Wasn’t That Just Like Bill?

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.

The Spirit Embodied Herein

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.

 

In Praise of Long Sentences

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.

 

Train Dreams

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.

Crocodiles and Ice

jonturkIt’s been eleven years since I first encountered Jon Turk, which was also my first Montana Festival of the Book, circa 2005. I’ve mentioned Turk before HERE, and spoke specifically of his most recent big adventure HERE (which got him nominated as a National Geographic “Adventurer of the Year” at the age of 65). In 2005 he was promoting his most recent book at the time, In the Wake of the Jomon: Stone Age Mariners and a Voyage Across the Pacific. He was fascinating and engaging as a speaker, and I loved the book. So I followed up with the one that had preceded Jomon, Cold Oceans: Adventures in Kayak, Rowboat, and Dogsled. Loved that one too. Next up was The Raven’s Gift: A Scientist, a Shaman, and Their Remarkable Journey Through the Siberian Wilderness, which came out in 2006, and the event I attended at the University of Montana in support of that book was particularly profound to me.

In the past year, Jon and I have become friends. His life, and his stories, are fascinating. I’ve been pitching pieces related to him and his new book, Crocodiles and Ice: A Journey into Deep Wild, since early summer. One will be coming out in December. Hopefully it will be merely the first.

Meanwhile, if you are in Missoula, he is giving a presentation at the University tomorrow night, sponsored by Fact & Fiction. It’s well worth attending. Here are the details, from Jon:

Crocodiles and Ice is a scientist/adventurer’s journey into a Consciousness Revolution based on a deep, reciprocal communication with the Earth. The book highlights my award winning polar expedition circumnavigating Ellesmere Island, as well as other, lesser known passages. But, more critically, I tell the story of my lifelong journey from suburban Connecticut into a passion for Deep Wild, an ancient passage, repeated — in one form or another — countless times, and ignored just as often.

I invite my readers to listen to our Stone-Age ancestors, the poets of the ’60s, a wolf that lingers, a Siberian shaman, a Chinese bicycle nomad, a lonely Tlingit warrior laying down to die in a storm, and the landscapes themselves. Because beyond the wondrous and seductive opulence of our oil-soaked, internet-crazed, consumer-oriented society, there lies a glorious and sustainable lifestyle that is based on Deep Wild as a foundation of solace, sanity, compassion, and hope.

It’ll be from 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM at the Underground lecture hall on campus. Hope to see some familiar faces there!

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