Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The English Major

A Novel

by Jim Harrison

“Harrison spins the common chaff of a road trip into gold. . . . peppered with his characteristic insights and asides. . . . After a long and idiosyncratic literary career, Harrison the storyteller is still at the top of his game.” —Tim McNulty, The Seattle Times

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 272
  • Publication Date October 13, 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4414-0
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $14.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 272
  • Publication Date October 07, 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-1863-9
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $24.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date October 15, 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1-5558-4829-3
  • US List Price $14.00

About The Book

Jim Harrison has been called “a writer with immortality in him” by London’s Sunday Times and The New York Times Book Review has written that “[his] storytelling instincts are nearly flawless.” Harrison’s last novel, Returning to Earth, was one of his most praised in years, hailed by The Plain Dealer as “an artistic achievement worthy of Faulkner.” The English Major is a wryly funny novel that sparkles with the generous humanity of his vision.

“It used to be Cliff and Vivian and now it isn’t.” With these words, Jim Harrison begins a riotous, moving novel that sends a sixty-something man, divorced and robbed of his farm by a late-blooming real estate shark of an ex-wife, on a road trip across America, armed with a childhood puzzle of the United States and a mission to rename all the states and state birds to overcome the banal names men have given them. Cliff’s adventures take him through a whirlwind affair with a former student from his high school—teacher days twenty-some years before, to a “snake farm” in Arizona owned by an old classmate; and to the high-octane existence of his son, a big-time movie producer who has just bought an apartment over the Presidio in San Francisco.

The English Major is the map of a man’s journey into—and out of—himself, and it is vintage Harrison—reflective, big-picture American, and replete with wicked wit.

Tags Literary

Praise

“[A] wistfully comic novel . . . Harrison has created a character of such appeal and self-deprecating wisdom that even the more fantastical episodes . . . acquire a charmingly philosophical air.” —The New Yorker

The English Major is to midlife crisis what The Catcher in the Rye is to adolescence.” —Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

“[Harrison’s] sentences . . . fuse on the page with a power and blunt beauty. . . . Harrison creates delicious comic tension.” —Jennifer Egan, The New York Times Book Review

“Harrison’s language seems to come straight from America’s center of gravity, the core of the country where people still live by a code and think for themselves. . . . After 25 books Harrison is . . . closing in on the status of a national treasure.” —Anthony Brandt, National Geographic Adventure

“Young men, old men, you see them hitting the road in the movies all the time. In novels it’s been mostly young men. . . . In The English Major, a bawdy and engaging new novel by Jim Harrison, the best Midwestern-born writer never to leave the region, we get to see the older-man variation. . . . Told in an utterly believable, if somewhat flat-footed first-person voice (the old brown Taurus of modern American narration), the story remains the unflagging revelation of Cliff’s attempt to shed his former life by crossing the boundaries of as many states of the Union as he can reach in a year. . . . It’s never too early to put aside a great Father’s Day gift. Wives, daughters of America, for your reading Papa, this ribald, questing, utterly charming and Zen-serious novel about being male, 60 and (well, almost) alone, is the book of the year. Guys, if you can’t wait to get going, you ought to just plunk down your $24 right away and follow Cliff’s trail.” —Alan Cheuse, The Chicago Tribune

“After his wife leaves him for an old flame, [Cliff], the protagonist in Jim Harrison’s latest earthy novel, does what any red-blooded American man would do: he takes a road trip. . . . [Cliff]’s picaresque adventures give him time to reflect on ‘the high ideals we place on our lives like decals,’ and Harrison, in wry first person, captures his belated coming-of-age with wit and a touch of melancholy.” —Jason Daley, Outside Magazine

“An actual road trip with Jim Harrison would probably mimic this book: fun, angst, high times, with an admixture of erudite if often curmudgeonly observations on literature, history, sex, society and life its own self. . . . This is a master writer who has some important things to say about life and how to live it.” —Ron Antonucci, The Plain Dealer

“Farming, teaching, fishing, hunting and sex . . . Harrison has been brooding productively about these subjects for 30 years, and he’s become a funnier and deeper writer. . . . [The] trip allows Harrison lots of time to wax hilarious about a great many subjects. . . . [The English Major] is also a deeply serious novel, and a satisfying one.” —Anthony Giardina, San Francisco Chronicle

