HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

A River Runs Through It and Other Stories (1976)

by Norman Maclean

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,161614,290 (4.17)120
Fiction. Literature. HTML:

When Norman Maclean sent the manuscript of A River Runs through It and Other Stories to New York publishers, he received a slew of rejections. One editor, so the story goes, replied, "it has trees in it." Forty years later, the title novella is recognized as one of the great American tales of the twentieth century, and Maclean as one of the most beloved writers of our time. The finely distilled product of a long life of often surprising rapture??for fly-fishing, for the woods, for the interlocked beauty of life and art??A River Runs through It has established itself as a classic of the American West. This new edition will introduce a fresh audience to Maclean's beautiful prose and understated emotional insights.

Elegantly redesigned, A River Runs through It includes a new foreword by Robert Redford, director of the Academy Award-winning 1992 film adaptation of River. Based on Maclean's own experiences as a young man, the book's two novellas and short story are set in the small towns and mountains of western Montana. It is a world populated with drunks, loggers, card sharks, and whores, but also one rich in the pleasures of fly-fishing, logging, cribbage, and family. By turns raunchy and elegiac, these superb tales express, in Maclean's own words, "a little of the love I have for the earth as it goes by.
… (more)

Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 120 mentions

English (59)  Spanish (2)  All languages (61)
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
2020 📚 50 States-50 Books Reading Challenge: #26 - MONTANA

Originally published in May 1976. Painfully S-L-O-W!!!

You better want to know how to fly fish or at least know something about it, in which case, you might love this novel. ( )
  MissysBookshelf | Aug 27, 2023 |
Maclean can certainly write. The works in the collection draw from his own life and experiences in early 20th-century Montana. There are some lines that are worth pausing and contemplating; I can see why a movie was developed from the titular novella. I enjoyed reading about the setting and environment, but at the same time, I found the manly-man world where most all women are prostitutes to be tiresome. ( )
  ladycato | Jun 29, 2023 |
Fishing, Logging and Fighting
Review of the University of Chicago Press Kindle eBook (May 3, 2017) with an introduction by Robert Redford, of the University of Chicago Press hardcover original (1976)

Maybe it is sacrilege to not give a 5-star rating to what is now considered an iconic fiction of American outdoor experience and adventure. But there were times when the overly detailed descriptions of fly-fishing, the baggage packing of trail horses and the quirks of the early United States Forestry Service slowed my reading to a crawl. There is also a cringe element when a misogynist thread also runs through the earlier stories, with most of the female characters disparaged as whores.

And yet there is terrific writing here with some of the imagery and expressions being classic. Many of the best lines of the title story are repeated in Robert Redford's 1992 film adaptation which only adds to their resonance. Like myself, many will have seen the film first, not having read the book. Often the text can be bizarrely funny, as in these lines from USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook and a Hole in the Sky:
The two old men in the outfit told the rest of us that “USFS” stood for “Use ’er Slow and Fuck ’er Fast.” Being young and literal, I put up an argument at first, pointing out that the beginning letters in their motto didn’t exactly fit USFS—that their last word “Fast” didn’t begin with S as “Service” did. ... As far as they were concerned, their motto fitted the United States Forest Service exactly, and by the end of the summer I came to share their opinion.


The book consists of three stories, the title novella being half the length and the 2 earlier written Logging and Pimping and 'Your pal, Jim' and USFS 1919... making up the balance. All three are fictionalized autobiographical stories of the author Norman Maclean's (1902-1990) early life. Each of these centre around one character, the brother Paul, the logger Jim and the USFS Ranger Bill and the impact of their lives and examples on Norman. The title story is especially a lament for the doomed brother whose fate is hinted at throughout, but not confirmed until the end. That one especially gives the sense of being inspired by Hemingway's 'Iceberg Theory' of writing, where the underlying reason for the story lies below the surface and is hardly seen or mentioned, just as the bulk of an iceberg lies underwater.

The earlier stories are more about rustic rough-housing with their anecdotes of logging and forest crews. The characters are memorable though and, even if some of the descriptions of trail-work procedures are tiresome, they stick with you. Perhaps it is a 5-star book after all?

I read A River Runs Through It and Other Stories due to having encountered the Introduction by the author's son John N. Maclean for the recent Big Two-Hearted River: The Centennial Edition (2023) of Ernest Hemingway. John N.'s description of his father's love and analysis of Hemingway's writing intrigued me to seek out the father's book, which I realized I had never previously read.

See photo at https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/billingsgazette.com/content/tncms/a...
The Maclean family cabin in Seeley, Montana where much of the writing of the book took place. Photograph by Kurt Wilson. Image sourced from the Billings Gazette. (Note: The article is behind a paywall.)

Trivia and Links
The title story A River Runs Through It was adapted for film in 1992 with director Robert Redford, and starred Tom Skerritt as the father Rev. Maclean, Brad Pitt as son Paul and Craig Sheffer as son Norman. A trailer for the film can be seen here.

