9 beautiful sentences from Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It

You know a story is a good one when it makes you care, deeply, about worlds you never bothered before. In this case, fish and rivers and fly fishing in rivers and the love of brothers. In A River Runs Through It [Kindle], Norman Maclean’s writing feels like that of Steinbeck: folksy, grounded in a place and tradition, and always seeking to discover more, to shed more light, on why human relationships are the fragile and miraculous things they are.

“You like to tell true stories, don’t you?” he asked, and I answered, “Yes, I like to tell stories that are true.” Then he asked, “After you have finished your true stories sometime, why don’t you make up a story and the people to go with it? Only then will you understand what happened and why. It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us.”

One of life’s quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful, even if it is only a floating ash.

To him, all good things—trout as well as eternal salvation—come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.

I could feel all the excitement of losing the big fish going through the transformer and coming out as anger at my brother-in-law.

Poets talk about “spots of time,” but it is really fishermen who experience eternity compressed into a moment. No one can tell what a spot of time is until suddenly the whole world is a fish and the fish is gone. I shall remember that son of a bitch forever.

My mother had to go from basement to attic and to most closets in between looking for a fishing basket while she made lunches for three men, each of whom wanted a different kind of sandwich.

Clearly by now it was one of those days when the world outside wasn’t going to let me do what I really wanted to do—catch a big Brown Trout and talk to my brother in some helpful way. Instead there was an empty bush and it was about to rain.

That’s how you know when you have thought too much—when you become a dialogue between You’ll probably lose and You’re sure to lose.

We had to be very careful in dealing with each other. I often thought of him as a boy, but I never could treat him that way. He was never “my kid brother.” He was a master of an art. He did not want any big brother advice or money or help, and, in the end, I could not help him.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.