“A funny, sexy meditation of growing old and how the way we change over the years can both add to the richness of life and, almost at the same time, leave us stultified when we don’t change often enough. . . . We get a vivid picture of the beauty to be found across vast portions of this country. Let’s hope Harrison will write a sequel.” —Christopher Guerin, PopMatters

“Harrison spins the common chaff of a road trip into gold. . . . After a long and idiosyncratic literary career, Harrison the storyteller is still at the top of his game.” —Tim McNulty, The Seattle Times

“[A] sly and mighty new novel.” —Dwight Garner, Papercuts, nytimes.com

“Jim Harrison is larger than life, a true legend . . . No other author has so inspired, amused or comforted me.” —Kathleen Johnson, Kansas City Star

“The prodigious and prolific literary writer creates one of his most engaging novels in years with this often-ribald tale . . . Harrison fills this fine novel with an often-surprising mix of serious life lessons and humorous observations about men, women and America today.” —John Marshall, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Cliff is a fine character whose irascible, raunchy, self-lacerating voice grabs you from the start.” —Stephen Amidon, The Globe and Mail

“Jim Harrison’s ninth and funniest novel begins with the sort of glib and earthy reality for which Harrison is famous: ‘It used to be Cliff and Vivian and now it isn’t.’ . . . The English Major is the most recent installment in what has become a prodigious achievement in American letters.” —Charles W. Brice, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“[Harrison] tells his stories with a straightforward candor that puts the reader directly across from him at a table in a middle-American diner. . . . . quintessentially American. . . . A chronicle of self-examination along with a good bit of heartache and adventure.” —David Varno, The Brooklyn Rail

“[The English Major] deals with the pain and confusion of losing that which is loved; but it also shows that those who refuse to just curl in a corner and die can make new beginnings though the trip can be lonely and arduous at times.” —Bob Anderson, The Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA)

“Cliff’s eloquent running commentary is by far the book’s best feature and makes for a pleasurable, humorous read. From insightful cultural critique to inane observations, he finds something witty to say about almost everything that enters his consciousness.” —Mike Frechette, Contrary

“[Cliff has] self-awareness and effortless wit. . . . This is Harrison noodling at his leisure. For longtime fans, no extra dressing is required.” —Kristin Tillotson, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune

“Funny, spirited . . . Harrison is consistently witty and engaging as he drives home his timeless theme: that change can be beneficial at any point in life.” —Publishers Weekly

“Harrison’s wit and gorgeous descriptions make the road trip a fascinating adventure. . . . a rollicking page-turner, full of Harrison’s biting humor and set against a rugged and beautiful landscape. The characters are quirky and come together (and apart) in a wacky, R-rated, Prairie Home Companion-sort of way.” —Ashley Simpson Shires, The Rocky Mountain News

“The reader is seduced by Harrison’s ornery narrator. . . . If you enjoy reading a book that takes you to lots of fascinating places with minimal fuss, then you must check out The English Major. Jim Harrison writes fiction that feels so real you can believe that he has lived every moment of it. And perhaps he has.” —Vick Mickunas, Dayton Daily News

“A tongue-in-cheek road novel arguing that life doesn’t end at sixty—even if your marriage has fallen apart, you’ve lost your farm, and your dog has died. . . . Harrison’s grizzled hero is most poignant during his reflective inter-coital oases of solitude. That’s when he can really ponder the disappointments of his past—and the possibility of breaking free from them.” —Drew Toal, Time Out New York

“Hilarious and profound.” —Dale Dauten, Arizona Daily Star

“My favorite living American novelist . . . a Falstaffian, Rabelaisian, Dionysian orgy-on-wheels . . . a fascinating tapestry of life in contemporary America as seen by an Aging White Male with a sharp eye and a devilishly funny (and bawdy and irreverent) sense of humor. . . . This is a fine book.” —John Greenya, The Washington Times

“Cliff is a mixture of redneck and intellectual, at home behind a tractor but also tuning in to NPR during his travels and musing about Lord Byron or Henry Miller in rambling stream-of-consciousness sentences. Very humorous and engaging.” —Jim Coan, Library Journal

Awards

2008 New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year
A 2008 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
Selected as a October ’08 Indie Next List title (formerly Book Sense)
Midwest Booksellers Association Heartland Independent Bestseller List (hardcover 9/27/08; paperback 10/11/09)
Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Bestseller List (10/11/08)
A Southern Indie Bestseller List (11/2/08)

Excerpt

Michigan

It used to be Cliff and Vivian and now it isn’t.

