Synopses & Reviews
"I was struck by a boyhood suspicion that rivers and mountains are myself turned inside out," writes David James Duncan. "I'd heard at church that the kingdom of heaven is within us and thought, Yeah, sure.
But the first time I walked up a trout stream, fly rod in hand, I didn't feel I was 'outside' at all: I was traveling further and further in." An estimated three thousand river walks later, here is My Story as Told by Water
, in which Duncan braids his contemplative, activist, and rhapsodic voices together into an irresistibly distinctive whole, speaking with a power and urgency that will recharge our national appreciation of the vital connections between our water-filled bodies and this water-covered planet.
Offering a wide-ranging, contemplative exploration of the rivers that touch his life, Duncan backs his insights with a fierce defense of the sacred cultures and fauna that living waters sustain. With a bracing blend of story, logic, science, and comedy, he dissects the hollow industrial platitudes that lead to the ruin of publicly owned rivers for private profit. Standing up for the river made famous by the pen of his neighbor, Norman Maclean, Duncan exposes America's anachronistic federal mining policy and the devastating cyanide technology to which it has led. As an advocate for the bankrupted fishing towns, Native tribes, and unraveling web of life of the Pacific Northwest, he lays bare our biological and religious obligation to breach four of the Columbia and the Snake rivers' 221 massive dams to save wild salmon. Yet Duncan centers even his darkest explorations in the joys, gratitude, and wonder that walking rivers, rod in hand, provides him.
Here is a brilliant writer revealing captivating speculations on being born lost, on the discovery of water, on wading as pilgrimage, coho as interior compass, and industrial creeks as blues tunes. Here are rivers perceived as prayer wheels, dying birds as prophets, salmon as life-givers, brown trout as role models, wilderness as our true home, wonder as true ownership, and justice as biologically and spiritually inescapable.
"Duncan eloquently explains why clean, free-running water matters: just as we die without good water, so does the earth. Yet his unabashed polemic is nicely cushioned by rhapsody; he's the ranter as poet." Publishers Weekly
"David James Duncan is passionate, original, skillful, and funny as hell. His essays about the natural world are some of the best nonfiction around." Ian Frazier
"Duncan's previous fictional works, The River Why and The Brothers K, were both multiple award winners, and the same quality of writing is evident here." Library Journal
"With this brilliantly said, funny, passionate, heartbroken, hopeful, and healing book David James Duncan moves into a very small class which includes himself, Norman Maclean, and Tom McGuane our most transcendent fly fishing writers." William Kittredge
"My Story as Told by Water is the real McCoy, vivid and important, full of urgent news about living on earth. Often very funny, it might have been an outright rant but for the truths it tells. Anglers, water babies, and river folk should read it immediately." Thomas McGuane
"David James Duncan is a profound and necessary American writer, a true inheritor of the passion, rage, and keen-eyed wisdom found in Thoreau and Whitman. His essays leap and bound through the natural world as dazzlingly as do his beloved trout, and as wildly. His fidelities are to beauty, to justice, and to the ways our actions and thoughts can honor a larger life; his ears and eyes travel equally toward insight and an untamable, exuberant humor. This book is an education, in the facts of cyanide mining's and dams' devastation, in the heart-truths by which existence goes on. If the power of a true-speaking voice can still make a difference, this book should change lives." Jane Hirshfield, author, Nine Gates and Given Sugar, Given Salt
In this remarkable collection of essays, acclaimed author David James Duncan braids his contemplative, rhapsodic, and activist voices together into a potently distinctive whole, speaking with power and urgency about the vital connections between our water-filled bodies and this water-covered planet. All twenty-two pieces in this collection swirl and eddy around his early-forged bond with the rivers of the Pacific Northwest and their endangered native salmon. With a bracing blend of story, science, and comedy, Duncan relates mystical, life-changing adventures; draws incisive portraits of the humans and wild creatures who shaped his destiny; rips the corporate greed and political folly that have brought whole ecosystems to ruin; and meditates on the spiritual and practical necessity of acknowledging our dependence on water in its primal state.
"This book is the "Desert Solitaire of water."--Jim Harrison
"Original, skillful, and funny as hell."--Ian Frazier
""My Story as told by Water "is the real McCoy, vivid and important, full of urgent news about living on earth."--Thomas McGuane
"This book is the Desert Solitaire
of water."--Jim Harrison
"Original, skillful, and funny as hell."--Ian Frazier
"My Story as told by Water is the real McCoy, vivid and important, full of urgent news about living on earth."--Thomas McGuane
About the Author
David James Duncan is the author of two novels, The River Why
and The Brothers K
, and River Teeth
, a joint memoir and collection of stories. The River Why
ranks thirty-fifth on the San Francisco Chronicle
list of The 20th Century's 100 Best Books of the American West. The Brothers K
is an American Library Association Best Books Award-winner and a New York Times
Notable Book. Both novels won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award.
Duncan has read and lectured all over the United States on wilderness, the writing life, the nonmonastic contemplative life, the fly fishing life, and nonreligious literature of faith. His work has appeared in Harper's, Outside, Orion, The Sun, Sierra, Big Sky Journal, Northern Lights, Gray's Sporting Journal, and many other publications. He lives with his family on a Montana trout stream.
Table of Contents
WONDER VERSUS LOSS
1. Valmiki's Palm
2. Birdwatching as a Blood Sport
3. The Non Sense of Place
5. Who Owns the West?: Seven Wrong Answers
6. Six Henry Stories
8. Lake of the Stone Mother
9. The War for Norman's River
10. The 1872 Knee-Mining Act and Your Exciting Financial Future!
11. Beauty/Violence/Grief/Frenzy/Love: On the Contemplative Versus the Activist Life
12. A Prayer for the Salmon's Second Coming
13. River Soldiers
14. Strategic Withdrawal
FISHING THE INSIDE PASSAGE
15. Idiot Joy
16. In Praise of No Guide
17. Estuary from an Afterlife
18. Fearless Leader
19. Khawaja Khadir
21. Spirit-Fried No-Name River Brown Trout: A Recipe
Appendix: "The Lives of Tuan Mac Cairill"
About the Photographs