New York Times best-selling author Jim Harrison is one of America’s most beloved writers, and of all his creations, Brown Dog, a bawdy, reckless, down-on-his-luck Michigan Indian, has earned cult status with readers in the more than two decades since his first appearance. For the first time, Brown Dog gathers all the Brown Dog novellas, including one never-published one, into one volume—the ideal introduction (or reintroduction) to Harrison’s irresistible Everyman.
In these novellas, BD rescues the preserved body of an Indian from Lake Superior’s cold waters; overindulges in food, drink, and women while just scraping by in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; wanders Los Angeles in search of an ersatz Native activist who stole his bearskin; adopts two Native children; and flees the authorities, then returns across the Canadian border aboard an Indian rock band’s tour bus. The collection culminates with He Dog, never before published, which finds BD marginally employed and still looking for love (or sometimes just a few beers and a roll in the hay), as he goes on a road trip from Michigan to Montana and back, arriving home to the prospect of family stability and, perhaps, a chance at redemption.
Brown Dog underscores Harrison’s place as one of America’s most irrepressible writers, and one of the finest practitioners of the novella form.
Jim Harrison was born in Grayling, Michigan, to Winfield Sprague Harrison, a county agricultural agent, and Norma Olivia (Wahlgren) Harrison, both avid readers. He married Linda King in 1959 with whom he has two daughters.
His awards include National Academy of Arts grants (1967, 68, 69), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1969-70), the Spirit of the West Award from the Mountain & Plains Booksellers Association, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2007).
Much of Harrison's writing depicts sparsely populated regions of North America with many stories set in places such as Nebraska's Sand Hills, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Montana's mountains, and along the Arizona-Mexico border.
I loved this new collection of novellas from one of my favorite writers. Harrison’s character Brown Dog is one of those unforgettable creations in literature, an outrageous womanizer with a good heart and a guy who makes the concept of “live one day at a time” really come alive. The set of Brown Dog adventures is a powerful fix within one set of covers, spanning his first appearance in 1990’s “Women Lit by Fireflies” and his latest incarnation in 2010’s “The Farmer’s Daughter.”
What opens my heart with this book is Harrison’s ability to make subsistence living in a rural backwater a worthy goal. I am reminded how at the beginning of “Guns, Germs, and Steel” Jared Diamond conveys how his time with a hunter-gatherer society in New Guinea leads him to the realization that such people are just as smart, successful, and probably happier in life than most members of “advanced” cultures. Brown Dog (or B.D. for short) is embedded in his environment in the Michigan Upper Peninsula as much as such tribesmen in the jungle, as evident here in his return from a period of being on the lam: … the bus moved north … toward the landscape he called home, dense forests of pine, hemlock, tamarack, and aspen surrounding great swamps and small lakes that had wonderful fringes of reeds and lily pads. There were creeks, beaver ponds, and small rivers where B.D. would always find complete solace in trout fishing. He was observant of the multiple torments people seemed to have daily and felt lucky that he could resolve his own problems with a couple of beers and a half dozen hours of trout fishing and if a female crossed his path whether fat or thin, older or younger, it was a testament that heaven was on earth rather than somewhere up in the remote and hostile sky.
Brown Dog is a man of many paradoxes. I like his philosophy of working only hard enough so he can be assured of spending plenty of time by himself fishing. This apparent selfishness is frequently contradicted by his ready generosity. His parents basically disappeared on him and he was raised by his grandfather, an experience which contributes both to his empathy for alienated people and to challenges in long term commitments. He suspects he is part Indian, and as most of his friends are Indians he often plays the role with non-Natives. He perpetually lusts after women, thin or fat, young or old, but somehow his open outlook, humor, and ability to really listen captures their hearts. He forgives them when they take advantage of him or get him into schemes that get him into trouble. For example, one lover is an anthropologist with an academic agenda of finding some ancient Native burial mounds known to B.D. In another situation he ends up becoming a stepfather to two children while their mother is in prison. He doesn’t see this responsibility as a burden, and he delights in the girl handicapped with fetal alcohol syndrome who can’t speak but can imitate and “speak” with many of the wild birds and animals she encounters in the woods.
