Jim Harrison, author of ‘Legends of the Fall’, dies at age 78

Jim Harrison, the American novelist and poet who explored the natural world in such works as "Legends of the Fall," has died, his publisher confirmed Sunday. He was 78.

AFP| Updated: Mar 28, 2016, 08:56 AM IST

Jim Harrison, the American novelist and poet who explored the natural world in such works as "Legends of the Fall," has died, his publisher confirmed Sunday. He was 78.

Harrison, who US media said passed away at his home in Patagonia, Arizona, relished a reputation as a rugged outsider far removed from the East Coast literary scene.

He produced 21 volumes of fiction and 14 books of poetry as well as essays and a children`s book.

A heavy drinker, smoker and self-described manic depressive, Harrison`s fictions were extensions of his love of wild places, and his passions as a hunter, fisherman and cook.

"America lost one of its greatest writers and we at Grove lost a family member," his publisher, Grove Atlantic, tweeted Sunday, adding that "his work lives on."

Harrison had just published another novella, "The Ancient Minstrel," and a book of poetry, "Dead Man`s Float," earlier this year.

Born in Grayling, Michigan, he had a difficult rural upbringing, blinded in one eye as a child and losing his father and sister in an automobile accident when he was 21.

He was often described as a "macho" writer in the vein of Ernest Hemingway, but Harrison said it was his subject matter that prompted the comparison."All I have to say about that macho thing goes back to the idea that my characters aren`t from the urban dream-coasts," he said in a 1986 interview with the Paris Review. 

"But you know what it`s like here and up in the Upper Peninsula. This is where I grew up. How is it macho that I like to hunt and fish? I`ve been doing it since I was four," he said.

He considered himself primarily a poet, but gained fame as a novelist and often earned a living as a Hollywood screenwriter.

His first novel "Wolf: A False Memoir," (1971) tells a man`s angry life story as he tracks a wolf in the Michigan wilderness.

He said he wrote it while convalescing from a fall off a cliff while bird hunting.

The 1979 "Legends of the Fall" comprised three novellas, Harrison`s preferred fictional form. The title story is an epic that takes place in the Rocky Mountains, and became a film starring Brad Pitt.

"Dalva," (1988) one of his best known novels, tells the story of a woman`s search for the son she gave up for adoption.

Much of it is written in the woman`s voice, something Harrison said took three years of hard work to achieve.

"Why that`s been brutally hard is that you don`t get to use any of your easy accumulation of male resonances," he told the Paris Review.

"I don`t know if she`s going to talk to me today or not. It`s been sort of spooky," he said.

His work has been showered with critical acclaim and honors, including grants from the National Academy of Arts, a Guggenheim fellowship and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.