The English Major by Jim Harrison
In Novel on June 28, 2009 at 4:44 am
It is a fact: every graduate student—especially those in English departments—have pined over a professor. Usually a mere 10-20 years between them, it makes sense; exciting on both ends. Something happens to middle-aged literary men in the world of academics that makes them entirely attractive to women in their mid-twenties. They’re creative, audacious, usually in some sort of life-pain like divorce. They’re willing to sit down, eat a thick sandwich, drink a whiskey and talk about un-academic things like the number of states that have the same state-bird. Jim Harrison’s Cliff is overly familiar and even though he conjures several other stories, Cliff is frank—he has no apologies to make for fitting in so well to his somewhat common circumstances. An English-professor-turned-cherry-farmer loses his wife of 38 years to a younger man. It happens; a lot. Cliff makes a map out of a puzzle; he visits an old student—has a fling of sorts. Realizes that such an affair doesn’t work—can’t work. He eats sausage, fried eggs and spuds at diners across the west. Cliff finds out that everyone has people in their lives that need to be worried for them, and he tosses his map to the wind, one state at a time.