One woman B.D. comes to love enough to want to marry turns out to be a lesbian. Gretchen is an employment counselor who goes to great lengths to help him in many ways over the years. She appreciates “B.D.’s naivete and lack of presumption, the absence of bristling showmanship that repelled her in men.” Their interplay was a lot of fun to experience, as illustrated in this segment:
Years before she had used her authority to thoroughly review his school records and discovered that his intelligence was well above average which made her question him sharply. “Why live like you do? You’re smart enough to do otherwise.” … It occurred to him then that she would never understand the deep pleasure of spending the whole day in the company of a creek. If he could make a subsistence living repairing deer-hunting cabins, cutting firewood or pulp why should he do more? …When Gretchen had said that he was frozen in place at age twelve he had reflected that that had been a good year.
If I make you think that this book is just about Brown Dog’s personality and love life, I apologize. The interconnected novellas each has a plot with exciting adventures and absurd situations which I can’t reveal. As a tantalizer I will say that he sometimes has run-ins with the law and has to go on the run. In one case he spends quite a while in Toronto. In another case, a personal quest takes him to Los Angeles. The collision of B.D. with these societies showcases Harrison’s special form of semi-tall tales infused warm satire.
This book was provided from the publisher as an e-book loan through Netgalley.
Brown Dog, or B.D., is a simple man of simple needs and simple pleasures. These are in no particular order, sex, alcohol, cooking, sex, nature, sex, menial work, alcohol, fishing, sex, alcohol....etc.
The 'Dog' part of B.D.'s name is supposedly because it's his spirit animal being a dog, but I think he lives up to it in other ways.
This book is a series of novellas about B.D., part white and part Chippewa, who lives in the U.P. of Michigan(I hear it's lovely.) He is a man who has mastered the art of living one day at a time on as little money as possible. Subsistence living (I'll pass).
He survives by living in shacks in the woods and doing odd jobs, like shoveling snow (The U.P. has a lot of that I reckon) hunting and fishing and growing some veggies. He was orphaned when young, raised by his white grandfather and later lives with his Chippewa uncle to take care of him in his old age.
Sounds a bit dull doesn't it?
Well B.D. finds ways to entertain himself. He takes long walks in the woods. I mean long, ten miles at the least everyday. Drinking heavily and having sex with as many women that will have him.....any women will do. Skinny, fat, mean, nice, lesbian, literally any women. He is attracted to all of them. His hard on never fails at the sight or touch of a women. Never.
It's kind of impressive.
At one point he was in the process of passing a kidney stone the size of a small marble, for fuck sake, and when nurse merely brushes his hand and he gets a full on erection from that. All the while he's in severe pain.
I don't have boy parts, but I find this a bit far fetched.
But get this. The next morning after he passes this huge stone he does bump uglies with a fellow sex addict. Of course, as you do. Um...apparently at...ahem..that special moment, it hurts like crazy just after you pass a kidney stone.
Huh...who could have seen that coming? No pun intended.
I did enjoy these novellas. Brown Dog is a ridiculous man, with a good heart. Worth a read.
I have been accused recently of not taking things seriously, by a fictional character no less. I did not dwell on that, figuring I'd wait for more specific charges. I suppose I could file a request for a Bill of Particulars - some things? all things? - but then I'd be taking it seriously, and why ruin someone's week.
Maybe that's why Brown Dog is one of my favorite characters. Brown Dog doesn't take anything seriously; except, of course, when he does.
This book is a compilation of all the previous Brown Dog stories which have appeared in Jim Harrison's collections of novellas, as well as a new 100-page novella which seems to wrap things up. I just read that one, life being too short to re-read the earlier five. All finales of long-running shows (Seinfeld would be an apt example) tend to disappoint and so here. But, can't help it, I find Brown Dog endearing.
* * * * * * * *
Way back when, a probation officer had told him to write down his thoughts and it had been brutally difficult. One had been, "If a girl gives you a six-digit phone number that means she doesn't want to hear from you."
* * * * * * * *
Brown Dog accepts a job as a dog-catcher where he is expected to euthanize the more violent ones. He can't, instead taking one after another home with him. Fred, with some wolf in him, returns to Brown Dog's fishing camp with a fawn in his jowls. For Brown Dog, upset, there was nothing to be done about it except to swallow the cruelty with the beauty.
