Tuesday, March 27, 2018

the last book I ever read (Off to the Side: A Memoir by Jim Harrison, excerpt nine)

from Off to the Side: A Memoir by Jim Harrison:

The birth of our daughter, Jamie, somewhat healed the rift with my in-laws. Few can resist the glory of a first grandchild. I immediately became less of a monster. I still regret that my pride kept me from accepting any money from them, which I now see as false pride, a meaningless arrogance, what we used to call simple “asshole” behavior. While much nonsense is made of America as a classless society my real difficulty with my in-laws was that they came from well up the ladder, above my own parents and relatives. Linda’s father, William Ludlow King, had gone to Dartmouth and briefly Harvard, and came from a family of Cornish copper-mine owners in the Upper Peninsula. It was in my father-in-law’s ancestral home that my wife found the nineteenth-century journals of William Ludlow, which gave me the base for Legends of the Fall. He was a kindly man, a nearly antique gentleman, and I had no experience dealing with someone like him. Linda’s mother, however, was clearly daffy, very intelligent but emotionally mercurial, partly from losing a baby who had gone nearly full term. It was from her that I heard on many late evenings some of the curious aspects of her husband’s family, including the tale of a cousin who had donated a chair at the University of Chicago but lived in Paris with her lesbian lover. This kind of information thrilled me as it was so exotic compared to anything in my own family’s past. My wife’s grandfather once came to dinner refusing to acknowledge me as Linda’s husband, sitting there drinking whiskey in an English tailored suit and wearing a seven-carat diamond Masonic ring, a problematical man who had squandered much of his wife’s money, some of which had come from Mexican silver mines in the nineteenth century.

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