The 1976 collection A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, was the only book Norman Maclean (1902-1990) published in his lifetime. He was eighty-four years old. I have not the faintest interest in fly fishing and yet this story is captivating not only for the power of its theme but for its remarkable and often lyrical prose. Here are just a few fine examples:

“It was a beautiful stretch of water, either to a fisherman or a photographer, although each would have focused his equipment on a different point. It was a barely submerged waterfall. The reef of rock was about two feet under the water, so the whole river rose into one wave, shook itself into spray then fell back on itself and turned blue. After it recovered from the shock, it came back to see how it had fallen.”

“The voices of the subterranean river in the shadows were different from the voices of the sunlit river ahead. In the shadows against the cliff the river was deep and engaged in profundities, circling back on itself now and then to say things over to be sure it had understood itself. But the river ahead came out into the sunny world like a chatterbox, doing its best to be friendly. It bowed to one shore and then to the other so nothing would feel neglected.”

“Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.”


2 Responses to “Norman Maclean’s A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT”
  1. Dan Beeaff says:

    He did have a way with words.

    Sent from my iPad



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  • Copyright © 2011-16, Dianne Ebertt Beeaff. All Rights Reserved.
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