, Hollywood, and movie stars. What else could you possible want? Vale Jim Harrison.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    This is what Hemmingway's Nick Adams stories would be if they didn't suck. This is what Hemmingway's Nick Adams stories would be if they didn't suck.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nic Schuck

    Can’t say enough good things about Jim Harrison. This book was personal and honest and makes me love his work even more than I thought possible.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jim McDonald

    A beautiful memoir of an amazing man, now gone sadly gone: http://redjim73.blogspot.com/2015/06/... A beautiful memoir of an amazing man, now gone sadly gone: http://redjim73.blogspot.com/2015/06/...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bob Nichols

    While the title suggests that this book allows Harrison to remove himself from being the center of attention, 'Off to the Side' is very much about the author. It is thoroughly autobiographical, covering his life growing up in northern Michigan; his struggles to make a living as a writer; his love for hunting, fishing, family and dogs; his successes as a writer; and his life in Montana, at a 'casita' on the U.S. Mexican border and, until he sold it, his Michigan farm. The picture painted is that While the title suggests that this book allows Harrison to remove himself from being the center of attention, 'Off to the Side' is very much about the author. It is thoroughly autobiographical, covering his life growing up in northern Michigan; his struggles to make a living as a writer; his love for hunting, fishing, family and dogs; his successes as a writer; and his life in Montana, at a 'casita' on the U.S. Mexican border and, until he sold it, his Michigan farm. The picture painted is that of a very independent-minded, caring and accomplished individual. A few favorite observations leap out in this memoir. Harrison said he wrote "a number of haughty reviews for the New York Times Book Review, so pompous that they embarrass me to this day." He writes that "An idle man can generate immense quantities of hubris in his daydreaming." In noting the territorialism that exists in writing, Harrison comments that "There's a certain kind of writer who tends to think that anyone else's good review detracts from the future prospect of theirs." When Harrison moved across different genres of writing, he encountered often enough "Sniffs, growls, barks. Like the new kid at school, the new dog is not always welcome." This book is probably most interesting to those who have followed Harrison's career and writing.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jan C

    Actually this is more like 3 1/2 stars. This is a book best read in dribs and drabs and savored. Although I may have taken a little too long to read it. But there is plenty of food for thought here. It is the journey of a mind and Harrison comes out of Michigan and follows his trail to New York, Paris, Hollywood, Arizona and back to the UP where he felt most at home. His daughters, after they grew up, moved to Montana. He asked them why. They said that was where they vacationed when they were you Actually this is more like 3 1/2 stars. This is a book best read in dribs and drabs and savored. Although I may have taken a little too long to read it. But there is plenty of food for thought here. It is the journey of a mind and Harrison comes out of Michigan and follows his trail to New York, Paris, Hollywood, Arizona and back to the UP where he felt most at home. His daughters, after they grew up, moved to Montana. He asked them why. They said that was where they vacationed when they were young and he had liked fishing with people like Peter Mathiesson there and they were happy there. He decided that was the reason he had a little in the UP. One quote really grabbed me - “to drive without destination is to accept your own fragility, the passage of time, with the miles ticking off the pace of your own mortality.” I have taken vacations where I didn’t know where I was going. I just got in the car and drove. That was how I wound up taking a vacation one year on the River Road along the Mississippi River going back forth between Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. It was just a short vacation and was only a few days. But I did really enjoy this book.

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