Doubtless every one starts from somewhere. We were married thirty-eight years, slightly more than thirty-seven but less than the magic thirty-nine.

I just cooked my last breakfast here in the old farmhouse, much changed during our marriage due to Vivian’s whims and my labor.

I began to lose her during our fortieth high school reunion over in a park in Mullet Lake last year. Now I’m free, white, and sixty but I don’t want to be free. I want Vivian back but it’s been made clear to me that this is unlikely to happen.

At the reunion who would show up but Fred who left in the tenth grade. His parents were a higher sort, summer people from Petoskey who brought Fred up from Chicago to begin the ninth grade with us small town and farm kids.

Fred had trouble in Chicago but he also had trouble up here so his parents pulled him halfway through tenth grade and sent him off to Culver Military Academy in Indiana where is it supposed that they straighten out young rascals from prosperous families.

So Fred shows up for our fortieth high school reunion in an Italian sports car I had never even heard the name before though we all agreed it made a growling sound sort of like the lion I heard at the Grand Rapids Zoo years ago. Anyway, he gave Vivian a ride. They were sweet on each other in high school. They were gone for over an hour and everyone got nervous, especially me, though nobody said anything even though everyone was beered up from the keg. When they returned there were grass stains on Vivian’s knees and I got the idea that Fred and Vivian might have closed the deal. The last thing I expected was that my fifty-eight year old wife would become wayward. At the time there was no opportunity to get jealous or heartsick what with having to harvest fifty acres of sour cherries and ten acres of sweets, all of which took about a month during which the Fred-Vivian die was cast.

We got married after I graduated from Michigan State and Vivian had two years there. I taught history and English at the high school we graduated from and after our son left home Vivian became a real estate saleswoman of farms, resorts and cottages. I took over the farm when Vivian’s dad died while fishing perch up in the Les Chenaux Islands near Cedarville. This man was a big strong asshole and had gone to glory from a heart attack trying to carry a hundred pounds of perch fillets and ice from a cabin to the pick-up. Soon after the funeral Vivian’s mother, Vesper, took off to a place called Carefree, Arizona, and thus it was I became a farmer after eagerly escaping this family fate by going to college and becoming a school teacher.

The shoe dropped at deer camp in November up near Helmer in Luce County in the Upper Peninsula. The snow was too deep to hunt for long so by lunch time we were all back at camp playing poker and suddenly the game stopped and my friends told me that Vivian was having a hot and heavy affair with Fred who had his family’s place on Lake Michigan north of Petoskey.

I took to drink which had never been a big item in my life. I drank a lot between deer season and the following June pretty much quitting two weeks ago after I thought I ran over our dog Lola, a thirteen year old lab-collie cross. I had been at Babe’s apartment fiddling around which is upstairs from the diner where she works in town, the drawback being that the little apartment always smells like over used cooking oil and French fries which I never liked. Anyway when I got home Lola wasn’t in the pump shed at the back of the house waiting for her biscuit. I found her in the weeds underneath the back of my brown Taurus. I would have seen her maybe but I hadn’t cut the grass and weeds in the yard. I ran around the yard weeping over my dead dog, turned the headlights on and called my neighbor Dan and yelled, “Lola is dead,” and then for some reason I threw myself over the fence into the cattle tank which was still full though I had sold the cattle in early May. Dan showed up a little later at first light with a thousand birds singing. He laughed because I was covered with green algae scum from the cattle tank and was shivering. It was a miracle I didn’t catch a cold. Dan showed me how my tires had missed Lola and that she had died of old age with a half-chewed gopher in her mouth. Lola would eat anything from gophers to snakes to woodchucks to one of three piglets I once bought. That was the only time I punished her. If you want pork that tastes like the old days you have to raise your own. Dan and I grabbed two shovels and buried Lola out behind the barn. “You better pull yourself together,” Dan said, tamping down the grave dirt with his boots.

Curiously my life began to turn upwards from the moment I discovered that I hadn’t run over Lola.