* * * * * * * *
He knew it was always a grave danger to raise your head up above others. People who get their names and picture in the paper are always fucked and always get picked on. The rule was to run for the forest at the sign of any ambition. He once saw four men fishing together which is three too many.
* * * * * * * *
My point being, 'taking things seriously' is not a true-false test. It's not yes or no. When life beats you up, sometimes you fight back and sometimes you go fishing. I miss him already.
Jim Harrison’s creation of the simple, but distinctly different from stupid, Brown Dog character is one of a kind. B.D. wants to live a life where nothing happens and he succeeds until he is victimized by an interfering society. B.D. finds balance in the woods and streams of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, all the while pursuing women, whisky, and the perfect trout stream. B.D. is one of the funniest characters I have come across but his escapades are counterbalanced by Harrison’s message of simplicity, minimalism, and an appreciation of nature’s unparalleled beauty.
I frequent most of the locations mentioned in the book - the Seney stretch, the Dune Saloon, Grand Marais, the Bear Trap in Melstrand, the Two Heart, the banana belt, and where “The woods can be a bit strange. It takes a long time to feel you belong there and then you never again really belong in town. It’s a choice made for you by your brain at a moment you didn’t notice.”- and that’s part of the reason I read all of the novellas, because much of this is surely not politically correct. But, that’s kinda the point.
These are six or seven little novellas about a guy named Brown Dog, or B.D., who may or may not be part Indian, he doesn't know. The stories are full of petty crimes and sex all around the northern parts of Michigan mostly, first published separately over several years and then collected here into chronological order. For some reason I, a female, like this kind of a manly book on occasion -- like I enjoy Lansdale or Russo or Coben. This one, unfortunately, went on way too long and repeated itself a lot, since the stories originally were stand alones, where you might need some reminding of previous story lines. I did enjoy the first two selections, so much in fact that I was going to write a synopsis of each novella for my review and include in each one some laugh out loud dirty little lines from B.D.'s repertoire. I dropped that idea after #3 as there were no more LOL moments and I started to really just want it all to end soon.
I finished but it was rough. Loose women and sexual conquests. Is there any woman he won't sleep with? B.D. is like your red neck, white trash relative who only works when he has to and has little respect for laws or conventions. He refers to his "weeny" practically every 15 minutes (it's an 18 hour audiobook)--either he's touching it or some woman is. Annoyingly, one of the narrators, when in character as any of the many Indian men, sounded consistently like Tonto from the Lone Ranger series. Pondering it all now, I think I missed the point of these tales completely, if there even was one. Ugh.
Brown Dog, or BD, is the sort of character that epitomises Harrison’s writing. He is a Michigandan who may or may not have Chippewa Indian blood in him. With his home a hunting shack, he is a lazy amoral layabout who only does the bare minimum to keep a roof over his head so that he can spend the rest of his time fishing, hunting, drinking and womanising. Harrison breathes life into an exceptionally funny character, who becomes a type of anti-hero, when at the outset that would seem far from possible.
... a couple random pulled quotes that speak to recent events:
"The connection between Brentwood and Boyle Heights is as fragile as that between Congress and the citizenry though the emotional makeup of both resembles the passion and power of the Jerry Springer Show." Haha, not as fragile as Jan.6th 2021!
"She and Bob had ahigh-mindedargument about whether the media, in toto, was in reality the main weapon of mass destruction in the world since it irretrievably warped the minds of the collective citizenry" Yep, it's part for sure
"Both dogs and men can be ready-made assholes." Well "Brown Dog" is both man and hound dog of the 'pussy trance' mind derived in paternal lineage from the He Dog Lakota.
Harrison's character B.D. can't shed himself of his author, old buzzard one-eye keeps jerking his own chain of endless mentions: food/cooking, fishing, sex/butts, naps & drinking; what an epicure's delight! It was great the first time reading each of these novellas separately as they were published - following the travails of B.D. and cohorts as they mostly spiral down. But it drags when compiled into one book read almost as merry-go-round those circling vignettes of sex/butts/drinking/eating/cooking/fishing - even though I, like most, enjoy all in abundance. The passages of nature description, trout behavoir and fly-fishing technique/strategy are Harrison's wheelhouse and he gets them right every time. I'll give a nod&wink to B.D. as thinly disguised writer spinning his wordly web. Still, I recommend, w/a #MeToo trigger warning, hehe!
