Brown Dog: Novellas

Brown Dog, a new collection of novellas, features Jim Harrison's signature character Brown Dog. He's a mixed-race orphan loner who lives in various handmade shacks amid the forests and rivers below the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a place where "if you don't like pan fishing, ice fishing, snowmobiling or applying mosquito dope you're out of luck." Add drinking beer and schnapps, raising dogs, cooking from scratch and chasing women, and you pretty much have Brown Dog's indolent days. He is one of the great characters in American literature--on a par with Twain's Huck Finn or Hemingway's Nick Adams.

Among the six novellas in Brown Dog, only "He Dog" appears for the first time and neatly balances 1990's "Brown Dog," which opens the collection. In it, the rakish character discovers a dead Indian rumored to be his father while illegally diving for shipwreck loot in Lake Superior. Although B.D. most often searches for sex or an untrammeled trout stream, he also speculates on his unknown parents. In "He Dog," he finally discovers something of their story from the only family he has left: Gretchen, the lesbian mother of his daughter. He is mystified by Gretchen's lack of sexual interest in him despite his continuing mid-50s priapic lust, but accepts that her love and their daughter are all he's going to get--that, a place to build a shack on her land and an amateur painting of his parents given to him by his 88-year-old uncle Delmore.

If age hasn't diminished his appetites, at least the restless Brown Dog finds some peace. "The love of a woman and your own cabin sounded dandy," he realizes. --Bruce Jacobs

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