Synopses & Reviews
It used to be Cliff and Vivian and now it isnt.” With these words, Jim Harrison begins a riotous, moving novel that sends a sixty-something man, divorced and robbed of his farm by a late-blooming real estate shark of an ex-wife, on a road trip across America. Cliff is armed with a childhood puzzle of the United States and a mission to rename all the states and state birds, the latter of which have been unjustly saddled with white mens banal monikers up until now. His adventures take him through a whirlwind affair with a former student from his high-school-teacher days twenty-some years before, to a snake farm” in Arizona owned by an old classmate, and to the high-octane existence of his son, a big-time movie producer who has just bought an apartment over the Presidio in San Francisco. Now in paperback, Jim Harrisons riotous and moving cross-country novel, The English Major, is the map of a mans journey into, and out of, himself. It is vintage Harrisonreflective, big-picture American, and replete with wicked wit.
"In Harrison's funny, spirited latest, Cliff, a 60-year-old former Michigan high school teacher, bids adieu to his inherited family farm (lost in a shady real estate deal); his wife, Vivian, of 38 years (who has been cheating on him and orchestrated the deal) and dear departed dog Lola (the 'truest woman in my life'); and sets off on a yearlong, countrywide jag. Armed with his childhood jigsaw puzzle mapping the 50 states, Cliff endearingly tosses out a puzzle piece every time he crosses state lines, reminisces and tries (with as much humor as he can muster) to make the best of his shattered existence. The miles between Minnesota and Montana play host to a melodramatically drawn-out love/hate 'romantic triumph' with Marybelle, a married former student. She stalks Cliff well into a visit with his affluent gay son, Robert, flourishing in San Francisco. As more calamity ensues in Arizona, New Mexico and Montana, the possibility of reconciliation with Vivian looms. With a plot left deliberately thin, Harrison is consistently witty and engaging as he drives home his timeless theme: that change can be beneficial at any point in life." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"It used to be Cliff and Vivian and now it isn't."
With these words, Jim Harrison sends his sixty-something protagonist, divorced and robbed of his farm by a late-blooming real estate shark of an ex-wife, on a road trip across America, armed with a childhood puzzle of the United States and a mission to rename all the states and state birds to overcome the banal names men have given them. Cliff's adventures take him through a whirlwind affair with a former student from his high school teaching days some twenty years earlier; to a "snake farm" in Arizona owned by an old classmate; and to the high-octane existence of his son, a big-time movie producer in San Francisco.
Harrison's sixty-something protagonist — divorced and robbed of his farm by a late-blooming real-estate shark of an ex-wife — embarks on a road trip across America, in this story that is the map of a man's journey into, and out of, himself.