Visiting angler pays tribute to Norman Maclean


Norman Maclean

I wasn’t sure the world needed yet another rapturous homage to Norman Maclean’s “A River Runs Through It,” but I read this New York Times story anyway.

It was written by Jon Gluck, a managing editor at Vogue magazine, who says he was a boy in Upstate New York when he fell under the sway of Robert Redford’s film version of the novella, and then went on to read the book itself. He was even more enraptured.

“It wasn’t just the fishing,” he writes. “If there is a smarter, more affecting meditation on the themes of fathers and sons, brothers, the pleasures of the natural world, love, loss and the haunting power of water, I have yet to come across it.”

I have to agree with him, since I don’t fish but think just as highly of the book. In fact, I see it was exactly a year ago that I called Maclean’s book “as perfect as any piece of writing I know.”

Gluck writes of finally fishing the Big Blackfoot River near Missoula on a recent trip, and he does a good job of capturing that river’s charms, and a good job of talking about certain stretches of the river in relation to what Maclean had to say about them.

I also learned two interesting things from Gluck’s story. One is that “in towns throughout the modern American West,” people use the term “two by four by 10” in reference to “gaudy riverfront mansions.” He adds in parentheses: “That’s two people, four weeks a year, and 10,000 square feet.”

I’ve never heard it, but I like it. Has anyone else heard the term before now?

The other interesting fact (see the very bottom of the story under “other attractions” in Missoula) is that Maclean’s boyhood home is at 302 S. Fifth St. W. I’d never heard that before, either, but Mrs. Kemmick and I were living a few blocks from there, on South Fifth Street East, when our first daughter was born.

I will definitely have a look at the old Maclean residence next time I’m in Missoula.

Leave a Reply