The Ancient Minstrel

ancient minstrel cover image The Ancient Minstrel

Jim Harrison
Short Stories/Novellas
Grove Press
Hardcover, 256 pages

Here comes another iteration of Harrison’s collections of “novellas” – short novels or long short stories or something in between. This time there are three in the typical voice of this often randy and profane scribe of the northwoods male – whether in Montana or the UP. The Case of the Howling Buddhas features Harrison’s aging Detective Sunderson on a huntin’ and fishin’ outdoor romp in pursuit of the leader of a cult whose devotees imitate howler monkeys. Eggs explores the life of Catherine a Montana farmer with an unenviable life – both as a child and as an adult – and who favors the Chinese thought “that the most fortunate life was one in which nothing much happened.” Yet something noble inhabits her solitary life.  The Ancient Minstrel is a thinly-veiled autobiographical ramble of an aging writer/poet reaching the end of his powers. He raises pigs; he goes to France; he comes back to Montana; he reconciles (sort of) with his wife; and cooks for and eats with his friends. The minstrels of literature and of his childhood terrify him. But, make no mistake, his is a deeply savored life.