The Art of Jim

 

Jim Harrison, photographed by Andy Anderson

Andy Anderson Photography

The great loss of Jim Harrison this past Saturday has had me rooting for words. I dug through his old interviews and pored over passages from The Raw and the Cooked and The Beast God Forgot to Invent, whetting my appetite to write often and write well.

But more than that, reading Jim aroused in me what lately feels like my most primal need — to find fulfillment in a good day’s labor. I don’t know about you, but for me, as a manager, producer, coordinator for the corporate machine, some days it seems impossible to find meaning.

Not for Jim. He wrote every word, performed every task with pure purpose. You can’t mistake the career goals of a fisherman, a well-digger or a slow-cooked goose cassoulet, is all I’m saying.

This interview from The Paris Review in 1986 had me transfixed. Captured over five intoxicating days at Jim’s lush farm in Leelanau County, Michigan, the lengthy exchange touches playfully yet purposefully on Jim’s technique, philosophy and history.

It’s a long but worthwhile read. If you can’t sit down to the whole thing, here are a few choice bits that spoke to me. Continue reading

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How to Tell if You’re in Love

If you’re a writer and you think you could be in love, E.B. White has a test that might help you find out for certain.

“Let us say you have sat down to write a letter to your lady. There has been a normal amount of preparation for the ordeal, such as clearing a space on the desk … and the normal amount of false alarms, such as sitting down and discovering that you have no cigarettes. (Note: if you think you can write the letter without cigarettes, it is not love, it is passion.) Finally you get settled and you write the words; “Anne darling.” If you like commas, you put a comma after “darling”; if you like colons, a colon; if dashes, a dash. If you don’t care what punctuation mark you put after “darling,” the chances are you are in love — although you may just be uneducated, who knows?”

via: How to Tell Love From Lust on Brain Pickings

The Armless, Legless Man

“When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.” — Kurt Vonnegut

Via Bill Cotter’s 10 Famous Writers Who Hated Writing

Writers

As a young child Audrey Carsons wanted to be writers because writers were rich and famous. They lounged around Singapore and Rangoon smoking opium in a yellow pongee silk suit. They sniffed cocaine in Mayfair and they penetrated forbidden swamps with a faithful native boy and lived in the native quarter of Tangier smoking hashish and languidly caressing a pet gazelle.

— William S. Burroughs, The Lemon Kid

What’s in a Jot?

“Take this down, Smee.” – Captain Hook.

Jots are snippets of writing. They can be long or short, finished or unfinished, spontaneous or planned.

When you keep replaying a painful conversation in your head, jot it down.

When you’re scarred by the image of a subway pigeon pecking at a chicken bone, go ahead and jot that down, too.

When your Great Aunt Lena regales you with tales of how tough it was working on a farm in Italy as a young girl — well, you get the idea.

Just get it down.