Book: Just Before Dark

Just Before Dark, a collection of essays by renowned American writer Jim Harrison (Legends of the Fall, Revenge) is a provocatively rendered compilation of the author’s thoughts on everything from Zen to neuroses to ice fishing. Broken into three categories—Food, Travel and Sport, and Literary Matters—these poignantly humanistic essays both inspire and disturb. Harrison frankly explores his own psychological and emotional states and what the salves of food, literature, and the outdoors do to restore his well-being, revealing a life many in the Bozone might easily relate to. At one moment we are driving down a rural highway with the author standing up through the sun-roof of his Subaru steering with his fingertips while passers-by honk and blink their lights at him in shock and reproach; the next we are on a bird hunt with Russell Chatham, enjoying a gourmet meal with a French count, or simply out “night walking,”—the title of one essay and the term for a favorite restorative pastime of the author’s.

The essays in Just Before Dark are generally short and packed full of thought and vivid detail; Harrison’s prose has a vitality to it that is at once gritty and elegant, abstruse and plainly spoken. As Harrison spends a considerable part of his time in the Livingston/Bozeman area, those who share a spirit similar to the author’s and a wanderlust for traveling to the far ends of the state are more than likely to recognize some of his favorite haunts and the many towns and geographical locales that provide the variegated settings for his musings. Perhaps most importantly, Just Before Dark is a literary vehicle that allows Harrison to spell out the nature of his profound emotional relationship with the outdoors, noting his belief that literature, fine art, gourmet food, and other mainstays of culture are, in fact, inseparable from hunting, fishing, and the many treasured activities pursued in the outdoors—and the fact that it’s intrinsically human to have a passion for all.