Norman Maclean’s Montana

There is writing that doesn’t need editing, just breathing on. I imagine that’s how it was when Norman Maclean handed in the manuscript of A River Runs through It and Other Stories. The title story, written in 100 unimprovable pages, was turned into a film by Robert Redford and, on its release 25 years ago, made a star of Brad Pitt. It’s a tale of fly-fishing and familial love, and of the impossibility of being your brother’s keeper when your brother is bent on self-destruction. I’ve read it four or five times since it was first published in Britain in 1990 (it came out in the US in 1976). I’ve raved about it to other readers and writers. So when I heard that there was to be a festival in Montana dedicated to Maclean and his work, I immediately booked a place.

That was two years ago. At the time, I wrote a short piece for the Review section of The Daily Telegraph. I also wrote a longer travel article, the plan being that it would run in advance of a festival the following year. There was no festival in 2016. There is one this year (September 8-10), but when I tried to sell a story to travel editors, no one was interested. (And, yes, I did mention Brad Pitt as well as Norman Maclean.) I have, however, written a piece for the TLS. You can find it in this week’s print edition or, if you’re a subscriber, read it online.

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