Brown Dog, B.D. to his friends and some law officers, is a man of great heart and few needs in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He lives in deer shacks out of season in exchange for repairs, wets a line for brown trout, and generally sticks to the land except for when his taste for beer and women get the best of him. This may not seem like much to the general reader, but Harrison follows Stendahl's definition of the novel (or in his case, novellas) as "a mirror, taking a walk down a big road." Brown Dog's stories have appeared in other collections and this is the first time B.D.'s mishaps have been gathered under one cover, with a new story so Harrison's fans can catch up with what the motherless and fatherless and possibly Native American has been doing. Every reader, and that means you, who cares about literature should buy multiple copies of the this book. BROWN DOG is so American it needs to sit on bookshelves between Emerson and Thoreau. What Harrison has done is unprecedented in our dumb and ugly times: got down in print what this country and its people could be without sermonizing or sacrificing any fun. When I grow up I want to be just like Brown Dog, heroic in his pursuit of this wonderful living.
Came to this on the recommendations of two friends, both individually assuring me that this would just knock me off my feet. I am totally embarrassed by the fact that it did absolutely nothing for me. Yes, the writing was good, but great writing does not necessarily mean great content. I was left puzzled over why so many people, friends and other reviewers, felt so strongly positive about it. Finished the first novella, but am not inclined to venture further.
Tall-tales of B.D. continue. He has no SS# and does not pay taxes. Money comes by morning (little or windfall) and is gone by night. His favorite temperature and miles per hour speed are both 49. His style and thought patterns were more enjoyable to me when I was much younger, as now he is late 40's, early 50's in these- I find it incredible that he could still float through any structure or steady work as he still does at those ages.. He is a low life Michigan redneck, by his own definition, and he has absolutely no PC quotient in his perception nor in his actions. He doesn't know who is father is, never did, but knew his grandfather. Everyone thinks he is Native American, but he himself doubts it, even if a miniscule amount- not biologically, anyway. These are manly man tales, IMHO. Crude and gritty and filled with nature, sex, and life and just about raw everything. And death too, but that is more with animals than humans. But not always. Most of the characters in these stories are not nice by any moral standards or laws many less adventurous people hold. And most are selfish. And are rarely pretty. Jim Harrison is a good writer, and not just with the B.D. tales. But I like his other works better. Nearly all of them.
Brown Dog or BD as he's known to his friends and family, is almost the perfect anti-hero. Almost, because if he were any more perfect he would be unbelievable and he is very believable. I know this man; I know the country he comes from and I know his people. He's the real deal. Raised by his white grandfather but growing up among mostly Chippewa in Michigan's upper peninsula he assumes he may be part Chippewa himself but he can't be certain because, orphaned at an early age, he never knew his parents and his grandfather refused to tell him any more. His perception of the human condition is so insightful that he has no need for any additional knowledge, other then what he's learned on his own. He accepts each day as it arrives and deals with each issue as it arises or sometimes erupts. While not motivated by machismo, if backed into a corner with no outlet he'll deal with it accordingly; sometimes creatively. He cries when he's sad, gets angry at all injustice and scratches his head in wonder as the world turns. He spends as much time as possible living in his beloved northern woods but works as a day laborer when he needs money. He drinks copious amounts of alcohol because it makes him happy and makes love to any woman that will have him because he loves all women. He appears to be homeless to most and since he has little formal education it's always assumed he just doesn't get it---but he gets it and he wants to stay as far away from it as he can. His exploits and adventures are hilariously funny, often touching and you can't stop listening to him while waiting to see what will happen next. It was said that a medicine man named him Brown Dog but BD tells us that a veterinarian once told him that if people left dogs alone the outcome would be one breed of dog, brown in color and strong in nature; a dog that would survive. This amazing collection of novellas under one cover and in chronological order is a wonderful story about a wonderful character. This one goes in my permanent collection.
This book is a collection of several Novelas by Jim Harrison. The main character brown dog is called BD in the books. He likes the woods Women and whiskey. I experience this book in the audible version and it was quite enjoyable to listen to.
I just finished this book for the second time. Once again with the Audible with the addition of following along via Kindle so there are a lot of paragraphs that I copied.
