Washington Post reporter converts from D.C. yuppie to Kentucky rabbit hunter—in this sometimes portentous memoir by the author of Crossings (1993).
Harrington (Journalism/Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) grudgingly begins his career as rabbit-blaster when he agrees to hunt one Thanksgiving with his father-in-law and friends, who live in the tiny Kentucky town of Glasgow. He is the only city-dweller and the only white man in the hunting party, but what begins as a familial obligation gradually metamorphoses. Harrington begins to anticipate the outings, to recognize that his fast-lane life does not satisfy him, to detect in these largely unschooled men a wisdom not evident among his inside-the-Beltway buddies, and to believe that their rough, abrasive affection for one another is more authentic than the effete relationships among the wimpy Mr. Moms he knows. By the end, Harrington’s teenaged son Matt has joined the hunters, displaying an eye more keen and deadly than his father’s. (Many wascally wabbits go to the Big Carrot Patch in the Sky.) Harrington sometimes places his finger on the throbbing pulse of a vibrant issue, as when he condemns for hypocrisy those strident anti-hunters who queue up for triple-decker hamburgers. But he occasionally lapses into lyrical logorrhea and waxes so romantic about the woods and the woodsmen (where are the women?) that readers can almost see Natty Bumppo whispering in one ear, the NRA in the other. Some detail is sanguinary (you’ll be able to clean a rabbit after reading), some Iron John excessive (“killing an animal is a moment of grace”), some self-flattering (he continually tells us what a wonderful writer he is), some merely trite (look in the dictionary under “contentment,” he says, to find his picture). Despite these weaknesses, Harrington’s descriptions of the evolving father-in-law/son-in-law and father/son relationships are more powerful than a .12-gauge.
Sometimes moving, sometimes motionless.