“The danger of civilization, of course, is that you will piss away your life on nonsense.” This is how Jim Harrison begins the first of three novellas that comprise The Beast God forgot to Invent. In this novella, which shares its title with the book, we watch as an aging collector tries to locate, in all senses of the word, a once wealthy young friend who is torn out of society by a horrific accident. It is in this discovery of a creature, reduced to little more than id, virile and brain-damaged, that we find a life so abundant, that it could not possibly exist in civilization.
In language that undulates between the humorous and the visceral, we are presented with characters caught in the constant metamorphosis of changing identity. In the last of the three stories, entitled I Forgot to Go to Spain, a quixotic biographer finds that he has squandered the dreams of his younger self, and finds himself barely recognizable. In a moment of introspection he ponders “The language I was using to describe myself to myself might be radically askew.”
Jim Harrison writes from a place of such prodigious life and reverence, that reading him is to swim once again in some childhood memory, suddenly uncomplicated, unmoored from the lives we have led.
Those interested may also wish to look into Jim Harrison’s other works which range from fiction (The Woman Lit by Fireflies, Julip) to poetry (Returning to Earth, The Theory & Practice of Rivers and New Poems) to essays (Just Before Dark).
-Jonathan Gallaway, Blackboard Manager