The River Why

( 22 )

Overview

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 ...
See more details below
Paperback (Anniversar)
$11.59
BN.com price
(Save 22%)$14.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (82) from $1.99   
  • New (18) from $8.60   
  • Used (64) from $1.99   
Sending request ...

Overview

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.

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

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
Irreverent, offbeat, and thoroughly likable.
Chicago Tribune
Entertaining . . . humorous . . . well worth reading.
Esquire
Wonderfully funny . . . imbued with a wisdom and a rather joyous ecology-minded spirit.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781578050840
  • Publisher: Sierra Club Books
  • Publication date: 8/5/2002
  • Edition description: Anniversar
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 154,669
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

David James Duncan is the author of The Brothers K, an American Library Association Best Books Award winner and a New York Times Notable Book, and River Teeth, a memoir and collection of stories. The River Why and The Brothers K both won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award. Duncan's work has appeared in Harper's, Outside, Orion, The Sun, Sierra, Big Sky Journal, Northern Lights, Gray's Sporting Journal, and many other publications. He lives with his family beside a Montana trout stream.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Book 1 The Compleat Angler
1 "Gus the Fish" 3
2 The Rogue River Fishing War 10
3a Concerning Statistics 14
3b Some Biographical Statistics 17
4 Statistical Improbabilities 20
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
5 I Reckon 106
6 Anamnesis 113
Book 3 Characters in Nature
1 The River Writes 130
2 Neighbors 143
3 The Warble of the Water Owl 149
4 Eddy 157
5 Jesus Keeps Fishing 163
6 Descartes 170
7 Philosophizing 176
8 Little, But Strong 184
9 Closing the Door 191
Book 4 The Line of Light
1 Hemingway 200
2 Dutch 208
3 Nick the Convert 220
4 The Trek 233
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
Last Chapter 280
Acknowledgments and Dedications 292
Heart Work: An afterword, twenty years later 294
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 22 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(16)

4 Star

(5)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2010

    Most important book I ever read

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 13, 2013

    The story that was a river. This story begins in the pool of st

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2012

    funny and thought provoking

    a very touching and hilarious conservation book..really makes one think

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A "Real Catch"..."The River Why".

    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!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2009

    from skeptical to spectacular!

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Fun Read, Even for Non-Fishers

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2008

    My favorite book.

    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  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2008

    Great read, even for the non-fisher

    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  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2006

    Puts life in perspective.

    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  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2003

    let this book tell you who you are

    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

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2001

    Stunning

    I read this book and 'The Brothers K' in such a rush, and loved both. Read these books.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2001

    Get this book!!!! Read it, read it again, and make at least one other person read it!

    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  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2001

    One of the Greatest books of all time

    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  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2000

    THE BEST EVER WRITTEN

    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  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2000

    One of the best books I've every read!

    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  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2000

    Poignant, timeless story that touches the heart & mind

    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  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2000

    Words strung wonderfully together create a novel to be devoured.

    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  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)