Haunted by Waters: Fly Fishing in North American Literature

Overview

Why does one fish? How should one properly fish? What relations are created in fishing? And what effects does fishing have on the future? Mark Browning explores these questions in his own fly-fishing apprenticeship and in his reading of angling literature, from the Bible to Norman Maclean. Again and again his inquiry returns to the enigmatic quality of this sport. The fly fisher, it appears, is a divided and conflicted character. The literature reflects this in its melding of different traditions - an Old World ...
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Overview

Why does one fish? How should one properly fish? What relations are created in fishing? And what effects does fishing have on the future? Mark Browning explores these questions in his own fly-fishing apprenticeship and in his reading of angling literature, from the Bible to Norman Maclean. Again and again his inquiry returns to the enigmatic quality of this sport. The fly fisher, it appears, is a divided and conflicted character. The literature reflects this in its melding of different traditions - an Old World legacy, represented by Izaak Walton and other British anglers, and such New World tributries as Native American tradition. Transcendentalism, and early writer of the of the conservation movement. Later writers including Norman Maclean, Nick Lyons, and John Gierach, question and extend the philosophical underpinnings of the angling art. As Browning surveys the literature, his ongoing counterpoint is the story of his attempt to reconcile fishing and writing in his own life. These personal interludes enliven the literary tradition, which in turn enriches Browning's efforts at the keyboard and in the stream. Indeed, Browning concludes, writing and fly fishing are similar and symbiotic processes.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Haunted by Waters is a landmark book…[Browning’s] brilliant displays of research and erudition in chapters on Old World and New World angling traditions and American Transcendentalism are nonpareil. So, too, is his comprehension regarding the art of fly-fishing in its entirety. What’s more, no one has ever written a literary history of fly-fishing, even a brief one, with more style or insight.”
Bloomsbury Review

“In this thoughtful, penetrating…look at the literature of fly-fishing, the author notes that fishermen who write can be likened to our ancient ancestors,who blazoned portrayals of the hunt on the walls of … caves’…. In scrutinizing Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises and his story ‘Big Two-Hearted River' … Browning finds the most profound portrayals of fishing as anactivity where life and death meet and stare at each other.’”
Kirkus Reviews

“Anyone who is genuinely interested in fly-fishing and is also a serious reader will be gratified by Browning's book…. Authors of books in which fly-fishing plays an accompanying role are household words. Browning's book is a better guide to what to read than any other I know.”
The Baltimore Sun

“Many anglers can't seem to get enough of their sport, so they make artificial flies and read a lot about fishing when they're not streamside. Browning's book contemplates the strong attraction of this revered pastime and thoughtfully considers the literature that it has inspired…. Chapters that can be categorized as ecocriticism, the new term for environmental literary criticism, are interspersed with ‘Interludes,’ wherein Browning, a devoted fly fisherman, offers first-person confessions and observations about his joyful obsession. Recommended for all large fishing collections.”—Library Journal

Kirkus Reviews
Fishing, particularly fly fishing, writes Browning, "seems to hold a disproportionate place" in North American letters In this thoughtful, penetrating, but dissertation-like look at the literature of fly-fishing, the author notes that fishermen who write can be likened to our ancient ancestors, "who blazoned portrayals of the hunt on the walls of caves." Browning asserts that "the distinctiveness" of American fishing writing flows from the Transcendentalists, in particular from a few paragraphs by Thoreau in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers wherein he views an old man fishing from a riverbank as performing "a sort of solemn sacrament." Thoreau and others established another early hallmark of American fishing writing, he suggests, by wistfully writing of a Golden Age in America "to be preferred over the present age of industry." But it is in scrutinizing Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises and his story "Big Two-Hearted River" that Browning finds the most profound portrayals of fishing as an "activity where life and death meet and stare at each other." Unfortunately, this is also where the author's dissertation style is most in evidence as he overreaches to investigate the "story's doubleness," as suggested by its title. Interspersed with these scholarly chapters are þinterludesþ about Browningþs own fishing experiences.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821412190
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/1998
  • Pages: 228
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Ch. 1 The View from Midstream 1
Interlude 1: The Frog 13
Ch. 2 Upstream: The European Fork 17
Interlude 2: The Dangler 37
Ch. 3 Upstream: The American Fork 41
Interlude 3: False Casts 59
Ch. 4 The Confluence: Roderick Haig-Brown 63
Interlude 4: First Casts 79
Ch. 5 Big Two-Hearted Writer: Part One 83
Interlude 5: The Hanging 101
Ch. 6 Big Two-Hearted Writer: Part Two 105
Interlude 6: The House Divided 117
Ch. 7 A Visit to The River Why 121
Interlude 7: The End of the Rainbow 133
Ch. 8 How I Fished and What I Fished For 137
Interlude 8: Crane Creek 155
Ch. 9 Ichthys und Du 159
Interlude 9: The Connection 179
Ch. 10 The View Downstream 183
Aftermath 197
Ch. 11 Rivers to the Sea 201
Works Cited 211
Index 219
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