In days of angst and rage it is to art, and specifically to literature that we return to remind us of the American experience and what it means to be part of each other. “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.”
It is to Norman Maclean that we return, when our hearts are weary. For he has given us the quintessential American novel. About a Scottish preacher and his wayward boy — united as fly-fishermen fishing the rivers upon the spine of a great continent.
There is so much magic in Maclean’s masterpiece that it is defied only by its own simplicity. Without chapters, short (I read it in a day and a half), sometimes vulgar – because we are sometimes vulgar – often majestic as only is possible through goodness product of character; bereft of the violence of spirit that engenders only nasty vicious little art (like most of the garbage on Netflix these days; and most of the mean little books the publishing houses foist upon us). And no agenda. Maclean does not have any axe to grind – he just wants to tell us the story of his Montana, as he knew it, as he wants us to know it. To share an experience of the land he loves as only an artist, as only a writer can.
And we thank him for it – for in this simple story we can find ourselves, and maybe — after everything — each other. “Now nearly all those I loved and did not understand when I was young are dead, but I still reach out to them.”