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'

The Willows

I've been fishing for Cutthroats the past two days. It's been a world way for me. No phones or computers just the soothing sound of the river, birds, animals and everything else that goes with a day on two on the river.
It got me thinking about "The Willows" and then I read Margaret's post about Tasha Tudor & I knew it was time for The Wind in The Willows (The Willows) by Kenneth Grahame, one of my all time favourite reads. It did and still does take me away, along the byways and the hedgerows of the English country side. I love the characters and I do like 'Ol Toad, the scoundrel. It's the story of Mole waking up out of hibernation and meeting Ratty & their madcap adventures with Toad . It's about boats and the river the discovery of the automobile and chance encounters during their many laughable adventures together and separately. I particularly like the corrupting influence of Toad over Ratty and Mole when before they know it he has talked them into hopping in a horse draw Gypsy style caravan and going on an adventure in the countryside.
The genesis of the Willows was the story letters from Kenneth Grahame to his entertain his son, Alister. Alister was a tempestuous boy by all accounts and sickly. Upon retirement as Secretary for the Bank of England he started to collect the ideas from the letters and write the book. There are some good reads on the letters and on Grahame who had somewhat of a tragic life. He also wrote other children's books including Dream Days,The Golden Days and The Reluctant Dragon.
The Willows was published October 4 1908, making this year it's 100Th anniversary. I've been planning around this for some time as I will doing a feature show in the gallery on 'The Willows" in October to co-incide with the anniversary. We are going to have a good selection of early editions including a 1st American Edition, The Nancy Burkhart illustrated edition, the 1st Edition illustrated by Earnest Shepard. We will also have illustrated editions by Inga Moore, Michel Plexis, Arthur Rackham, Tasha Tudor and Charles Van Sandwyk. If you have any suggestions for other illustrated editions please share.
Vancouver artist Charles van Sandwyk, was commissioned by the Folio Society of London to re illustrate the Willows on 2004. The book has won an award for cover design and comes in a handsome slipcase with a willows design by Charles. It was 2 years in the making and includes many line drawings as well as colour illustrations. The coloured illustrations are a mix of pen & ink and watercolour or sepia/handcoloured etchings. I think Charles has done the Willows proud. He has captured the characters so well and there is a wonderful warmth in the illustrations. He travelled to England and visited the Cookham Dean area and spent time on the river Thames there to do study sketches. An illustrators limited edition of this was issued by Charles with a signed etching bound in & they were snapped up very quickly. We will be exhibiting the original art of Charles Van Sandwyk from the Willows as a part of this show.
If you haven't read it lately I encourage you to pick up a copy, have a cup of tea (chocolate covered biscuits an essential accompaniment), relax by the fire (falls nip is in the air) and then drift away.

More to come on this.