Letters from the West

‘River Why’ author helps keep local reading project flowing, speaks in Boise Thursday

Those of us in journalism are unabashed advocates for reading. That’s what led my former colleague Dan Popkey to promote as a columnist Boise’s community reading project-- "What if Everybody Read the Same Book?"--which began in 2001.

The project has continued, shifting its name to the Big Read in 2006, when the National Endowment for the Arts chose Boise as one of 10 communities to pilot its initiative.

In 2012, the community reading project expanded into Read Me Treasure Valley with funding from the Idaho Humanities Council. This year the book is David James Duncan’s “The River Why.”

Duncan will speak Thursday at JUMP — Jack's Urban Meeting Place — at 7 p.m. If you haven’t read the book, I recommend it. I spoke about the book and wild writing in March as a part of the project.

The River Why begins as a comic novel of an Oregon fly fisherman coming of age in a world of rivers, wild places and small towns. It finishes as one of the most profound discussions of nature and spirituality of my generation.

Duncan’s character Gus realizes that fishing, his obsession, is simply the pursuit of the elusive. God is the “whopper” he continues to pursue through his encounters with characters and nature. He sees steelhead as blessed and like native Americans a sacrament, a spiritual sustenance we are required to preserve even as we consume.

Duncan, a renowned fly fisherman himself, will tell his Boise audience about some river adventures, writings, fish stories, friendships, conservation victories, great films, and "one lousy Hollywood movie” inspired in whole or in part by “The River Why.”

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker