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Legends Of The Fall (1980)

Legends of the Fall (1980)

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4.03 of 5 Votes: 4
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0385285965 (ISBN13: 9780385285964)

About book Legends Of The Fall (1980)

Utterly unlike the movie – but no better. The movie might be better. (The last time I saw it I was high and I was very entertained imagining digressive counter-films about Col. Ludlow’s embittered back story and virginal Samuel’s “poetic” friendships with other Cambridge aesthetes and the homosexual or simply compensatory motivation of his avidity to enlist. And Anthony Hopkins looks badass in a buffalo robe.) For one, the movie has a better structure. Hollywood's usually harmful compression and redaction of literary source material actually improves on Harrison's novella, in which too much happens too fast over too large a space. Also, the movie succeeds – but is that the word? – as classic Hollywood bombast. Every character is morbidly motivated, nursing a secret wound or strangling a sexy inner demon, and posed against pedantically art-directed backdrops – the oaken elegance of northern frontier wealth, the oil-lamp-lit parlors and river rock mantelpieces of the Cattleman's Club. The passionate yet essentially clean-cut Brad Pitt is another cinematic fantasy of White Manhood toughened by Indian tuition and sexually renewed by a little time out of doors and away from Mother. In the novella, by contrast, Harrison seems to try for a spare tale of man against fate, told with lean grace and luminous plainness by a distant and uninvolved narrator – and he fails, bottoms out in preposterous capers and dime novel prose: Susannah led Tristan to the master bedroom to avoid any intrusion by the maids. At first she was cool and demanding, asking that Tristan meet her in Paris by the middle of October. He refused, saying that the time was not yet appropriate. She became hysterical and he offered the following spring as a compromise beyond which she could not go. Then there was a long unbearably painful silence at the end of which he recognized again the signs of her impending madness. He forestalled it by drawing her near to him and assuring her that by the following May he would be ready. She shuddered in his arms and as he gazed over her shoulder Alfred walked into the room…Ha ha! "...her impending madness"! Turns out Hollywood is the subtler psychologist. What a shitty writer! It’s a pity Evan S. Connell or Alice Munro didn’t think up the Ludlows. But I won’t lie, Harrison has his lovely bits. The subtle romance of scientific prose was an interesting theme. One night after his boys have left for the trenches Col. Ludlow fills a tumbler “from a demijohn of Canadian whiskey kept under the bed for insomnia” and examines the marginal notes young Tristan left in a copy of his father’s whistle-blowing army opus, Report of a Reconnaissance of the Black Hills of Dakota. Tristan found in the precision of this sober report an invitation to dream, an adventure, found what Elizabeth Bishop found in Darwin – “the beautiful solid case being built up out of his endless heroic observations, almost unconscious or automatic – and then comes a sudden relaxation, a forgetful phrase, and one feels the strangeness of his undertaking.” One Stab, Col. Ludlow’s Cheyenne factotum, has Tristan read him African expeditionary accounts which mention rhinoceros herds charging and tipping British locomotives – and he daydreams that the vanished Plains buffalo did the same to the first presumptuous engines of the Northern Pacific.

