The River Why / Edition 1

The River Why / Edition 1

4.5 15
by David James Duncan

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ISBN-10: 1578050847

ISBN-13: 9781578050840

Pub. Date: 08/05/2002

Publisher: Sierra Club Books

Since its Publication by Sierra Club Books two decades ago, The River Why has become a classic, standing with Norman Maclean's A River Runs through It as the most widely read fiction about fly fishing of our era. This captivating and exuberant tale is told by Gus Orviston, an irreverent young flyfisherman and one of the most appealing heroes in contemporary American


Since its Publication by Sierra Club Books two decades ago, The River Why has become a classic, standing with Norman Maclean's A River Runs through It as the most widely read fiction about fly fishing of our era. This captivating and exuberant tale is told by Gus Orviston, an irreverent young flyfisherman and one of the most appealing heroes in contemporary American fiction. Leaving behind a madcap, fishing-obsessed family, Gus decides to strike out on his own, taking refuge in a secluded cabin on a remote riverbank to pursue his own flyfishing passion with unrelenting zeal. But instead of finding fishing bliss, Gus becomes increasingly troubled by the degradation of the natural world around him and by the spiritual barrenness of his own life. His desolation drives him on a reluctant quest for self-discovery and meaning -- ultimately fruitful beyond his wildest dreams. Unexpected companions along the way include Gus's precocious, water-phobic brother, Bill Bob; a sage old Warm Springs Indian named Thomas Bigeater; a flamboyant, self-styled philosopher and his wise dog, Descartes; and, most important, a divinely beautiful and enigmatic fisher-woman who sets Gus the astonishing task of tracking a spawning salmon upriver in the dead of night.

Here, then, is a funny, sensitive, unforgettable story about the relationships among men, women, the environment, and the human soul -- about love of place, love of people, and the spiritual forces that firmly join them. Stylistically adept and ambitious in scope, The River Why is a touching and powerful novel by an important voice in American fiction. In a new Afterword, written for this twentieth-anniversary edition, David James Duncan reflects on the writing of the novel and on the surprising link between fishing and wisdom.

Product Details

Sierra Club Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.76(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.85(d)

Table of Contents

Book 1The Compleat Angler
1"Gus the Fish"3
2The Rogue River Fishing War10
3aConcerning Statistics14
3bSome Biographical Statistics17
4Statistical Improbabilities20
5aThe Great Izaak Walton Controversy: the Parental Version29
5bThe Great Izaak Walton Controversy: My Own Rendition36
6Excerpts from the God-notebook40
7Being "Educated" and "Gittin' Brung Up"45
8The "Ideal Schedule"56
9Voiding My Rheum59
Book 2The Undoing of a Scientific Angler
1Where I Lived and What I Lived For70
2Water on the Brain83
3Anvil Abe and the Phantom Fisherman90
4Fainting Before the Duel98
5I Reckon106
Book 3Characters in Nature
1The River Writes130
3The Warble of the Water Owl149
5Jesus Keeps Fishing163
8Little, But Strong184
9Closing the Door191
Book 4The Line of Light
3Nick the Convert220
4The Trek233
5The Raven and the [characters not reproducible]244
6Googler and Mangler252
7Trick or Treat260
8The Line of Light268
Book 5At the End of the Line
Last Chapter280
Acknowledgments and Dedications292
Heart Work: An afterword, twenty years later294

