A River Runs Through It (novel)
First edition cover
|Genre||Autobiographical, novella, anthology|
|Publisher||University of Chicago Press|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
(paperback movie tie-in edition)
(hardback 25th anniversary edition)
(paperback 25th anniversary edition)
|LC Class||PZ4.M16345 Ri PS3563.A317993|
A River Runs Through It and Other Stories is a semi-autobiographical collection of three stories by American author Norman Maclean (1902–1990) published in 1976. It was the first work of fiction published by the University of Chicago Press.
The collection contains the novella "A River Runs Through It" and two short stories, "Logging and Pimping and 'Your pal, Jim'" and "USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky", which precede the events of the novella. It received widespread acclaim upon its publication and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Letters in 1977, but the selection committee ultimately did not award the prize in that category that year. Two of the stories were later adapted into feature films.
"A River Runs Through It"
"A River Runs Through It" is a semi-autobiographical account of Maclean's relationship with his brother Paul and their upbringing in an early 20th-century Montana family in which "there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing." Pete Dexter, in a 1981 profile of Maclean in Esquire magazine, described the novella:
It is a story about Maclean and his brother, Paul, who was beaten to death with a gun butt in 1938. It is about not understanding what you love, about not being able to help. It is the truest story I ever read; it might be the best written. And to this day it won’t leave me alone. I thought for a while it was the writing that kept bringing it around. That’s the way it comes back to me: I hear the sound of the words, then I see them happen. I spent four hours one afternoon picking out three paragraphs to drop into a column I was writing about the book, and in the end they didn’t translate, because except for the first sentence—'In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly-fishing'—there isn’t anything in it that doesn’t depend on what comes before it for its meaning.
As he describes his brother's alcoholism and gambling addiction, Maclean also explores how both afflictions have always followed the history of his family, even back to their earliest origins among Scottish Gaelic-speaking Presbyterians on the Isle of Mull.
The story is noted for using detailed descriptions of fishing and the Montana landscape to engage with a number of profound metaphysical questions. In a review for the Chicago Tribune, critic Alfred Kazin stated: "There are passages here of physical rapture in the presence of unsullied primitive America that are as beautiful as anything in Thoreau and Hemingway".
"Logging and Pimping and 'Your pal, Jim'"
"Logging and Pimping and 'Your pal, Jim'" tells the story of Maclean working as a logger for the Anaconda Company at a logging camp on the Blackfoot River during the summer of 1928, when he was 25 and in graduate school. At the end of the previous summer working at the camp (1927), Maclean had made an arrangement to work the next summer with the camp's best logger, Jim Grierson. Maclean describes how Grierson would work the logging season at a camp, then find a town with a nice Carnegie Public Library, get a library card, find a whore, preferably from the South, and spend the off-season reading, drinking, and having a relationship with the prostitute.
"USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky"
"USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky" tells of part of the summer of Maclean's seventeenth year, 1919. He spent that summer, as he had the previous two, working for the United States Forest Service, this time at Elk Summit, Idaho, west of Blodgett Canyon and approximately 34 miles (55 km) walking distance almost due west-northwest of Hamilton, Montana, near White Sand Creek, and north of East Fork Moose Creek.
Working for the Forest Service in a very remote part of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in the Selway National Forest (now Clearwater National Forest), Maclean had to extinguish wildfires, build trails (with sledgehammer, chisel and dynamite), pack horses and mules, spend time alone on lookout duty at 7,424 feet (2,263 m) Grave Peak, and string telephone wire.
The Elk Summit Work Center is located at the junction of Horse Creek and Hoodoo Creek, north-northwest of Hoodoo Mountain and north-northeast of Hoodoo Lake, at  and an elevation of 5,748 feet (1,752 m).(46.3265874, -114.6476053)
A River Runs Through It and Other Stories was first published by the University of Chicago Press in May 1976, and has since been published in several formats: as a collection of short stories, bearing a title starting with that of the novella, and as a standalone novella, usually as an art book with many photographs or with many illustrations such as woodcuts. For much of its publishing history it was purposely not advertised, its publicity depending on word of mouth and critical mention. Talk of the "never advertised" book generated a considerable amount of publicity.
