So far, the revisiting project hasn’t brought me any radical new insights about the (still very few) books from my past that I’ve picked back up, but it has strengthened in me the feeling that you barely read anything until you read it for the second time. Are all first reads worthless? Is it possible to savor them enough; am I just failing at it? I will do my best not to despair but instead to just enjoy these looks back and get what I can from them.
This week I revisited Jim Harrison’s 1979 novella, Legends of the Fall. For those familiar with the film version, the novella is both very similar and very different. There are a number of plot points that are changed—for one thing, the novella opens with the three Ludlow brothers riding off to Calgary to join the Canadian army, something that doesn’t happen until long after we’ve met Susannah (who, in the novella, was originally meant for Alfred and ends up unceremoniously engaged to Tristan). But the overall feel of the story, its sense of place, and the struggle of the brothers and the rest of their extended family at the ranch are very close.
The very first sentence is somewhat strange: “Late in October in 1914 three brothers rode from Choteau, Montana, to Calgary in Alberta to enlist in the Great War (the U.S. did not enter until 1917).” That parenthetical, who is it for? In the next sentence, “[a]n old Cheyenne named One Stab” becomes the first character in the novella to be named. Much will be described about him, but he will remain largely in the shadows. The brothers, though it takes Harrison a bit longer to baptize them, seem to come clear as soon as he does:
Continue reading Revisiting: Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison