The Man Who Gave Up His Name

Institute History

  • 1993 January Screenwriters Lab


"Now he felt totally alone and an edge of panic crept into his soul that would stay with him for years. He thought, 'What if what I've been doing all my life has been totally wrong'?"

Such a question is facing a man who has lived the entirety of his adulthood in service of his career, a life of the mind, efficient and painless, unresponsive to the unspeakable self, not open to danger, bliss, his sleep dreamless. The answer spreads to every corner of his solitude when NORDSTRUM finds himself in an empty apartment, cast into loneliness by a swift and unexpected divorce, required to contemplate his uprooting and disappointment. The answer is yes, he has been doing it wrong, having quite innocently allowed his native shyness to sweep him along the path of stifled emotion, into a life of numbing repetition, the utter complacency of the Next Man, a world void of wonder, risk, intensity. But this revelation was horrible nonetheless, for his amnesiatic tumble from routine does not change the facts—he has lost the only woman he has ever loved, and his last connection to vitality. He now faces the next, more haunting set of questions: Can he change? Can a man suffering from spiritual malaise awaken his spirituality after a lifelong slumber? Will he dare the unknown when he is rehearsed only in the known?

Thus commences Jim Harrison's provocative novella about a partial man struggling
to become whole.


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