This is my first novel by Jim Harrison and I really enjoyed it. I have also purchased his famous Legends of the Fall and am looking forward to reading his catalog. It is always great to find a new (to me) author that I enjoy.
The Big Seven is two things. First of all, it is a very good crime story. This was my favorite part and it comprises about the first 75% of the story. Secondly, this novel is a character study of its deeply flawed narrator, an aging alcoholic who at the age of 65 has now developed an irresistible impulse to crawl into bed with any woman he encounters, especially very young ones. Phillip Roth often writes about this same type of character, as did Joyce Carroll Oates’ in her brilliant novella Patricide. Neither of these novelists treat the character with any undue amount of sympathy, and Harrison is no different.
I read this book in just a little more than a day. Despite the fact that it is quite deep and introspective at times it remains a compelling read and a cracking good crime storyline really provides quite a bit of entertainment. Somehow along the way Harrison manages to delve into what makes good fiction and art, famous writers (mainly Hemingway—who is similar to our narrator and not just for their mutual love of fishing, and Faulkner who may be the writer our narrator wishes he could be), the atrocities of war and deep introspection into the mental processes and development of our largely unlikeable narrator. It is amazing how much is in here. I know that I will be thinking about this novel long after I have finished it.
My only gripe is that after the crime drama has reached its conclusion the novel really unravels from a narrative point of view and got to the point of navel gazing by our narrator who can’t seem to focus on much of anything. Perhaps that was the point all along. Without a crime to provide focus, our narrator is a drifting lost soul who can’t decide if he wants to enter a monastery or buy another drink or pursue another woman. He knows what he should do and where he should be, but doesn’t seem very compelled to get there. Maybe it is my frustration with the character and not the novel. I will have to think about it a bit more before I decide.
For now I will hunt up my copy of Legends of the Fall because this Harrison guy is a damn good writer.