I was only ever once in a room with the late Jim Harrison. It was the green room at a literary festival – and yes, drink had been taken, and his gaze was even more alarming than in the picture above. Joyce Carol Oates was there too, talking about how much she liked boxing.
I haven’t read a lot of Harrison’s work – his food writing was always a bit too self-consciously “gonzo” for my tastes - though I do remember his piece about suffering from gout, which appears in his The Raw and the Cooked. (I'm not sure that absolutely everyone would want the words "the Henry Miller of food writing" emblazoned above their name.)
I can’t actually find my copy of the book at the moment, though I seem to recall that, like a surprising number of gout sufferers, he thought that there was something unmanly about taking anti-gout medication, which is silly. One small allopurinol tablet a day is all it takes, trust me on this.
I see there’s a newly published, posthumous collection of Harrison’s food writing, titled The Really Big Lunch.
Here are some lines from it, which have given me a lot to think about. Harrison writes, “You, as a writer, must mix essential gluttony and writing carefully. Despite your complains you have lots of time to do so. Good food is much more important than the mediocre writing that pervades the earth.”
I sort of agree, and I think Harrison and I would have had similar ideas about what constitutes good food, good writing I’m not so sure. Not that he would have cared, obviously.