I spent the first 35 years of my life so the fact that this takes place in the upper peninsula area of Michigan is fun. The audible book is actually several Novelas that are read by several readers but are all put together to be one long story. At least one of the readers is not quite as well-versed as the others about pronouncing strangely named upper Michigan cities.
BD is definitely a character and there is a reasonable amount of humor in the book. It is also quite bawdy and alcohol endangered. I would have to say that the storyline is just barely plausible. Alcoholism is rampant. Sexual adventurism also. How STDs manage not to play a role is beyond me. The end is a little saccharine. So why did I give it four stars instead of three? I wouldn’t argue with three but the Michigan aspect gains points for me.
Let me make one observation that I felt was annoying about this series of Novelas gathered together. I remember in reading mystery series with the same protagonist that certain aspects of personality and history are occasionally repeated in each book. In those situations it always seemed a friendly familiarity. In these books details are repeated occasionally in full paragraphs and a recitation of past events can be quite boring when you had just read the same thing in the previous selection. But when these little squibs appear in several books repeatedly it just seems unnecessary.
Harrison is arguably America’s foremost master of the novella and this volume collects his works. Harrison’s work is about the transcendence of wildness. Many of his characters don’t care what society thinks. They want freedom, outside the mainstream, unburdened by the responsibilities of modern life.
This is a collection of short stories about a native upper Michigan dweller who survives with the help of his friends. You can learn about some of the Native American culture and northern winters. Stories flow into each other but are readable as individual stories.
...hangover thoughts are real long thoughts…This is the fourth dawn and I didn’t even have a drink yesterday, an act which was made easier because I didn’t have any booze left...The most exhilarating aspect of living in the Upper Peninsula, unlike Ann Arbor, was discovering how slow the people were to complain about life’s brutal vagaries. The working class didn’t complain about hangovers because if you had enough money to get drunk in the first place you were in fine shape...
It has been a very long time, thirty-six years and counting, since I had a hangover from alcohol. But the fact about my past remains the same. No matter how hard and how committed to changing my life for the better and freeing myself from my own abusive behavior toward my body and mind, I continued on a downward spiral. Brown Dog speaks the truth.
...Your number one step on your plan might be wrong, therefore all the other steps will be even more wrong…the urge to think that where you are is bound to be the right place on your short and brutish passage...Oh sons and daughters of man, under the vast and starry night though the stars are invisible, what are you doing here while your histories moment by moment trail off behind you like auto exhaust, he thought though not quite in those words...
This same theory I have held onto for years and centers on my taking the wrong fork in the road several years ago. Since then, no matter how focused I have been on making good decisions and making something substantive of my life, the fact never changes that I remain always on the wrong track.
...you don’t get to see all that many girls in bathing suits in the U.P., what with summer being known locally as three months of bad sledding…With Bob’s bankroll he probably got more ass than a toilet seat...One of them wore soft cloth trousers that pulled right up in the fold of her genuine article..B.D. roused himself from a beautiful dream where he and Sandrine were whirling through the universe attached tails to teeth like Celtic dogs...She said, “How can you get a hard-on during a lightning strike, you goofy asshole?” and he didn’t have an answer though it was likely her slight lilac scent mixed with the flowering dogwood plus her shimmering wet body, the thought of which drove him sexually batty...Nora had said she was a gymnast in high school and could move her butt like a paint mixer in a hardware store...
I grew up in a little town in northern Michigan on the shores of Lake Huron. Winter was long and summers short. But the Upper Peninsula is worse, as Brown Dog maintains. And Lake Superior is the coldest lake I have ever swam in. With climate change there is a good possibility that bikinis will make a comeback in college-town Marquette. And somehow the crudeness of Brown Dog is forgiven because of his blatant truths.
...Someday branches and leaves will grow out of you and you’ll understand how fish, birds and animals talk...it was the messiness of nature that gave it such beauty...In his view far too much had been happening and he craved the nothingness of the Upper Peninsula, a feeling he shared with the ancient Chinese that the best life was an uneventful one...The only way people got along was by largely ignoring each other, a far cry from the Upper Peninsula where if you avoided the downtowns of Escanaba and Marquette you were never surrounded by people and on the rare occasion he saw another human in the backcountry he always hid until they passed from sight…
Each passing year affords the opportunity to get closer to nature, closer to understanding our place on the earth. But humans continue to rape the land and destroy the creatures who occupied it first. Jim Harrison brings our travesties to the page like no other.
