Note: Jim Harrison passed away Saturday at the age of 78. In memory of the writer “with immortality in him,” we’re rerunning a list of his greatest quotes from April 17, 2015.
If you were to ask a roomful of hunters and anglers to list the greatest-living outdoor writers, it would surprise us if Jim Harrison’s name didn’t get mentioned every time. Since the 1960s he’s penned what are among his generation’s grittiest yet most poignant tales about sport, rural living, and the disenfranchised. From classics, such as Dalva and Wolf: A False Memoir, to more recent works, such Brown Dog and The River Swimmer, Harrison never fails to excite and mystify.
Here are nine brilliant quotes from throughout his career:
“Go to your freezer. How much and what kind of fish and game do you have left in there from the previous summer and fall getting freezer burn? Write it down and subtract it as penance from your bag limit this summer and fall.”
— Sports Afield, 1994
“What if I made a bunch of money and die before I can spend it to buy the free time to fish?”
— Field & Stream, 2003
“My own hunting and fishing are largely misunderstood activities cataloged under the banal notion of ‘macho,’ whereas I tend to view them as a continuation of my birthright.”
— Just Before Dark
“The danger of civilization, of course, is that you will piss away your life on nonsense.”
— The Beast God Forgot to Invent
“If you hunt or fish a couple weeks in a row without reading newspapers or watching television, a certain not altogether deserved grace can reenter your life.”
— Off to the Side
“When I’m fishing and hunting with the right attitude, I reenter the woods and river with a moment-by-moment sense of the glories of creation, of the natural world as a living fabric of existence, so that I’m both young again but also 70,000 years old.”
— Field & Stream, 2003
“Barring love, I’ll take my life in large doses alone — rivers, forests, fish, grouse, mountains. Dogs.”
— Wolf: A False Memoir
“Fishing makes us less the hostages to the horrors of making a living. In some … sense it returns us to the aesthetics of the ancient art of gathering and hunting for food. It is a time warp we may step into for a little piece.”
— “A Plaster Trout in Worm Heaven”
“It is easy to forget that…we die only seven times more slowly than our dogs. The simplicity of this law of proportion came to me early in life, growing up as I did so remotely that dogs were my closest childhood friends.”
— The Road Home
If you have 24 minutes of spare time, here’s a rambling, in-depth interview with Harrison, in which he details his upbringing and life as a writer.