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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.
The story of a young flyfisherman - a novel "in the company of Catch-22 and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." The Houston Post
|Book 1||The Compleat Angler|
|1||"Gus the Fish"||3|
|2||The Rogue River Fishing War||10|
|3b||Some Biographical Statistics||17|
|5a||The Great Izaak Walton Controversy: the Parental Version||29|
|5b||The Great Izaak Walton Controversy: My Own Rendition||36|
|6||Excerpts from the God-notebook||40|
|7||Being "Educated" and "Gittin' Brung Up"||45|
|8||The "Ideal Schedule"||56|
|9||Voiding My Rheum||59|
|Book 2||The Undoing of a Scientific Angler|
|1||Where I Lived and What I Lived For||70|
|2||Water on the Brain||83|
|3||Anvil Abe and the Phantom Fisherman||90|
|4||Fainting Before the Duel||98|
|Book 3||Characters in Nature|
|1||The River Writes||130|
|3||The Warble of the Water Owl||149|
|5||Jesus Keeps Fishing||163|
|8||Little, But Strong||184|
|9||Closing the Door||191|
|Book 4||The Line of Light|
|3||Nick the Convert||220|
|5||The Raven and the [characters not reproducible]||244|
|6||Googler and Mangler||252|
|7||Trick or Treat||260|
|8||The Line of Light||268|
|Book 5||At the End of the Line|
|Acknowledgments and Dedications||292|
|Heart Work: An afterword, twenty years later||294|
Posted December 17, 2010
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.
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Posted December 13, 2013
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.
Posted August 15, 2012
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!
Posted November 11, 2009
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.
Posted October 12, 2009
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.
Posted June 25, 2008
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 29, 2008
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 21, 2006
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 14, 2003
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 timeWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 18, 2001
Posted May 23, 2001
Possibly the best book I've ever read. David Duncan has mastered the English language and he creates a story that takes you through your emotions and leaves the Soul begging to truly live. Remember your dreefrees!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 29, 2001
I got the suggestion to read this book from my junior english teacher. When i read it it was a great book but 2 months later i read the book again and totally got emersed. i want to read it a third time but have other books to read. But definetely one of the elite.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 20, 2000
This book was a required read in freshman lit class many years ago. I have read it several times over the years, and always discover something new every time I read it. This book touched me in many ways. The River Why isn't really about fly fishing, but is about finding out who you are and how you're going to live. This is, without a doubt, my favorite book ever.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 15, 2000
I read this book about 15 years ago and still think about it and rate it as one of my all time favorites. I'm not a fly fisherman, but obviously you don't have to be to enjoy this book. It grabs you right away and you can't put it down. It's funny, sad, thought provoking, GREAT!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 3, 2000
I have read this book twice, and loved it each time. Duncan has spun a tale that spans generations and eras; a story of love, life, finding oneself, coping with adolescence and adulthood, trying to fit into society, and more importantly, trying to fit into one's family... this is a novel that anyone can read and enjoy. Passion for fishing is what drives the family of the story; however, Duncan also uses fishing as an analogy for life, love, and relationships. He captures the essence of the sport as easily captures the essence of life. Duncan's 'The River Why' is sure to become a classic in the years to come.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 13, 2000
Duncan blends visul images of fishing that prove an irrisistable lure to even the least fisherman savvy of us. He tells a tale of growing up in a way that makes me want to run out and buy both a casting reel and a fishing pole. His parents are both two dimensional characters and down to earth people that I wish I had known in my youth. The analogies are so funny that when I was reading the book for the first time, I laughed in the bus seat I occupied out loud and without care. What a gift he offers by way of his stories. Not to miss, not to let go by you, this book is a must read for everyone.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 5, 2010
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Posted December 29, 2009
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Posted May 7, 2009
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