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  • Lines on the Water
  • Written by David Adams Richards
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  • Lines on the Water
  • Written by David Adams Richards
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307363824
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Lines on the Water

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Written by David Adams RichardsAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by David Adams Richards

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List Price: $13.99

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On Sale: April 20, 2011
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-307-36382-4
Published by : Anchor Canada Doubleday CAN Titles
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In Lines on the Water, David Adams Richards writes eloquently and movingly about his life on the shores of one of the world's great fishing rivers. With the same insight and emotion that have won him praise for his fiction, Richards brings to life a community centred on fly-fishing -- a sport that has become, for many, a way of life. Weaving together tales of the guides and poachers, the "sports" and the city slickers, Richards pays tribute to all who have shared in the joy of fishing the Miramichi.

This is a book about our relationship with nature, about hunters and fishermen, friendship and family, history and memory. Lines on the Water teems with lore and wisdom, humour, and most of all, passion.

Excerpt

As a boy, I dreamed of fishing before I went, and went fishing before I caught anything, and knew fisherman before I became one. As a child, I dreamed of finding remarkable fish so close to me that they would be easy to catch. And no one, in my dreams, had ever found these fish before me.

I remember the water as dark and clear at the same time — and by clear I suppose I mean clean. Sometimes it looked like gold or copper, and at dusk the eddies splashed silver-toned, and babbled like all the musical instruments of the world. I still think of it this way now, years later.

As a child I had the idea that the trout were golden, or green, in the deep pools hidden away under the moss of a riverbank. And that some day I would walk in the right direction , take all the right paths to river and find them there.

In fact, trout, I learned, were far more textured and a better colour tan just golds and greens. They were the colour of nature itself — as naturally outfitted in their coat of thin slime as God could manage. They were hidden around bends and in the deep shaded pools of my youth.

I had the impression from those Mother Goose stories that all fish could talk. I still do.

My first fishing foray was along the bank of a small brook to the northwest of Newcastle, on the Miramichi. A sparkling old brook that lord Beaverbrook took his name from.

My older brother and a friend took me along with them, on a cool blowy day. We had small cane rods and old manual reels, with hooks and sinkers and worms, the kind all kids used. The kind my wife used as a child on the Bartibog River thirteen miles downriver from my town of Newcastle, and her brothers used also, at the same time that I was trudging with my brother.

It was a Saturday in May of 1955 and I was not yet five years of age. Fishing even then could take me out of myself, far away from the worry of my life, such as it was, and into another life better and more complete.

We had packed a lunch an had got to the brook about ten in the morning. Just as we entered the woods, I saw the brook, which seemed to be no deeper in places than my shoe. In we went (a certain distance) until the sounds of the town below us were left behind.

Leaning across the brook was a maple, with its branches dipping into the water. At the upper end of the tree, the current swept about a boulder, and gently tailed away into a deep pocket about a foot from the branches. The place was shaded, and the sunlight filtered through the trees on the water beyond us. The boys were in a hurry and moved on to that place where all the fish really are. And I lagged behind. I was never any good at keeping up, having a lame left side, so most of the time my older brother made auxiliary rules for me — rules that by and large excluded me.

"You can fish there, " he said.

I nodded. " Where?"

"There, see. Look — right there. Water. Fish. Go at her. We'll be back."

I nodded. I sat down on the moss and looked about, and could see that my brother and his friends were going away from me. I was alone. So I took out my sandwich and ate it. ( It was in one pocket, my worms were in the other. My brother doled the worms out to me a few at a time.)

I was not supposed to be, from our mother's instructions, alone.

"For Mary in heaven's sake, don't leave your little brother alone in the woods." I could hear her words.

I could also hear my brother and our friend moving away, and leaving me where I was. In this little place we out of sight of one another after about twenty feet. I had not yet learned to tie my sneakers: they had been tied for me by my brother in a hurry, for the second time, at the railway track, and here again they were loose. So I took them of. And then I rolled up my pants.

I had four worms in my pocket. They smelled of the dark earth near my grandmother's back garden where they had come from, and all worms smell of earth, and therefore all earth smells of trout.

