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By BILL BEUTTLER  |  October 28, 2008

It’s giving nothing much away to say that in the end Cliff returns to Michigan. Vivian installs him in his grandfather’s old farmhouse, now fire-damaged. She leaves a six-pack of beer in his refrigerator and a stack of frozen diet dinners that Cliff, looking on the bright side, notes “a new dog might enjoy.” He soon adopts a puppy, and the lingering scent of the fire doesn’t bother him much. “I’m getting used to it,” he reports, “in the same way that we learn to accept widespread political malfeasance.”

The point of The English Major is to let Harrison riff on contemporary America from the perspective of a semi-bookish 60-year-old man at loose ends. It’s a bonus that Cliff ends the book living, if not happily ever after, contentedly with whatever time he has left.

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