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Life Every Now and Then Becomes Literature

A River Runs Through It Book CoverThe last few days have been pleasant ones for me. For the first time since early December I am caught up with writing deadlines. Fifteen deadlines in 13 weeks is just bad time management, but, as of 9:30 this morning, no one is waiting for anything from me. Until February 10, that is.

Since Thursday, I’ve also had the chance to wrap up three highly enjoyable books: The Amish Way, a review of which appeared Saturday in the Englewood Review of Books (or ERB, pronounced “urb”), Steve Martin’s novel An Object of Beauty (a review for the next issue of RELEVANT Magazine), and Norman MacLean’s A River Runs Through It, which I started reading clear back in November in anticipation of my first-ever fly-fishing trip.

A River Runs Through It is actually comprised of three stories. I finished the first two, including the title story, last fall, but I had to set the book aside when I got steamrolled by all those deadlines. This weekend I finally read the last story, “USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky,” about a United States Forest Service trail crew in 1919 Idaho and Montana. A couple pages in to the story, I came across a passage I was excited to share:

By the middle of that summer when I was seventeen I had to see myself become part of a story. I had as yet no notion that life every now and then becomes literature – not for long, of course, but long enough to be what we best remember, and often enough so that what we eventually come to mean by life are those moments when life, instead of going sideways, backwards, forward, or nowhere at all, lines out straight, tense and inevitable, with a complication, climax, and, given some luck, a purgation, as if life had been made and not happened.

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