A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean

A River Runs Through It is another installment in the continuous literature class my friend Jimmy provides for me by periodically sending me books.  He never sends anything easy.  It’s all so dense, so literary (for lack of a better word).  It takes me a while to read the books he sends, and while I may not recommend every one, I never regret reading them.

A River Runs Through It is a classic I’d never read before.  Jimmy says it’s the great American lyrical novel.  I believe Norman Maclean is his favorite writer (or up at the top of the list).  And I can understand why.  The novella is truly beautiful.  But it’s also deceptive.  It moves so slowly for so long, at the pace of the fishing that is the core of the story, until you wonder if anything is going to happen.  But you know that something has to happen, and about halfway through the story you begin to dread it.  You know, of course, what’s going to happen, but there’s this part of you that hopes that you’re wrong, that there will be a happy ending after all.  So when you get to the end, you’re not really surprised, but no less sad for having known the outcome.

The copy Jimmy sent me is the 25th anniversary edition, and includes two additional stories, but I’m not going to review them.  They weren’t that great, especially after having read A River Runs Through It.  I think the editor should have put the other two stories first, because as it was, I didn’t really enjoy them.

One last note: I really hate introductions.  Don’t editors realize that not everyone has read every classic book?  I think there should be summaries at the end of classics.  Sure, I could not read the introductions, but when they’re at the beginning of a book, I almost feel compelled to read them first (although I’m going to try not to in the future).

Leave a Reply