The story USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook and a Hole in the Sky was adapted for the television movie The Ranger, the Cook and a Hole in the Sky in 1995 with director John Kent Harrison, and starred Sam Elliott as Ranger Bill Bell, Jerry O’Connell as Mac (the Norman Maclean character) and magician Ricky Jay as the cook/cardsharp. A very brief trailer for the film can be seen here. ( )
  alanteder | Jun 1, 2023 |
I just wanted to read the main story to see how it compared to the film. Very well written and only slightly different. Makes me want to take up fly fishing. ( )
  kslade | Dec 8, 2022 |
"… it is hard to imagine that a fish has anything to think about. Still, I could never be talked into believing that all a fish knows is hunger and fear. I have tried to feel nothing but hunger and fear and don't see how a fish could ever grow to six inches if that were all he ever felt." (pg. 19)

A River Runs Through It is a collection of three lightly-fictionalised autobiographical stories that are as fine an example of the writer's craft as you could hope to find. There is something in the best of American writing that you can't find anywhere else: a crisp, laconic prose style that has a nose for character and an ear for their ways of speaking, which reveals great things in simple words, lacks the affectation of the Old World and which, most remarkably, breathes, so that in Hemingway's 'Big Two-Hearted River', Thoreau's Walden, and the titular story of Norman Maclean's collection, you get a sense of the wide bounty and exuberance of this land through things that would otherwise seem closed and mundane.

The effect of the titular story of Maclean's collection, 'A River Runs Through It', is difficult to communicate in a review. It sounds unpromising: the writer, in his seventies, is relating the fishing trips of his youth in Montana which he spent with his brother (who died young) and his father. But it is as meticulously constructed and yet as natural a story as you could hope to find, becoming a tale, a narrative voice and a rhythm that you never want to leave. Through a combination of character, prose, thought, flow and setting – in short, everything a writer would want to master – Maclean delivers a story that is, at once, a story about fishing in Montana and a story about everything, about human interaction and hopes and tragedy and memory. Its narrative is peppered elegantly with aphorisms, but the greatest insight comes from the culmination of everything in the storytelling. The story ends with a "wonderful afternoon when all things came together" on a fishing trip (pg. 88), and as it all comes together in the prose you get the feeling that no one ever wrote better. That may or may not be true, but certainly 'A River Runs Through It' is the sort of thing writers hope to achieve when they put pen to paper.

The other two stories in the collection show that this was not a mere accident or fortuitous aligning of the stars for Maclean. Though neither reach the heights of 'River', they each showcase that same understanding of character, prose structure and scenery. Where 'River' was about Maclean's memories of fishing in Montana, 'Logging and Pimping and "Your Pal, Jim"' is about his same youthful memories of working as a logger in the state's forests. 'USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky' is about another job of his fighting forest fires. Each of the three reminiscences relate Maclean's sense that "life every now and then becomes literature" – as he writes in the third story – "not for long, of course, but long enough to be what we best remember" (pg. 127). Maclean wrote these, his first "fictional" stories, in his seventies, and clearly he remembered their events, or the sense of the events, keenly. He recognised there was something in these youthful memories that had lasted, and through his writing he brings it out.

Even though I've read Moby-Dick and the afore-mentioned Thoreau and Hemingway, I still didn't expect to be stirred so greatly by what seemed like just another fishing story (it's not one of my hobbies). Some will balk at following the writer as he talks about fly-fishing for a hundred pages or more, and see it as boring, but for readers of substance this is writing of high calibre. You shouldn't expect writers to spoon-feed you what you think you want, and if you want good writing you should seek it out anywhere and when it is about anything. And you should accept that as a reader you have to work for it; if you want to reach the heights that these writers are making available to you, you have to climb. As Maclean writes in his second story, "if you expected to duck all challenges, you shouldn't have wandered into the woods in the first place" (pg. 107).

When you approach a story in this way, you are allowing it to be beneficial to you. You appreciate the thing for doing what it does well, not for doing what you wanted it to do. And it is this which is part of what Maclean communicates with his 'river'; the flow of life that is there, moving, and which has more than what you came there for. At the end of the story, Maclean watches his brother catch a fish – "the last fish we were ever to see [him] catch" – but he's so far away "we never saw the fish but only the artistry of the fisherman" (pg. 100). The profundity of this is apparent even if it loses something in quotation, but couched within the completeness of Maclean's story and the flow of his river running through it, it reveals itself as something truly special. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jul 24, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Epigraph
Dedication
For Jean and John
to whom I have long told stories
First words
In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This collection contains A River Runs Through It and other stories; please don't combine it with the individual story or the movie.
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Fiction. Literature. HTML:

When Norman Maclean sent the manuscript of A River Runs through It and Other Stories to New York publishers, he received a slew of rejections. One editor, so the story goes, replied, "it has trees in it." Forty years later, the title novella is recognized as one of the great American tales of the twentieth century, and Maclean as one of the most beloved writers of our time. The finely distilled product of a long life of often surprising rapture??for fly-fishing, for the woods, for the interlocked beauty of life and art??A River Runs through It has established itself as a classic of the American West. This new edition will introduce a fresh audience to Maclean's beautiful prose and understated emotional insights.

Elegantly redesigned, A River Runs through It includes a new foreword by Robert Redford, director of the Academy Award-winning 1992 film adaptation of River. Based on Maclean's own experiences as a young man, the book's two novellas and short story are set in the small towns and mountains of western Montana. It is a world populated with drunks, loggers, card sharks, and whores, but also one rich in the pleasures of fly-fishing, logging, cribbage, and family. By turns raunchy and elegiac, these superb tales express, in Maclean's own words, "a little of the love I have for the earth as it goes by.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
It is an artful and painful story of family, fishing, life and death.

Contains:
  • A River Runs Through It {story}
  • USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky
  • Logging and Pimping and "Your Pal, Jim"
Haiku summary

Current Discussions

None

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (4.17)
0.5 1
1 7
1.5 1
2 9
2.5 5
3 66
3.5 25
4 179
4.5 24
5 208

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 206,089,344 books! | Top bar: Always visible