Apr 5, 2008

A River Runs Through It

and Other Stories
by Norman Maclean

Sadly, this is one of those posts where I write about why I didn't like a book that I really wanted to love. I heard great things about it. But when A. and I watched the movie version, I fell asleep. He loved it. He said it's "a guy movie". I thought well, the book is probably better.

As far as I got, A River Runs Through It is about the relationship between two brothers, and fly fishing. My copy also contains two short pieces, Logging and Pimping, and The Ranger, the Cook and a Hole in the Sky. These two are about summer jobs taken by the author as a young man in the early 1900's, in a logging camp and as a forest ranger. I found interesting the details on logging, fighting forest fires afoot with crews hired on the spot, and how to pack a mule train. I didn't like reading about the drinking, card gambling, fistfights and whores. I also didn't like that the first short piece was largely about how much the author hated his sawyer partner, and the second how much he hated the ranger station cook. I had a feeling the main title story was going to be about animosity between the brothers, as well.

Well, first of all I read the opening five pages of acknowledgements which is really a brief essay on why Maclean wrote the book. It was interesting. It mentioned that after he wrote the two short pieces, he got some writing advice and tried to follow it with A River Runs Through It. So I thought (for some reason) I'd read those two first and see how his writing improved with the third. Mistake! And I only made it about fifteen pages into the title piece, then skipped around a bit to see if the descriptive writing on fly fishing would improve upon it for me. It didn't. It's really sad to say that what I liked best about the book was the acknowledgements! But I still feel there's something very worthwhile in this book. I really want to appreciate it because it describes things close to my family: my father grew up in a logging town, and he also is a fly fisherman. I'm going to hold onto it for another try later. I feel this is the kind of book I have to read with a peaceful and contemplative mind, and right now I just want escape and entertainment.

Abandoned               217 pages, 1976


  1. I admit that I couldn't make it all the way through the movie either.

    It will be interesting to see if you feel differently later, when you try reading it again. Sometimes timing is everything.

  2. I was really bored by the movie. It looked great, Brad Pitt looked great, but that's about it for me. Didn't feel compelled to try out the book.

    Can I hijack your thread for one teeny moment to let you know that I finished Is There A Doctor In The Zoo? and loved it!? Can't believe I almost gave this away unread. I want to read more of David Taylor's adventures as a zoo vet.

    OK, here's your thread back again. I'll leave quietly now.

  3. Quite all right, Bybee! I just finished reading it for the third time myself. If you write about it, I'll link to your post in my post about the same book.I'm glad you liked it.

  4. Bummer! I love this movie, but it could be because when it came out I was very much in love with Brad Pitt (I was a young teen with a huge crush). After your review, I'm definitely not rushing out to get the book! I'll stick to the movie.


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