Friday, November 13, 2009

Two Novellas by Jim Harrison: Revenge and The Man Who Gave Up His Name

I'm working on reading some novellas as part of the November Novella Challenge, hosted by J.T. at Bibliofreak. Today I've written up mini-reviews on the first two novellas that I have completed for the challenge.

Revenge is the first novella in my copy of Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison.  Weighing in at 99 pages, I was surprised that a novella with such a title could suck me in the way this one did. Revenge is the theme of the novella, and it is solidly on the mind of the main character, Cochran, as well as his former friend and now enemy, Tibey. If you caught my Friday Firsts post last week, you noticed it was the first line from this novella: "You could not tell if you were a bird descending (and there was a bird descending, a vulture) if the naked man was dead or alive." That naked man was Cochran, and Tibey took revenge on him because Cochran was having an affair with Tibey's wife, Miryea. Though the vulture in the first line wasn't sure of Cochran's status, he was alive, and the remainder of the novella traces his recovery and quest to find and rescue Miryea (who was also now a victim of Tibey's wrath) and to take his own revenge on Tibey. There is cursing, violence, and death in this novella, but I didn't find it gratuitous. The end was partly a surprise, but I won't go into detail because I don't want to spoil the story.

The second novella I've finished for this challenge also comes from Legends of the Fall, titled The Man Who Gave Up His Name. It also weighed in at 99 pages. Again, I find myself drawn to the first line--so far his first lines seem to draw me in very quickly: "Nordstrom had taken to dancing alone." From there we learn about a man who was more-or-less ordinary. And a bit preoccupied with sex--the novella talks a bit too much about things going on in (and out of) his pants for my taste. But I digress. Nordstrom is an interesting character. He goes from being a pretty successful, married businessman to a divorced man who wants to make a break from a life he is unhappy in. After his father's death, he decides to quit his job, give away most of his money and things, and go traveling "to look things over" as his father would put it. His family thinks he's gone off the deep end, and he has to a certain extent, and there is a strange episode involving drugs, sex, blackmail, and death-threats near the end that I totally wasn't expecting. This novella wasn't really my style (I thought it was a little weird), but it was still humorous and interesting.

So, I'm three-quarters of the way through Legends of the Fall, with only the title novella left. I will be working on reading it over the weekend and will hopefully have a review on it posted next week.

Click here to read my review of Legends of the Fall.


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