It was strange after deer season when I called Bob our son who flew the Michigan coop right after he graduated from Kalamazoo College which cost us an arm and a leg. Now he lives in San Francisco. When I told him that his mother had left me for another man I was surprised when he said, “I’m not surprised.” Since boyhood when he got involved in summer theatre over in Petoskey Bob has been all show business. I can’t bring myself to get on a plane but Bob practically lives on them. He said, “You grew in different directions.” Since Bob was young he had had this irritating habit of emphasizing every fifth word or so whether the word deserved it or not. ‘dad, let’s face it YOU never were in sync WITH mom. When she was worried ABOUT her big butt you’d ONLY say that there’s nothing WRONG about a big butt. YOU were supposed to say, “VIVIAN your butt is not so BIG.” Bob travels the world looking for locations for movie companies. When we found out in his teens that Bob was gay Vivian said she’d rather her son was gay than a farmer. That’s Vivian for you. She was always adding fuel to the flame, or as Dad would say, pissing in the whiskey. Once I tried to detox the butt situation by saying that her butt was only big because her mother’s butt was big. That didn’t work.

So here I am packing up the old farmhouse which the new owner is going to tear down, or so Vivian says. The orchard will be leveled and only the barn will stay. Bob and I each get ten percent of the sale price and Vivian and her mother split the eighty. The two-hundred acres went for a million bucks which to me was an inflated price because I never netted more than thirty from it as a farm. Dan, my vet friend said that a hundred grand isn’t much of a retirement but I said it has to be because that’s what I got. He said you don’t even have health insurance and I said that’s true.

As I said my life took an upturn when I found out I hadn’t run over Lola and I quit drinking so much. An even bigger item came about when I was sorting through an old trunk and found a jigsaw puzzle from my childhood. There were forty-eight pieces for the states and no state had the same colored puzzle piece. In the box there was also information about the state bird and the state flower. I came to know this puzzle all too well because I spent a lot of my young life taking care of my little brother Teddy who was a mongoloid, what they call now Down’s Syndrome. Teddy loved this puzzle and we spent hours and hours doing it over and over.

I took the puzzle downstairs and put it on the kitchen table and popped a non-alcoholic beer since it was only noon. I tuned in my big Zenith Trans Oceanic to a polka program over across Lake Michigan in Milwaukee. Vivian was embarrassed by how much she loved old time polka dancing. We cut quite a figure at polka parties. She said that the billowy dresses women wore polka dancing covered her big butt.

The puzzle on the yellow Formica table before me gave me an idea. Way back when I taught over twenty-five years ago I tried to use Thoreau’s Walden in a senior lit class. I was better at biology, especially botany, but this woeful group of seventeen seniors at least made an attempt at Thoreau because they could see that the writer excited me. “Why did he want to be alone? I like to hang out,” a girl said. Thoreau had said something to the effect that a man didn’t own a farm, the farm “owned” him. This hit home because half the kids were from farm families and their parents never got away to see much of the United States let alone the world. In my case I had been to New York City and Washington D.C. on our high school senior trip. I had gone to Chicago once with Vivian and our son Bob to see plays. They went several times but I went once. And I had been a chaperon and driver for a bunch of 4—H kids going to a big meeting at the Minnesota State Fair in Minneapolis. I looked out the kitchen window at my old brown Taurus station wagon with a hundred thirty thousand miles on it and figured she had some life left in her. I looked down at the forty-eight states and their varied colors. Tears formed when I thought of my brother Teddy who drowned at eleven when the family took the ferry from Charlevoix over to Beaver Island. Teddy never learned to swim well and when we went fishing in a rowboat on a lake or down on the Manistee River dad kept Teddy tethered to his belt with a long piece of leather rein from the draft horse harness. Otherwise Teddy would jump into any body of water. It didn’t matter on our farm pond which was only waist deep. The crossing over to Beaver Island that day was real rough with two major August line squalls and a lot of people puking over the rails. Teddy jumped overboard and the rein broke. We lost him by the time the ferry got turned around in heavy seas. Dad got real drunk at the Shamrock on the island and said that Teddy died the death of a noble sailor.

