From the essay “The Short List” in A Fly Rod of Your Own, the new book from Fly Fishing Hall of Famer John Gierach:
Forty-eight hours later there was two feet of immaculate snow on the ground at the lower elevations and more than twice that amount in the high country to the west. And it was that dense, heavy, spring-like stuff that turns shrubs into moguls, builds precarious white hats on fence posts, and makes a snow shovel heavier than you care to lift too many times in a row. In Minnesota, where I grew up, they called this “heart-attack snow” because every winter it would spell the end for any number of elderly midwesterners. They’d trek out to shovel their driveways at age eighty-nine to avoid paying the neighbor kid a dollar and come back feetfirst. At the funerals people would say, “Wasn’t that just like Bill?”
Reviewing this one for the Indy next week. I’m halfway through, and I love it. Gierach is proof that the best fly fishing writing is barely even about fly fishing.
Another quote of his I love: “Fly-fishing is solitary, contemplative, misanthropic, scientific in some hands, poetic in others, and laced with conflicting aesthetic considerations. It’s not even clear if catching fish is actually the point.”
I took last year off from fishing. If I find my way back stream-side this year, Gierach’s book will be a big reason why.
One of the downsides to working at a bookstore, even merely part-time, is that it has largely robbed me of my zest for wandering around in bookstores, looking at new books, etc. It isn’t as fun when you already know what is coming out and when. I get excited for new nonfiction but, with only a handful of exceptions, I can’t bring myself to care about new fiction. Especially from new writers, who all seem to be largely the same person. Thanks academia. I’ll be dead before I can get through all the books I already have anyway.
I do like poking around in used bookstores, though. I like watching for out-of-print editions from the writers I like. I particularly love old mass market paperbacks. Like this awesome old edition of Jack Kerouac’s classic On the Road.
It’s another gem I scored for a measly $1. Inside the cover, which makes it even more of a score, is a quote and a dedication.
The book was clearly given as a gift or something, right? For clarification, it reads:
This book is the father of us all. Read it on planes, buses, & roadsides, for without the Spirit embodied herein, one can never really discover America. Love, Jenny 24 May 75
Forty-two years ago. Who was Jenny? Who was she giving this book to? Ah, the romance of the mystery. You’ll never get this kind of story of wonder from a stupid electronic book.
From “Shortest Route to the Mountains,” the opening line from the first essay in the collection Wild to the Heart by Rick Bass, circa 1987, a collection I didn’t even know existed until I stumbled across it for a measly $1. I love this:
The trouble with buying a strawberry milkshake from the Lake
Providence, Louisiana, Sonic Drive-In on the left side of Highway 65 going north through the Delta, north to Hot Springs, Arkansas, is that you have got to tag the bottom with your straw and then come up a good inch or so if you want to get anything, the reason being that the Lake Providence Sonic uses real strawberries and lots of them in their shakes.
I like to throw out the occasional long sentence just to mix things up. Sadly, most of the editors I work with don’t share my enthusiasm for them.
And this book? Easily one of the best dollars I ever spent.
For several years now I’ve been in the practice of culling images from catalogs I get in the mail (Patagonia, REI, Filson, etc.) and occasional magazines. I pull them out, then I slip them into plastic page protectors that go into three ring binders that I save as inspiration for both artistic and lifestyle aspirations. It’s like an analog pinterest board of sorts that no one gets to see but ME. Anyway today, in an effort to rest my brain from Trump news for a couple hours, I decided to catch up on a stack that had built up over several months. This image, from a Filson catalog, I love. It reminds me of my favorite book by Denis Johnson, Train Dreams. I know most people point at Jesus’ Son or Tree of Smoke as his best, but I’ll take Train Dreams any day.
From the back copy of The Silent World, by Captain J.Y. Cousteau, copyright 1953:
This best seller unfolds wonders never before seen by man! A new era of undersea exploration began when the young French naval officer J.Y. Cousteau and his partners started to use the now famous underwater breathing apparatus, the aqualung. In this fascinating report Cousteau tells what it is like to be a “manfish” swimming in the deep twilight zone with sharks, mantas, morays, whales and octopuses.
Captain Cousteau tells of exploring sunken ships, including a Roman galley. With him we enter drowned caverns into which the light of day never penetrated. We come mouth to mouth with a shark of as yet unknown species. Visit an octopus city . . . and bring back treasures lost centuries ago!
I found this for $1 at the Book Exchange. The Silent World. Ah, yes, I love this stuff. Cousteau was one of the first “real life” adventurers to spark my imagination. I used to watch his television specials, dreamed of SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) diving (which, to this day, I still haven’t done . . . possibly the very top item on my expansive list of life’s failures), and even bailed over backwards off the inner tubes we’d float around on at Frenchtown Pond when I was a chubby youngster just like Cousteau and his crew used to. Hell, I even liked John Denver’s song about Cousteau’s research ship, Calypso. It goes to show how much pleasure one measly dollar may still provide . . . especially paired with the day’s first slug of coffee.