AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

08 July 2016

Respect.


I didn’t know much about him, but his writing immediately struck me as real—a rarity in today’s MFA-driven literary world—real not only in place but also in character, in emotion, in the human relationship with the outdoors, in the nature of his poignant and epic storytelling and its ability to grab its readers by the shoulders and knee them straight in the guts. I was hooked, spending the next several years reading and rereading his extensive catalog.

His writing is typically set in the wild place he knew and loved: Montana, Mexico, Arizona, Northern Michigan, the Sandhills of Nebraska—and his characters’ lives revolve around the things he himself was passionate about: fly fishing, long hikes in the mountains, good food, philosophies of great poets. His prose and poetry is full of recurring themes likely to infuse themselves in the psyches of anyone passionate about the outdoors, like the idea of small gods inhabiting the natural world around us; they are fish, they are birds, they are fluttering abstractions that he could nearly see with his blind eye, its vision having been snuffed out in a boyhood accident. He, like his characters, relished the beautiful and potent aspects of the world: mountains, streams, rivers, lakes, forests, dogs, birds, fish, food, wine, whiskey, sex.

The connection I’ve felt with him and his work stems not only from the places where his stories are set, so many of which have played intimate roles in my own life, but also from the deep respect given to life, human and otherwise, and to things that were here long before us and will be here long after we’re gone—mountains, forests, rivers. This is not to say that his writing is serene and contrived; it simmers with bold humor and fresh observations on the absurdities of human behavior.

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