I dried my tears and ran my fingers over the map puzzle. Three days later I was off after sending the auction shares by check to Bob in San Francisco and Vivian’s mom in Carefree, Arizona where she only lives three blocks from the radio pundit Paul Harvey. I dropped by Vivian’s office in Boyne City and she was miffed that I didn’t give her the auction money in cash. “Now I’ll have to pay taxes on it, you goof,” she said with mean eyes. Our wedding photo was no longer on her desk. I recalled that at Michigan State she had a crush on a basketball player and when he didn’t respond she had let the goldfish in her room starve to death. Several years back there was a summer month of a blue moon which is when you have two fall moons in the same month. I tried to get Vivian outside to take a look but nothing doing.

The farm no longer owned me and thus it was that I left our green valley where I had spent so many years. I skipped the auction for emotional reasons and went trout fishing on the Pigeon River with a doctor friend. He’s the most unsuccessful doctor anyone knows. He can’t get up in the morning because he drinks too much. He put me on Wellbutrin to calm me down and to be frank he also gave me lots of samples of Viagra and Levitra for my trip, plus the phone number of a hot chick in St. Paul, Minnesota. I always listened to Prairie Home Companion but not Vivian who thinks it’s corny. When I had supper at the diner last night Babe told me that Vivian is riding for a fall. She said that Fred is having an affair with Vivian to try to recapture his high school glory. This is a little hard for me to understand because I don’t remember high school as being glorious.

In the long summer twilight I went out behind the barn to bid adieu to the grave of my beloved Lola. I built side seats on my old reconditioned Farmall tractor and on the new John Deere so Lola could ride along with me. I’m not going to say that she was the truest woman in my life. At dawn I decided to take the jigsaw puzzle of the United States and throw a piece out when I crossed the border into a new state. It would be nice to throw away Michigan for the time being. Dad said I would always be “high minded and low waged” from reading too much Ralph Waldo Emerson. Maybe he was right.

Reading Group Guide

by Lindsey Tate

1. Begin your discussion of this novel by considering what the term “road novel” means to you. How far does The English Major fit into that genre?

2. At the novel’s outset, Cliff is uprooted from his routine existence by the breakdown of his marriage, the loss of his livelihood, and the death of his beloved dog. How does he greet the changes thrust upon him? Is he able to embrace the possibility of a new life adventure or would he have preferred to continue with his old life? Discuss the theme of change throughout the novel. How far would you agree with the following quote: “You’re trying to start a new life at age sixty which is also impossible. You can only try variations on your common theme” (p. 155).

3. Inspired by a childhood jigsaw puzzle of the states, Cliff sets off on an odyssey of sorts across America. What do you think he is hoping to achieve? Is he escaping from his past, or reaching out to a new and uncertain future? Or is he simply going because now he can—”the farm no longer owned me” (p. 7).

4. If his farm has tied him physically to the land, how has it shaped him in other ways over the last twenty-five years of his life? Cliff says he left the ideals of teaching to become a farmer or a man of the soil. Is it possible to separate the two so distinctly? Are there similarities between farming and teaching? What will he miss about being a farmer? What might he gain?

5. Talk about the title of the novel. What does The English Major conjure up for you? Why do you think Harrison chose this title? Does Cliff seem like a quintessential English major? Why or why not?

6. At the beginning of his trip Cliff seems to take pure delight in the ever-changing view of nature: “I was getting lightened up in my mind by the immensity of the landscape and the idea that moment by moment everything I saw was something I had never seen before” (p. 30). Find other instances in the novel where nature evokes feelings of happiness for him. Does he view the land around him primarily through a farmer’s eyes or a booklover’s eyes?

7. Cliff states “I . . . assumed I still loved her but then love can be a routine like farming” (p. 72). In the light of this comment examine Cliff’s marriage to Vivian. How far have they moved apart from each other? Is it surprising that they have stayed together so long or is their mutual, benign contempt fairly commonplace in marriage? Look at some of the other marriages portrayed in the novel: that of Marybelle and her husband, AD and his three marriages, Cliff’s parents. Continue your discussion of the theme of change in the novel by talking about the way in which people change over time and the affect this has on relationships.

8. Very quickly after starting his affair with Marybelle, Cliff feels that she has changed: “Marybelle seemed to become less like she originally presented herself in her letters or in our first hours together” (p. 34). What does he mean by this? Does he have the right to feel “riled”? Could the change he sees in her be a result of their changing relationship—from former teacher-student into lovers—or is it an innate part of Marybelle’s flighty personality? Is Cliff able to accept her multiple personalities? What does he learn from Marybelle?