I spiked a worm on my small hook the best I could. I had a plug-shot sinker about six inches up my line, which my father had squeezed for me the night before. But my line was kinked and old, and probably half-rotted, from years laid away.

I grabbed the rod in one hand, the line in the other, and tossed it at the boulder. It hit the boulder and slid underneath the water. I could see it roll one time on the pebbled bottom, and then it was lost to my sight under the brown cool current. The sun was at my back splaying down through the trees. I was standing on the mossy bank. There was a young twisted maple on my right.

Almost immediately I felt a tug on the line. Suddenly it all came to me — this is what fish do — this was their age-old secret.

The line tightened, the old rod bent, and a trout — the first trout of my life — came splashing and rolling to the top of the water. It was a trout about eight inches long, with a plump belly.

"I got it," I whispered. " I got it. I got it."

But no one heard me: " I got it. I got it."

For one moment I looked at the trout, and the trout looked at me. It seemed to be telling me something. I wasn't sure what. It is something I have been trying to hear ever since.

When I lifted it over the bank, and around the maple, it spit the hook, but it was safe in my possession a foot or two from the water.

For a moment no one came, and I was left to stare at it. The worm had changed colour in the water. The trout was wet and it had most beautiful glimmering orange speckles I ever saw. It reminded me, or was to remind me as I got older, of spring, of Easter Sunday, of the smell of snow being warmed away by the sun.

My brother's friend came back. He looked at it, amazed that I had actually caught something. Picking up a stick, and hunching over it he shouted, " Get out of the way — I'll kill it."

And he slammed the stick down beside it. The stick missed the fish, hit a leaf branch of that maple that the fish was lying across, and catapulted the trout back into the brook.

I looked at him, he looked at me.

"Ya lost him," he said.

My brother came up, yelling, "Did you get a fish?"

"He lost him," my brother's friend said, standing.

"Oh ya lost him," my brother said, half derisively, and I think a little happily.

I fished frantically for the time remaining, positive that this was an easy thing to do. But nothing else tugged at my line. And as the day wore on I became less enthusiastic.

We went home a couple of hours later. The sun glanced off the steel railway tracks, and I walked back over the ties in my bare feet because I had lost my sneakers. My socks were stuffed into my pockets. The air now smelled of steely soot and bark, and the town's houses stretched below the ball fields.

The houses in our town were for the most part the homes of working men. The war was over, and it was the age of the baby boomers, of which I was one. Old pictures in front of those houses, faded with time, show seven or eight children, all smiling curiously at the camera. And I reflect that we baby boomers, born after a war that left so many dead, were much like salmon spawn born near the brown streams and great river. We were born to reaffirm life and the destiny of the human race.

When we got home, my brother showed his trout to my mother, and my mother looked at me.

"Didn't you get anything, dear?"

"I caught a trout — a large trout. It — it — I —"

"Ya lost him, Davy boy," my brother said, slapping me on the back.

"Oh well," my mother said. "That's all right, there will always be a next time."

And that was the start of my fishing life.

That was a long time ago, when fishing was innocent and benevolent. I have learned since that I would have to argue my way through life — that I was going to become a person who could never leave to rest the idea of why things were the way they were. And fishing was to become part of this idea, just as hunting was. Why would the fish take one day, and not the next? What was the reason for someone's confidence one year, and their lack of it the next season, when conditions seemed to be exactly the same?

Or the great waters — the south branch of the Sevogle that flows into the main Sevogle, that flows into the Norwest Miramichi, itself a tributary of the great river, What infinite source propelled each separate individual fish to return on those days, at that moment, when my Copper killer, or Green Butt Butterfly — or anyone else's — was skirting the pool at exactly the right angle at the same moment, and when was it all announced and inscribed in the heavens — as insignificant as it is — as foreordained.
David Adams Richards

About David Adams Richards

David Adams Richards - Lines on the Water

Photo © Bruce Peters

Born in 1950 in Newcastle, New Brunswick, David Adams Richards was the third of William and Margaret Richards' six children. He found his calling at the age of fourteen, after reading Oliver Twist, and embarked on a life of extraordinary purpose, one which he says didn't help his finances: "Sometimes … I thought it would be better if I were a plumber, but I wouldn't be very good."

