Internationally renowned author Jim Harrison, a "fiction writer, poet, outdoorsman and reveler who wrote with gruff affection for the country's landscape and rural life," died Saturday, the Associated Press reported. He was 78. Harrison published more than 30 books, including Dalva, True North, Sundog, In Search of Small Gods, A Good Day to Die, The Big Seven, The Woman Lit by Fireflies, The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand, Dead Man's Float and, most recently, The Ancient Minstrel.
The AP noted: "Sometimes likened to Ernest Hemingway for the range and kinds of his interests, he was a hunter and fisherman who savored his time in a cabin near his Michigan hometown, a drinker and Hollywood script writer who was close friends with Jack Nicholson and came to know Sean Connery, Orson Welles and Warren Beatty among others. He was a sports writer and a man of extraordinary appetite who once polished off a 37-course lunch, a traveler and teller of tales, most famously Legends of the Fall."
The New York Times wrote: "Though not strictly a household name, Mr. Harrison was long esteemed by a large, devoted cohort of readers in North America. He was also hugely popular in Europe--especially in France, where he was venerated as a cult author.
"Considered a master of the novella, a rarely cultivated discipline, Mr. Harrison was also known for his essays on food: he was perhaps the leading exponent of the small subgenre in which shotguns and shoe leather play a far greater role than balsamic reduction....
"But constructing Mr. Harrison merely as a rough-and-ready man of appetite--a perennial conceit of profile writers, and one he did relatively little to dispel--ignores the deep intellectualism of the man and his work. In conversation, he could range easily and without affectation over Freud, Kierkegaard, Stravinsky, Zen Buddhism, Greek oral epic and ballet."
Morgan Entrekin, publisher and CEO of Grove Atlantic, commented: "I met Jim in 1978 when I was working with the legendary publisher Sam Lawrence, who asked me to read the manuscript of a collection of novellas called Legends of the Fall, which Delacorte Press went on to publish to great acclaim. After Sam's death in 1994, Jim decided to come publish with Grove Atlantic. Over the last 22 years, we have published and reissued 19 of his books. His unwavering support of this old-fashioned independent literary publisher was one of the reasons we have survived and thrived. America has lost one of its greatest writers, but those of us at Grove Atlantic have lost a member of our family. Our thoughts are with the Harrison family and his many friends all over the world. Jim is gone but his work will live on."
Very sad news: Nancy Olson, founder and longtime owner of Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, N.C., a bookseller "credited with launching a literary renaissance in North Carolina by giving readers and writers a place to gather," as the News & Observer wrote, died yesterday. She was 75 and had battled kidney disease for the past three years.
We remember Olson as a cheerful, enthusiastic, smart bookseller whose personality was marked by a combination of sweetness, graciousness and a sharp, hilarious sense of humor. She loved books, authors and readers, and made her store a friendly home for all. She was famous for encouraging new, budding authors: one of them was Charles Frazier, who happened to be in the store when we were visiting. A delighted Olson introduced "Chuck" and the two talked like longtime friends about family and books and local gossip. Only later did she mention that this was the author who not long before had published the bestseller Cold Mountain.
Sarah Goddin, a friend and longtime general manager at the store, told the News & Observer that when Olson opened Quail Ridge in 1984, "Raleigh didn't have any strong independent booksellers, and Nancy wanted to live in a place that had a good bookstore. So she opened one."
Carol Moyer, longtime friend and co-worker at the store, added: "It wasn't a cookie-cutter store; you could tell individual thought had been put into the collection and design of the store. [Olson] was a dream to work with. She was always open to ideas and loved children's literature... She was definitely devoted to supporting local authors, which is essential for any independent bookstore. She was devoted to our First Amendment rights, which is why she carried a wide-range of books, so everyone could find something that suited them or broadened their horizons."
Olson was a shop local activist for many years and served on the North Carolina State Library Board, helping raise money for libraries, and started Books for Kids, a non-profit foundation that gives books to needy children. Every year, she placed an "angel tree" in the store, through which customers donated books. She also collected used books to distribute to prisons, mental health facilities, low-income day care centers and overseas programs and supported the North Carolina Symphony, the North Carolina Food Bank, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science and Hospice of Wake County.
In 2013, Olson sold the store to Lisa Poole, who recently moved the store into a temporary location as its future home in the North Hills area is renovated.