Friday, August 29, 2008

A River Runs Through It

The Official Movie Poster

' In our family there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.'

'I am haunted by waters.'

The first & closing lines to a classic American novella. The last paragraph of this book is a beautiful meditation on life.
All this talk of rivers brings me to this wonderful book where the river and fly fishing ties the life of one Presbyterian family together while providing a refuge and a possible moment of grace. The book, A River Runs Through It was written by Norman Maclean and based on the authors experiences. Norman Maclean worked summers in logging camps and for The US Forest Service in his youth before becoming a professor of English at The University of Chicago. He has written one other book on the Mann Gulch Forest Fire in 1949 in Montana, Young Men and Fire. A River Runs Through It is a great read and if you get a chance pick up the illustrated version by Barry Moser, one of North Americas finest wood engravers. The Moser edition was issued in a deluxe edition of 6 copies and a Ltd Edition of 2oo both printed letterpress by the Penny Royal Press. These were signed by both Maclean and Moser but only after the publisher agreed to reissue the colophon page as the fly tyer, George Croonenberghs’ name was misspelled and Maclean would not sign them until it was corrected. It was Croonenberghs’ flies that were used as the models for a number of engravings in the book. It's also available in a trade hard back published by the University of Chicago Press. His stark engravings are a wonderful accompaniment to the text.
Moser's engravings are sometimes very dark. His rendition of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein is downright scary. His landmark treatment of the New Testament in The Pennyroyal Caxton Edition is monumental & ground breaking if not controversial.
The movie by Robert Redford is haunting. The fishing scenes in this movie are nothing short of mystical & spectacular; then there is Brad Pitt too. Although it's a tragic story, the film and the book has some wonderful moments of merriment including Norman's girlfriend's brother who gets a little too much sun while "fishing". I do love Redford's films. Two of my other favourites are The Milagro Beanfield War and The Bridges of Madison County (A real tear jerker, the book too.)
Most of the book focuses on The Big Backfoot river, fishing and the camaraderie of both Norman and his brother Paul. I do hope you get a chance to read this book someday.

'Eventually all things merge into one and a river runs through it'


willow said...

I love the Redford movie, in fact I own a DVD copy. The fly fishing scenes are heavenly. A very touching film. But I haven't read the book and now must add it to my Tower of Piza list! Nice post, Stephen. Hope you're enjoying your Saturday. It's a lovely one down here in central Ohio.

A World Away said...

Hi Willow,

Thanks. I own one too and love it. It started off cool today but is now a lovely warm day. It's been busy in the gallery today.

acornmoon said...

When we lived in Stafford we visited Isaac Walton's cottage. I don't know if his work "The Complete Angler" is as well known in Canada?

I loved that film with Robert Redford, I am a great fan of his. He's one of those people who are "chronicly good looking".

Margaret said...

A River Runs Through It is one of my favourite books. It's such a well-written, simple novella--I would kill to be able to write like that! I have the hardback edition you're showing a picture of. The Redford film is really well done, but nothing compares to the book!

A World Away said...

Acorn Moon,
The Complete Angler is one of the classics in angling literature and one of the earliest writings published on the sport of fishing.
Did you like him in The Bridges of Madison County?

A World Away said...

I just finished the book again last night and must say I have to agree with you. How did you like Barry Mosers engravings? Have you read Macleans book on the forest fire in Montana? I believe James Keelahan wrote a song about that fire too?