....it occurred to him that the fish had achieved a peaceful death and it wouldn’t be quite right to fry it up, douse it with hot sauce, and eventually turn it into a turd...the dour Lutheran ethos of the Great North said that it is always darkest before it gets even darker…
The appetite of Jim Harrison is one of legendary proportions. He has used the turd analogy often in other works, but it still works to get his point across. Harrison’s crudeness on the page will likely not weather well in the years to come, but he is thoughtful enough, and well-read enough, to overcome a perception of his being an over-indulgent sexual predator. The characters in his fiction are sometimes too much to bear, but nothing in Harrison’s own life gives credence to his being like them except for his excessive use of alcohol, drugs, and overeating. Though interesting enough, the collected Brown Dog novellas are certainly not Harrison’s best work, but do take measures into their own hands by presenting an authentic northern Michigan man as well as stereotypical friends, family, and acquaintances available for his indulgence.
...The rule was to run to the forest at the sign of any ambition...
Over the years, I have harbored an ill-conceived prejudice against Jim Harrison. On the basis of a viewing of the film "Legends of the Fall," which I loathed, I perceived him as a he-man novelist, writing for an audience I felt no part of and consequently could not join. Nota bene that I didn't actually read the Legends of the Fall, so you see why I designate this prejudice ill-conceived; not-at-all-conceived may be a more honest way to put this, because that's what my view of Mr. Harrison represented, I'm loathe to admit.
In this, my third foray into the sublime world Jim Harrison created, I found myself, over and over, tempted to call him the Rabelais of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Like Gargantua and Pantagruel, Brown Dog is a suite of novellas about its eponymous character. Rabelais's book is five books, and Mr. Harrison's is six (though the final book, "He Dog" felt somewhat tacked on); both books' contents were composed over decades. Like Rabelais' characters Gargantua and Pantguel, B.D., as the eponymous Brown Dog is known in the novel, is a creature of his senses. In both books and in all three characters, intellect and compassion temper the sensual life. Both Rabelais and Harrison use earthy language, as the euphemism goes, to describe their characters' predilections and acts. Rabelais found himself, because of his characters, in trouble not only with the Catholic Church, but with the censors at the College de la Sorbonne as well. While we live in more enlightened times, Jim Harrison has his share of doctrinaire readers and critics who find B.D.'s modus vivendi, not to mention its characterizations, offensive.
When, in the fourth book, on page 334, while B.D. is on the lam to protect his fetal-alcohol afflicted "daughter" (family ties in these stories are amorphous, as is Brown Dog's own ethnicity, which he variously describes as "half-Indian"), he passes "Cape Gargantua," my perception of Mr. Harrison as an upper-midwest Rabelais, I thought, was vindicated. Surely this was no coincidence, and Jim Harrison was conceding that Rabelais's characters were Brown Dog's literary antecedents.
As well they may be. However, it turns out that Cape Gargantua, on the northeast shore of Lake Superior and part of Canada's breathtaking Lake Superior Provincial Park near Wawa, Ontario, is in fact a real place. It happens that it was on the itinerary of B.D.'s escape from the Upper Peninsula to Toronto.
In any case, designating Jim Harrison as Rabelaisian is unjustly reductive. Harrison, as it turns out, is a singular American voice, yet containing multitudes, as Walt Whitman so aptly said. He is Faulkner if Faulkner's novels were comprehensible. Hemingway if Hemingway liked himself and other people, Mark Twain in a semi-modernist voice, or T.C. Boyle if Boyle weren't smirking, supercilious, and overly enamored of his own clever style.
I saw an old interview with Jim Harrison that peaked my interest. Brown Dog came into my hands a few days later. This group of novellas was my introduction to a fine writer and the crazy character Brown Dog. Some parts were hilarious while other parts reached deep into my nature loving spirit. Hard to admit I became fond of this down-on-his-luck, heavy drinking, Michigan Indian with a big heart and a lusty libido. BD's reasoning, observations, and carefree ways serve up a good dose of humor and simple authenticity. I loved the writing!
Brown Dog is one of the finest literary characters ever written. I hope we get a few more BD adventures to read.
