Jim Harrison is repeatedly described by book reviewers as “legendary,” often compared to Hemingway, Faulkner and other great American writers, and well known for the life he’s lived and the company he has kept over the decades of his prolific career.
Most Americans know him for the films he is responsible for: Legends of the Fall, Wolf, and Revenge are a few examples. But lovers of great literature know him best by his many books of poetry, novellas, novels, leading magazine articles, and his insightful memoir, Off to the Side.
We had the good fortune to meet with him, his lovely wife, and gentle dogs while we stayed in southern Arizona on our travels. Many days we’d gather for a sip and animated conversation at the town watering hole, The Wagon Wheel, a place featured in a few of Harrison’s stories, and a gathering ground for locals, other writers, truckers and bikers passing along the edge of the Mexican border. We quickly developed a sincere fondness for the man behind the written words, for his crusty honesty and penetrating intellect—and for his uncompromising zeal for life.
One afternoon, while Salli prepared a gourmet meal for this noted gourmand, I interviewed Jim in the backyard of his casita. We chatted about his background with writing and a slew of other views that seemed to bubble up during our conversation before dinner was served.
The dinner was great, but the conversation was what will remain longest with us, a few pieces of which we’ve tried to capture here for your enjoyment and learning. And I must add an apology for the inconsistent audio of this interview. My bad! Multitasking while sipping wine is not a skill I can claim with pride.