9. With her constant cell phone conversations, Marybelle is always trying to connect with others and combat loneliness. What might this say about her own life? How real are the connections she is making? Why does she consider that Cliff is “utterly lonely without knowing it?” (p. 61) Consider Cliff’s thought: “I began to wonder what we are when we are alone. Maybe we don’t count for much unless we are rubbing against others” (p. 63).

10. Cliff spends much of his time with Marybelle having sex or musing on sex. Consider the relationship between love and sex in the novel. Are any of the characters terribly happy in love? Marybelle’s daughter describes her mother’s affairs as “affection binges” (p. 87) while Cliff’s friend AD states “the only real adventure in most people’s lives is adultery” (p. 73).

11. In his obsessions with food and sex, Cliff could be described as a physical, visceral man, and yet this is not the image of him that stays with the reader. Consider the importance of the first-person narrative that gives us Cliff’s worldview, his thoughts peppered with literary quotes and high-minded ideals. How would you describe Cliff? Do you think you would like him if you met him? How does he develop as a character, as a human throughout the narrative arc of the novel?

12. Look back on the different women in the novel and talk about the depiction of women. Does Vivian have any redeeming features? What is Marybelle’s purpose in the novel—can she be seen in some ways as Cliff’s muse? What about Sylvia? How realistic are the women?

13. As he journeys across America, Cliff also travels into his past. What are some of the memories that unfurl from the recesses of his mind, and why are they important to him now? How do they help him to deal with his present situation? Is it possible to ever separate the future from the past?

14. How far would you agree that, despite Cliff’s desperate situation at the novel’s outset, this is a lighthearted, optimistic work? Find examples of humor. It seems clear that Harrison had fun in creating several of his characters—discuss further.

15. Talk about the juxtaposition of the natural world in all its timeless grandeur or simple perfection with the harried, petty worries of the characters of the novel. Time and again nature is shown as restorative of body and spirit. Find examples of Thoreau’s life in the woods as an antidote to modern living. How realistic is this? How far do you agree with Cliff’s dad that ‘successful people never had much time for important things like hunting, fishing, drinking and wandering around in the woods’ (p. 180).

16. As Cliff drives further from his home state, from the real world, he seems to lose himself more and more in the world of books—”the ghosts of all those books and ideas were returning” (p. 213). His project to rename the states and state birds moves from a vague idea into a concrete concept. Analyze the reasons for the resurgence of his literary ideals and aspirations, and discuss their effect on him.

17. “What bothered me . . . was the idea that with my clumsy consent my own script and most of the human race’s had been written for us” (p. 80). What does Cliff mean by this? How far does he attempt to change his own script and create his own destiny on his road trip? Do you think he succeeds? Looking back at the last question, how much do you think that opening his life back up to his love of literature helps him find his true self? Consider his realization that “I owned myself and could give myself to the highest calling, albeit late in life” (p. 221).

18. When asked if he is sorry that his only child, Robert, is gay Cliff responds “Nope, everyone is who they are” (p. 43). How does this affect his relationship with Robert? What does it further illuminate about Cliff’s character? Does he apply this sentiment to other characters in the novel, or is he in fact judgmental? Robert could so easily have been portrayed as a stereotype—how does Harrison avoid this? Why do you think that Marybelle and Robert get along so well?

19. Harrison’s novel is peopled with characters riddled with flaws yet generally hopeful about humanity. Looking back on the novel as a whole consider Cliff’s musing on what life is really about: “My dissipating thoughts of life in terms of victory or defeat came along willy-nilly from a culture that pretended that life was far more solid than it actually was. The edges were actually blurred and moved along with the infinitely variable shape of a river.” Give examples from his road trip that might have caused him to come to this conclusion. Do you view his opinion as optimistic?

20. What do you predict for Cliff’s future? Do you agree with him that he’ll do fine?

Suggestions for further reading:

Roads by Larry McMurtry; Fine Just the Way It Is by Annie Proulx; A Supremely Bad Idea: Three Mad Birders and Their Quest to See It All by Luke Dempsey; Road Novels by Jack Kerouac