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The River Why 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A friend passed this along years ago with the comment "It's about water, and fishing, only not really. You really need to read it". It is the one book to this day that I reread every few years, and the one I pass along to true friends who I think can see and appreciate (or sometimes need) the soul in the book. If you're lucky, it might even help you find your own Eddy.
amy010 More than 1 year ago
The story that was a river. This story begins in the pool of stagnant water of Gus’s life as a boy growing up in Portland, Oregon. He is a prodigal fisher-kid, born to a pair as compatible as Lord Byron and Calamity Jane. The only points on which the three of them converge is the water and the fish that sway within, and their affection for Gus's little brother, Bill Bob.  Bill Bob wants nothing to do with water, but swims in metaphysical waters like one born with gills. Gus's family is in a state of perpetual conflict, particularly with regards to the method by which fish should be taken from the water. The battle of worms vs. flies rages on a daily basis, revealing a deep disconnect between his parents. After graduation without honors, Gus's river leaps the log jam, and glides post-haste to a cabin on Oregon's fictitious Tamawanis river. Isolated, he spends all his time following his Ideal Schedule: Sleeping, fishing, eating, drinking and sleeping again. Instead finding utter happiness, one such as myself would expect, he sinks and spins as though he's caught in the eddy of a waterfall. His philosophical minded friend, Titus, offers him hand and pulls him free.  Free flowing again the story meanders through remembrances of his childhood, through ancient forests that fell victim to refir madness, through Sherar’s falls fished by the Native American, Tomas Bigeater, who remembers his spirit, and by other Native Americans who cannot. A branch of the river flows through the city of Portland and dies, while the main story flows on. The river is rife with riffles of laughter, between pools of deep clarity, and eddies of beauty, and murky stretches of disorientation.  Sometimes the river passes through the physical into the metaphysical, to return luminous. It is alive with spirited trout, minnows of greatness and longing, ugly yet delectable nymphs, and worms wrapped in mud like Twinkies. This story-river makes fun of itself, gives and gets, despairs and hopes. It bubbles from it's spring wondering at its purpose, finds its spirit, all the while asking, “Why?”  David James Duncan has written a beautiful river that I will float, fish, skinny dip, and refresh my spirit in again, and again, and again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
a very touching and hilarious conservation book..really makes one think
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been at this game(reading)for quite some time now. You might even say that I've been reading...well, since I first learned to read. So, what constitutes a "good book"? I've "hunkered down behind my dead horse, a canteen full of water just a few feet out of reach, although it might as well be a hundred miles away for all the good it will do me. The sun is so hot in this Arizona desert sky I can barely stand to hold on to my Winchester, but the Apaches are out there somewhere, watching...and waiting". Or maybe I am the living soul of a space ship, singing my way towards the Horsehead Nebula. Ever wondered what it would be like to know where to scratch that exact spot on the soft eye ridge of a dragon? Or how to flame "thread"? No? then perhaps to be a half-elf, destroying the Warlock Lord with the simple truth of a magical sword. A book may be an escape from reality, a tool for learning, or a way to gain insight. More than often a book is a glimpse into the beliefs, perceptions or feelings of the writer. But a REALLY good book is "The River Why". As is true all too often in life, two boys - Gus and brother Billy Bob, grow up in a dysfunctional (yet not really too dysfunctional) family. Woven with monofilament line and tied tightly - with fishing knots - into Izaak Walton's "The Compleat Angler", this is a story of family, home, growing up, and finding oneself, told by a better-than-average fisherman,(Gus) in a style that finds the reader laughing, then crying, and finally soul-searching. Read it, and you'll find out why it's sometimes important to "burn your Nijinsky's", to always remember what a "dreefee" is, and never, ever forget to look for the "Line of Light". Hidden also within the pages - a plea from the writer for protecting our own beautiful home, planet earth. Just as good the fourth or fifth time around, (I should know) I still have the original given to me by a dear friend. So I won't wear that one out, I bought another, and more than a couple of times have given the book as a gift. The finest reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was my required summer reading book this year, and when i learned what it was about, i was incredibly skeptical. i put it off till the week before school started and all i thought about was "how could a school think a teenager was going to read a book about fishing". Yes, the first few chapters are filled with fishing-lingo, a bit hard to swallow, especially for a non-fisher like myself, but the humor keeps the reader going, and you eventually get into the swing of things. It may seem at first that the whole book is Gus reciting his childhood memories, but believe me, the plot will come! Overall, The River Why is my best summer reading book ever. It is great for ages young adult and above, since there is sex, swearing, and a challenging vocabulary. I enjoyed it immensely, despite my prejudices, and found it to be thoughtful, funny, amusing, romantic, inspirational, and had me laughing out loud each night. The numerous characters are fascinating and will stay with you forever, their memorable quotes occasionally popping into your head during normal conversation. David Duncan did a spectacular job rolling all of these and fishing into one amazing novel.
NJouy More than 1 year ago
This was a great read. With its wit, surprising lessons, and interesting characters, it kept me fully engaged. Also, The River Why is full of fisherman humor and inside jokes. If you don't fish or don't know much about fishing, the book is still a fun read; if you've had any experience in the fishing world, all the better! My dad fly-fished all through my childhood and taught me how to cast and tie flies. In some ways, he reminds me of the main character's father, H2O-though my dad is far less militant about fly-fishing. I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves a good read, and it is a must read for those who even casually like to fish.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book will have you laughing out loud from beginning to end. Great for both sexes, as long as you have appreciation for the outdoors, witty characters, and humor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A fellow flyfisher shared this book with me. It is a great story about the development of a young man. I believe it to be acceptable for teens and older generally.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read this book a total of six times, cover to cover. it's one of those books that helps you realize that there is more to life than fishing, and as a famous book once said, 'man can not live on break alone'. i recomend this book to anyone who love the water and loves life even more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book my senior year and it put everything in perspective for me. and gives you a great sense of regret when you close it for the last time