Fishing and Philosophy
Relishing the freedom of summer to read whatever I like at whatever speed I desire, I recently re-read The River Why, by David James Duncan. In this 1983 novel, Duncan offers thoughts on such topics as family, ecology, and the purpose of existence, all through the context of angling on the rivers of Western Oregon.
The River Why cheifly concerns the search for meaning of Gus Orviston, a self-proclaimed "Scientific Angler" and the son of a fishing family. Having seen nothing better to attract his interest, Gus leaves home shortly after his twentieth birthday to live in pursuit of his most meaningful passion--the art of fishing. Finding this way of life less than satisfying, Gus quickly amends his quest:
The Spirit Father business was getting to me, too. I'd reckoned once that if He was so blasted important, He would make Himself less scarce. But how scarce was He? It was beginning to seem like everybody I respected... had some kind of secret Deity they worshipped, but who mostly just confused me. Yet everybody without a Deity looked a tad pedestrian beside those (140).
Thus a great deal of The River Why follows Gus's search for the elusive Diety he comes to refer to as "the Whopper" (183). The setting of angling and philosophizing provide a lively context for this search for meaning.
With life-like characters, vivid settings, and a jovial tone, The River Why is both entertaining and thought-provoking. Duncan's novel offers the striking distinction to other post-modern fiction of declaring that God (though Duncan and his characters hesitate to apply this title to "the Whopper") and His purpose exist, but that they should be sought with passion and energy.
"The lovers of God delight in hyperbole, because we need hyperbole to talk about God. Poets can't describe Him; scientists can't quantify Him; the sages state flat out that from the disadvantage points of language and logic, God is a Whopper--yet from the vantage point of love they say this Whopper can be known." (177).
I hope that you are able to enjoy this work as much as I have!