A hardcover illustrated version issued in Chicago by the University of Chicago Press in 1989 with ISBN 0-226-50060-8 is still in print. The anthology of short stories with the novella, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, was issued as a paperback by the University of Chicago Press in 2003 with ISBN 0-226-50066-7.
In 1977, the Pulitzer Prize committee for Fiction (a.k.a. "fiction jury") recommended A River Runs Through It be awarded the prize for that year. The Pulitzer Prize Board, which has final say for awarding the prize, chose to override their recommendation and decided not to award for fiction that year. Pete Dexter wrote in 1981 that the jury called it "a lean year for fiction" but speculated about their true reasons: "I know just enough about the Pulitzer people to guess that what happened was that one of them noticed the trees too."
A River Runs Through It
In 1992, Robert Redford directed a film of the same name starring Brad Pitt, Craig Sheffer, Tom Skerritt, Brenda Blethyn, and Emily Lloyd. It was nominated for three Academy Awards, with Philippe Rousselot winning for his cinematography. The film fueled a rise in the popularity of fly fishing for a number of years before the sport waned to previous levels.
The Ranger, the Cook and a Hole in the Sky
"USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky" was adapted into a 1995 ABC television film titled The Ranger, the Cook and a Hole in the Sky, also known simply as Hole in the Sky. The film was directed by John Kent Harrison, with the adaptation written by Robert Wayne, and stars Sam Elliott, Jerry O'Connell, Ricky Jay, and Molly Parker. It was filmed in British Columbia, Canada.
- “At that moment I knew, surely and clearly, that I was witnessing perfection. He stood before us, suspended above the earth, free from all its laws like a work of art, and I knew, just as surely and clearly, that life is not a work of art, and that the moment could not last.”
- Dexter, Pete (23 March 2014) [June 1981]. "The Old Man and the River". Esquire. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
- Cooper, David B. - "Hooked on Fly-Fishing, Good Writing". - Akron Beacon Journal. - August 12, 1990.
—Reed, Leonard. - "Filming the Beauty of Words". - The Record. - October 13, 1992.
—Judd, Ron. - "Fishing Prose Hooks Readers". - The Seattle Times. - April 13, 1995.
- Kazin, Alfred. - "Frontiers of True Feeling - Norman Maclean's Montana Classic". - Chicago Tribune. - August 6, 1989.
- Maclean, Norman (1992). - "Logging and Pimping and 'Your pal, Jim'". - A River Runs Through It and Other Stories. - New York, New York: Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster). - pp.115-135. - ISBN 0-671-77697-5.
- Maclean, Norman (1992). - "USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky". - A River Runs Through It and Other Stories. - New York, New York: Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster). - pp.137-237. - ISBN 0-671-77697-5.
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- McDowell, Edwin (May 11, 1984). "Publishing: Pulitzer Controversies". NYtimes.com. Retrieved 2009-02-28.
- DEXTER, PETE. "The Old Man and the River | Esquire | JUNE 1981". Esquire | The Complete Archive. Retrieved Dec 4, 2020.
- Farris, Bruce. - "Fly Fish is More Alluring Than Ever". - The Fresno Bee. - September 30, 1993.
—Niskanen, Chris. - "Casting for Customers: Fly Fishing's Popularity is Waning". - St. Paul Pioneer Press. - June 13, 1999.
—Brasher, Bryan. - "Movie Madness: Sport of Fly Fishing Receives Boost from Popular Movie, Book". - Ledger-Enquirer. - December 30, 2001.
—"How fly-fishing has changed since 'River Runs Through It'". - North Adams Transcript. - April 11, 2002.
- The Ranger, the Cook and a Hole in the Sky. - IMDb.
- Lisk, Jamie. - "The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky" Archived January 2, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. - CrankedOnCinema.com. - October 18, 2008.
- "Statues | United Center". www.unitedcenter.com. Retrieved Dec 4, 2020.
- Excerpt from "A River Runs Through It" - University of Chicago Press
- Norman Maclean: Of Scholars, Fishing and the River by John G. Cawelti
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