New York: Grove, (2008). Uncorrected Proof. softcover. The narrator of The English Major, Harrison’s fifteenth book of fiction, is a 60-year old Michigan cherry farmer named Cliff who has been abandoned by his wife Vivian at a high school reunion. Cliff had taught English and history at that school before taking over his father-in-law’s farm (“This man was a big strong asshole and had gone to glory from a heart attack trying to carry a hundred pounds of perch fillets and ice from a cabin to the pickup”). Vivian went into real estate – and with their separation, arranged to have the farm auctioned off. Cliff’s pending homelessness doesn’t seem to bother him until the death of his dog: “I took to drink which had never been a big item in my life … quitting two weeks ago after I thought I ran over our dog Lola.” But 14-year old Lola has died anyway “with a half-chewed gopher in her mouth.” It’s as if this story is being told to Lola’s abiding ghost, riding shotgun in his 13-year old Ford Taurus since Cliff has decided to tour the USA with his meager payout from the farm sale. He’ll not only travel, but execute a project: renaming the states and the state birds. Lola has been the most companionable and reliable female presence in his life, and memories of her flare up throughout the novel. This makes the reader (the listener) an equivalent of the dog — slow to criticize, empathetic, familiar with basic instincts, and unfussy about language. Cliff is comfortable with us — and that makes for flattery. We’re taken in. The English Major is a road novel, and each chapter (titled by the state visited) is told perhaps at some moment of rest at the end of the day or while Cliff is driving the backroads or highways from upper Michigan, through the upper Midwest to Montana, Idaho, Oregon, California, the southwest, and ultimately back to Michigan. 254 pages with the "renamed States." Perfect bound in yellow-gold printed wrappers. Fine copy. Item #14800
ISBN: 9780802118639

Price: $50.00

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