This book features one novella and a couple of short stories and they are mostly about fly-fishing, logging (before the invention of a chainsaw), and the early days of United States Forest Service. It goes into fine details of casting line (which apparently is "an art that is performed on a four-count rhythm between ten and two o'clock"), finding a good sawing partner and ideal sawing rhythm, and the methods of extinguishing wildfires in the early twentieth century; generally the sort of thing every 21st century girl cares a good deal about.
Norman Maclean grew up in the old times, before they invented a metrosexual man and taught him how to communicate his feelings, so the men in 'A River Runs Through It' express their emotions the best they know how - by fishing, logging, playing cards or putting out a forest fire. I often found myself a little lost in this peculiar semantics but then suddenly the meaning would reveal itself and go straight for my stomach punching me there and bypassing my brain. And I suppose it felt like when you finally catch that son of a bitch trout that has been evading you all morning.
Trust me when I tell you, this book is beautiful. I have highlighted half of it, even the bits about fishing and flies like this one:
"Blundering and soft-bellied, they had been born before they had brains. They had spent a year under water on legs, had crawled out on a rock, had become flies and copulated with the ninth and tenth segments of their abdomens, and then had died as the first light wind blew them into the water where the fish circled excitedly. They were a fish's dream come true—stupid, succulent, and exhausted from copulation. Still, it would be hard to know what gigantic portion of human life is spent in this same ratio of years under water on legs to one premature, exhausted moment on wings."
Apart from being beautiful, it is also funny.
"I was afraid to look at my lower quarters to see what was still with me. Instead, I studied the snags of those branches to see which of my private parts were to hang there forever and slowly turn to stone. Finally, I could tell by the total distribution of pain that all of me was still on the same nervous system."
Maclean says that "It's no trouble at all to be tragic when you're tired and alone, but to be funny you have to be fresh and you have to have time on your hands and you have to have an audience—and you have to be funny. And, however much you may love the woods, you can't claim it is full of natural wits.".
Obviously Maclean was fresh, had time on his hands and an audience, which altogether makes 'A River Runs Through It' highly recommendable.
And if you don't feel strong enough to take this book on, they also made a film with Brad Pitt and a 9 year old Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who is the second cutest thing after baby pandas).
I want to move to Montana.