On Reading Harrison after Ishiguro

Margaritas on a secluded Mexican beach. I blow through Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant in a sitting or two. I’d grabbed it, albeit tentatively, at the airport, knowing that I admire Ishiguro but don’t like fantasy. Ultimately, what was going on beneath the surface of Arthurian dragons and ogres, was too easily recognizable. If you are going to write a book about the subjective nature of memory in this day and age, you’d better remember to bring along something new. By the book’s end, I’d decided he wasted his time and deadly talent by swimming in fantasy’s shallow pool. Too constrained, picked-over, and, well, fantastical for me to emotionally connect.
In a guest’s common room (faded prints of Rivera, damp packs of Uno cards) I rummaged through the castoff beach reads of those who’d been here before me. Grim pickings. Finally, I spot Jim Harrison’s Dalva.
Do scholars read this now through a post-colonial lens? Is this a feminist book? Why have I never been to Nebraska? Again, a book about memory, loss and inner and outer journeys. But it’s everything the Ishiguro wasn’t. Dalva is one of those characters you just feel like you’ve known forever. Her pain (felt and known) is deeper, her sexuality (inner and expressed) is more forceful, and her connection to country (physical and memorized) is so utterly believable that I just fell for her, and this book.

No doubt this all says more about the reader than the books read, but I admire when you can feel an author take huge emotional risks, and in Dalva Harrison did just that. It’s been years since I’ve read any Harrison. Why? No excuse. Thank you to my fellow traveler who left it for me to find. I needed it.

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