(08/04/2016) Re-read, probably on my 10th reading or so. Never gets old. I've read a bunch of books over the years but this compilation of 6 novellas spanning 23 years (1990-2013) of Harrison's career is my all time favorite book. Shame that Harrison died earlier this year. My favorite author. I was hoping I would get a few more Brown Dog adventures to keep my spirits up.
Fishing, dogs, women, food, alcohol, birds, critters, water. A life well lived.
"It was the messiness of nature that gave it such beauty" ~ Brown Dog
I don't rate books five stars very often, but Jim Harrison's Brown Dog novellas are simply wonderful. I am in love with B.D. He's half in the bag, interested in fishing and women pretty much to the exclusion of all else, but what he really represents is the natural man. A naif. A gentle soul living a zen life. Wanting nothing except the most primal things: food, booze and sex. He never holds anyone else responsible for his failings. He partakes of nature as deliberately as a bear, using but not abusing. Those he loves, he does without restraint, but it's only late in the series that he gets the love he deserves. I'm going to miss him.
I put this on my list after it was eviewed in the New Yorker. I enjoyed the first novella, but two-thirds into the second one, I was uncertain about whether or not the character had anything else to tell me. I'm glad I kept going...Brown Dog did grow on me, despite his many character flaws. In the end, the subtle and incomplete changes in his personality are very realistic. Despite the chaos that Harrison has written into Brown Dog's life, and without wrangling some unbelievable change of fortune into the plot, the author lets you turn the last page with a feeling of hope and satisfaction.
This collection of Jim Harrison’s short stories featuring Brown Dog, or B.D., are said to “underscore(s) Harrison’s place as one of America’s most irrepressible writers, and one of the finest practitioners of the novella form.”
BD is rumored to be part Native American (“Indian” in the book) although nobody knows for sure, including BD himself. In the stories of his life in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula he is usually drunk, often in trouble with the law, generally unemployed, barely scraping by and regularly looking for a woman to take to bed. (Which, other than beer, is his main obsession.)
Sadly, these 546 pages were not for me. Originally published in 2013, the attitude and wording could have easily taken me back many more years. Although BD is described as a “lovable rascal” I found the stories to feed into the worst stereotypes and to be disrespectful in just about every way imaginable. He was endless talking about his “weeny”, a women’s “pussy” and either having sex or wanting it. The novellas were repetitious, and dragged on. I read the first because it was described as a classic, then the last, because it was said to be the most recent and found neither to be any more appealing than the other. (I confess to giving up and not read those in between.) If these novellas are classics, the joke is on me.
4 ½ out of 5 stars Brown Dog, B. D., may or may not be Indian. He may or may not have found his father's body at the bottom of Lake Superior. His main goals in life seem to be having sex with every woman possible, and get overly drunk as often as possible. He really likes women and he really likes drinking and he's not too concerned with legalities or political correctness.
And I love this guy. I'm a fairly new Jim Harrison reader, but I'm a fan. This series of novellas is a bit repetitive because they were first published as novellas, so there is a lot of catching up at the beginning of each one. But other than that, they hang together like a novel.
B.D. is about as nonjudgmental as you can get. And not much bothers him. He's got enough, but it never hurts to try for a little more. And he manages to get in trouble. A lot. What a great character is woven through these stories. They are a delight to read.
You have to admire the Brown Dog. He is a backwoods half breed that doesn’t even have a social security number, yet he gets laid by every woman he meets. He is Huck Finn with a hard on. But he does have a soft heart. He helps raise a young girl with alcohol syndrome, he fails in his dog catching job because he cannot euthanize them, and he has a deep love and understanding of nature. He wants to live a simple life of hunting, fishing, drinking, and carousing but society just gets in the way. The six novellas in this collection are all worth reading for their humorous insights into the many challenging situations that life deals Brown Dog.
brown dog 5/5 the seven-ounce man 5/5 westward ho 4.5/5 the summer he didn't die 4/5 brown dog redux 4/5 he dog 4/5 hilarious, melancholy, and beautiful all at the same time. brown dog is an all-time great character. the first two novellas are possibly my favorite thing i've read this year, while even the lesser stories and moments are still incredibly enjoyable.
Jim Harrison's style of writing in this novel is very different and unique, from the perspective of Brown Dog, a Native American finding his way through life. In the end, he finally figures out what life means to him and brings making better choices for himself and the benefit of others.