“Maybe it was all about delusions of integrity. In his own twenties he had thought overmuch about not compromising when no one was asking him to compromise. At that age a specific rigidity seemed necessary to isolate yourself from your own confusion and to invent the person you were to become.”
Jim Harrison, The Land of Unlikeness
It’s one of two novellas in Harrison’s The River Swimmer (the other novella being the title track). I first read it probably four years ago, shortly after it was published, I think? A lot of things were different then.
At the end of the year, I like to reread books. Revisit things. Revisit perceptions. It’s a good way to keep up my reading habit while also tending to the calendric spiral of December.
I reread Don DeLillo’s White Noise recently. It’s incredible.
But the Harrison novella—and I’m only 20 pages in or so—is fascinating already in how different I feel about it. The protagonist is 60, weighed down by failed dreams and abandoned bonds, and he’s returning home to the rural stretches of Michigan’s lower peninsula. Now, I don’t feel the haunting specter so much these days, but, having emerged from a hazy decade of glimmer and grim, I carry a renewed zeal for things like dreams and bonds. I see it all from a new vantage point. I see the fragility of the gambit, the assertion, the leap of actual and unspoken integrity.
It’s a very important thing, and I lose sight often enough. Reading refocuses the lens. Frames the picture once again.
What a weird decade that was! What a blob of triumph and error! I drank cocktails at a westside bar the other night with my dad, and he pointed out: Whatever happened, it got me to the present moment. It brought me to my fiancée. It brought me to a rising line of self-actualization. Everything that rises must converge.
“Delusions of integrity.” Sure!