These three novellas are certainly cinematic. Which might explain the Legends of the Fall movie, something I've managed to miss to this point. Suffice it to say, there are Mexican warlords, drug smugglers, bootleggers, and the general unhinged. Each of the three stories ends with a climatic scene where the protagonist will murder, be murdered or just shake hands. I don't care. Jim Harrison's my guy.Revenge: 4/5Perhaps this can be summarized in one sentence: The morning before Mauro and his daughter had found him by the roadside, excepting the following morning when he was nothing but a dying piece of meat rotting through the day into the evening, he had awakened in an uncommon state of what he thought was love.The Man Who Gave Up His Name: 4/5A lot of Harrison's works involve characters who check out: some disappear; some take on new identities; some go mad. The protagonist here was a very successful businessman. A lot happens, but eventually he gives his money away and decides to go south to be a cook. Not to own a restaurant, mind you; just to be a cook in one. A joint, at that.There were great Harrison moments here. Such as this brief dialogue:"You're looking up my legs," she said."No I wasn't.""If you're honest you can kiss them.""I was."And this little aside:Read a Knut Hamsun novel to see what Norwegians could do (not much).And food. Food. Food. Harrison loves to eat; loves to cook. Loves to drink when he eats or cooks. And he makes sure his characters do too. Never more than here. You should, by the way, check out this interview of Jim Harrison by Mario Batali - - where they agree to agree that boneless, skinless chicken breasts are the ruin of mankind.Harrison also likes to give little shout-outs to other authors, other books. Here, he practically grabs you by the lapels and insists that you read A Short History of Decay (or anything else, really) by E.M. Cioran. Which I will.The Legends of the Fall: 3/5It wasn't because I've seen the movie, because as I've mentioned above, I haven't. I don't even know which character is played by Brad Pitt. So it wasn't that either. Maybe the story just felt forced to me. Or, impelled by the others, I kind of force-read it. ----- ----- ----- -----Later Harrison is funnier. I missed that.

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I think what's really remarkable about Harrison, which, this is only the second collection of three novellas of his that I've read, but each of his pieces are so rich, and but also so varied from one another. The first in this concerns a bloody story of revenge on the Mexico/U.S. border, the second concerns a middleaged executive somewhere near New York, and the third is set in Montana at the time of and after the first world war. And that third novella, Legends of the Fall, is insane. Eighty-five pages of pure exposition, pure summary; there's enough here for an eight-hundred-fifty page novel. It moves with the power and speed and drive of a damn freight train, cliches be hanged. I will continue to read Harrison's novellas until I've read them all, and I'll certainly read his novels as well. Total control of the language, rich characters, funny at times. Everything a good writer should be.

I read these three novellas on my kindle. Usually, by the time I get around to reading something I have added there, I can't remember what the gist was so I just plunge in. You don't have the cover notes, etc. to tell you what to expect. So at first I thought I had the completely wrong author and was mistaken about reading the book from which the movie was made. Then I finally got with the program and learned that I was reading a trilogy of novellas. The first one took a bit of catching up to his style, which reminded me of Cormac McCarthy. He juxtaposes words in his sentences that ordinarily don't go together. I found the "Revenge" story to be the best of the three. The second novella, about the man who gave up his name seemed rambling and a bit odd. I was reading, at the same time, a very similar story about a man in his mid-40s who was somewhat isolated and having a bit of an identity crisis. "This Book Will Save Your Life" by A. Homes was quite funny, whereas this story just seemed rather pointless to me. Legends of the Fall brought me back to the movie which I have not seen in a great many years. I do not have a good memory. But the book seemed to follow my memory (or should I say, lead my memory?) of the film pretty closely. As I read each scene, I remembered it. I was rather surprised, actually, that it was made into a movie, because again, it seemed rambling and unfocused. I totally agree with Jeremy's review in the review section under this book.I was somewhat entertained reading these stories but would not read them again or recommend them as great reading to a friend.

I really want to give this book a higher rating because the plots of each of the 3 stories are really exciting to me. But the promise they hold is ruined by the writing style and especially a recurring theme that bothered me--women as disposable troublemakers for men, who pretty much owned all of the stories. Revenge: 4/5 starsThe Man Who Gave Up His Name: 3.5/5Legends of the Fall 3.25/5 (The movie was a lot better.)In each of the stories, that theme I dislike is prevalent. But we also have "man's man" type characters, who are fascinating. We have the wilderness, adventure, the threat of death, and an approach to lovemaking that I simply can't relate to. "Revenge" had the best plot. The other two, despite elegant lead-ups and intriguing characters, fell flat. I know the story arc in a novella is not as arched as one in a novel, but not much happened in these stories! And yet it's purely the atmosphere that gives this book 3.5/5 stars.

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