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Goodbye to a River: A Narrative by John…
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Goodbye to a River: A Narrative (1960)

by John Graves

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A reference to this book in Larry McMurtry's memoir prompted me to read it, and I'm glad I did. Graves canoed part of the Brazos River before a series of dams were built and writes about his trip. This is part history, part nature book, part reflection on society and solitude. It should be read along with "A Sand County Almanac" and "Desert Solitaire" as elegies for some beautiful ecologies that have passed away at the hands of humans. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
My friend Tami brought this to me when I was in the hospital, and she couldn't have given me anything better. (Actually, it was loaned to me, and I still don't own a copy. Have checked it out at the library many times) It is the best of Texas, wonderfully written and a pleasure to read. Especially now, with so much of our wild places in danger, it is good to read a book like this. Enjyo! ( )
  anniemktx | Jul 19, 2010 |
In my opinion, John Graves is an important writer, not only for North Texas, not only for Texas itself, but also for the United States. In Goodbye to a River, he describes in elegant and sensitive prose a canoe journey he took in the late 1950s down the portion of the Brazos River from just below the Possum Kingdom dam to the vicinity of Glen Rose. The book has an elegiac tone because it looked at the time as though the river was going to be dammed at several points along the stretch Mr. Graves traveled. The dams that ultimately were built were fewer in number than planned at that time, but I'm not sure how much Mr. Graves's writing had to do with any changes that may have occurred.

In addition to wonderful pondering on the relationship of man and nature, including Mr. Graves's doubts about the propriety of taking game with gun and rod, the book is an important reminder of how man should "move into the land rather than onto it." Mr. Graves does that by illustrating by example the importance of knowing the history of the land you inhabit, as well as the names and characteristics of the flora and fauna of that land. In the case of this particular region, of course, much of the history involves the movement of the "Anglo-Ams" into the area long ruled by "The People", i.e. the fierce Comanche tribe, a barrier for a time to the westward progression of the United States.

I learned a lot from reading this book and feel inspired to live up to the example set by Mr. Graves. ( )
  ninefivepeak | Dec 24, 2009 |
I think this is a truly great book, but am so tied to it through my background that I admit that there is little to no objectivity in my judgement. I grew up on the Brazos myself, but was mostly a disinterested teenager paying more attention to girls and cars and parties. Somehow my surroundings seeped into me though. When I finally read this book it was both familiar (as in family) and a revelation. Graves says it himself towards the end "One scawny, salty bit of river on the edge of West Texas seemed at the moment, together with its unsignificantly bloody past and its bypassed present and the kid memories I had of going there, to be maybe less than a noble focus for a man's whole interest." Seems a cinch to me that all central Texans should read it, but I think it holds a much wider appeal than that. ( )
1 vote joshlindsay | Jul 24, 2009 |
I have read this book many, many times. I always bring it along in a ziploc bag when I float the river. I wish that exploring private property was in my nature, because I would love to visit the spots that Graves details.

One of my favorite passages deals with the historical significance, or lack thereof, of the entire Comanche/settler struggle. I love how Graves downplays the Hollywood version of the frontier.

I also appreciate Graves for not pitying the Comanche to the point of obfuscating their great accomplishments as a "People." ( )
1 vote TomLyons | May 11, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375727787, Paperback)

In the 1950s, a series of dams was proposed along the Brazos River in north-central Texas. For John Graves, this project meant that if the stream’s regimen was thus changed, the beautiful and sometimes brutal surrounding countryside would also change, as would the lives of the people whose rugged ancestors had eked out an existence there. Graves therefore decided to visit that stretch of the river, which he had known intimately as a youth.

Goodbye to a River is his account of that farewell canoe voyage. As he braves rapids and fatigue and the fickle autumn weather, he muses upon old blood feuds of the region and violent skirmishes with native tribes, and retells wild stories of courage and cowardice and deceit that shaped both the river’s people and the land during frontier times and later. Nearly half a century after its initial publication, Goodbye to a River is a true American classic, a vivid narrative about an exciting journey and a powerful tribute to a vanishing way of life and its ever-changing natural environment.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:40 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

John Graves' Goodbye to a River is a poignant narrative of one man's journey by canoe down the river of his memories. Along the way, he describes the colorful Texas landscape and recounts its rich history. When Graves learns that the river he knew and loved as a youth--the Brazos in north-central Texas--is slated to be dammed at multiple points, he understands that things will never be the same.… (more)

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