While essays and exams continue to limit new book prospects, I am relegated to chatting about oldie but goodies. Today's oldie-but-goodie is A River Runs Through It by Norman MacLean. I cannot in all consciousness, have a blog about books and not include this gem. I first discovered the book (for shame!) after a long obsession with the film. I think I was in grade seven when my dad picked up the film from the rental store. It remains the only movie I can tolerate Brad Pitt in. I cannot describe how moved I was; as much then ( if somewhat differently ) as I am now. There is something poetical in the story itself that supersedes medium; intrinsically woven into the fly-fishing motif, in the sudden eruption of modernism such as cars and speak-easy's, and the relationship between the two competitive and completely opposite brothers: the altruistic and bookish "professor" Norm and his younger, teasing, refreshing and rapscallion brother Paul.
Perhaps it was their life as minister's kids ( something I relate to firsthand ) or the beautiful Montana scenery: painted in sparse prose like a watercolour, or the watching eye of the prim minister and his elegant rural wife.
I loved the story, MacLean's fictionalized autobiographical account is told in an almost W.O. Mitchell-esque manner. Both write a love story not only to "Golden Ages" of yesteryear but to landscapes: broad, beautiful, engulfing: the kind of landscape that would make you want to grab your fishing gear and basket, jump into the torrent tides or kiss a pretty girl with rose-bud lips mid-Charleston.
River makes me homesick for a town I never lived in, reminiscent of an era I never lived in,mindful of an article I never read in the Helena newspaper, and regretful of a life that was never mine. It is quite a sensory, unusual book that can take you home as this one can. To a home you think you know as well as the author. You can smell the trout jumping upstream, feel the creaky bannister in the parsonage, and even touch the new vinyl on an old Ford.
Escape to the Twenties and pick this little treasure up; it is not as hopelessly ambitious as The Great Gatsby. It is a breath of fresh, Montana air.