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The Boston Globe

Books

Book Review

‘The River Swimmer’ by Jim Harrison

In “The Land of Unlikeness,” the first of two novellas in this collection, we meet Clive, a 60-year-old art history professor from New York City who returns home to northern Michigan to mind his “semiblind eighty-five-year-old mother,” while his sister visits Europe. There he faces down his unhappy midlife, following a divorce, estrangement from his adult daughter, and the extinguishing of his creative force as a painter — “his fire’’ we learn, “was doused.”

Jim Harrison, at 75, has thankfully shown no signs of being doused. In fact, in the novels “True North” and “Returning to Earth,” both published in recent years, he has crafted gorgeous and wry sentences out of the quiet raging against the indignities and infirmities of age. And, in Clive, he has created another indelible and soulful rascal. He is lovelorn and a bit cracked but still a randy, grasping (sometimes groping), sad shadow of his former self, perhaps about to settle upon a better life despite his diminishment.

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