At the age of twenty and after finishing his first novel, The Keeping of Gusties, Richards went in search of a community of writers. His quest ended when he met a group of academics at the University of New Brunswick. Richards would hitch-hike from his home in Newcastle to Fredericton every Tuesday night to meet with them and read from his work. The literary evenings were held on campus at McCourt Hall, in an outbuilding formally used to store ice. The group quickly became known as the Ice House Gang. There he received encouragement from established writers, including the late Alden Nowlan, whom he names as important influences along with Faulkner, Pushkin, Dostoevsky and Emily Brontë. It was during his time with these writers that Richards wrote two-thirds of his second novel, The Coming of Winter, which was published by Oberon Press in 1974.

In 1971, Richards married Peggy McIntyre. They spent the first years of their marriage travelling throughout Canada, Europe and Australia. It was on these long sojourns away from the Mirimachi that Richards found he could write about the home he loved, regardless of where he lived. As he continued to write, Richards took postings as writer-in-residence at universities in New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta and at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. In 1997, they moved to Toronto, where they still live with their sons John Thomas and Anton.

The Miramichi region has continued as the heart of Richards' fiction throughout his career. As he explained in an interview with January Magazine, his connection to the area and to the rural lives of its inhabitants is central to his fiction, yet does not reflect a limited scope: "It's very important, because the characters come from the soil. They're like the trees, in a certain respect. They cling to that river and that soil, but as Jack Hodgins once said about my writing — which was one of the kindest things any writer has said about my writing — he said: 'David, you aren't writing about the Miramichi Valley, you're writing about Campbell River where I come from. Because every character you talk about is a character I' ve met here in Campbell River.' And that's basically what I'm doing. Of course my people are Miramichi. Of course they come from the fabric and the soil of the Miramichi but if that was the only thing that was interesting about them, I wouldn't bother writing about them."

The relocation to Toronto was not without its difficulties, though. As Richards documented in the memoir Lines on the Water, he loves fly-fishing on the Miramichi River. Yet once he was no longer a resident, he was unable to get a fishing licence for the region. Thankfully, said Richards, the local government proclaimed him an "honorary Miramichier" — "So I can go fishing. It was very nice of them and very touching." He has also written a non-fiction book on the place of hockey in the Canadian soul, called Hockey Dreams.

Richards has received numerous awards and prizes throughout his career. Most notably, he is one of few writers in the history of the Governor General's Award to win in both the fiction (Nights Below Station Street) and non-fiction (Lines on the Water) categories. In addition to these two wins, he was nominated for Road to the Stilt House (in 1985), For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down (in 1993) and Mercy Among the Children (in 2000). Considered by many to be Richards' most accomplished novel, Mercy was co-winner of the Giller Award in 2000, and was shortlisted for the Trillium Award and the Thomas Raddell award. It also won the Canadian Booksellers Association author of the year and fiction book of the year awards. Over the years, Richards has also won countless regional awards for his novels and was awarded the prestigious Canada-Australia Literary Prize in 1992.

Despite all of these successes, it was years before Richards made money at writing. He laughs at the sales of his early work: "For a long while if I sold 200 books, I'd be saying: Oh, great! And, you know, a $50 advance! That's great. I only worked three years, I don't know if I can spend $50."

Also a screenwriter, Richards has adapted a number of his novels for the small screen. In 1990, he adapted his novel Nights Below Station Street, and in 1994 he penned the teleplay "Small Gifts," for which he won his first Gemini. He won his second for his screen adaptation of For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down, and later co-wrote the screenplay for The Bay of Love and Sorrows, released as a feature film in 2002.

In addition to his twelve novels and two non-fiction books, Richards' short stories and articles have been published in literary magazines and anthologies, plus he has two unpublished plays, The Dungarvan Whooper and Water Carriers, Bones and Earls: the Life of François Villon, and one unpublished novel, Donna. His literary papers were acquired in 1994 by the University of New Brunswick.
Praise | Awards

Praise

Lines on the Water reminds me why I love to fish and, more importantly, Richards’ fine writing reminds me why I love to read.” —Paul Quarrington, author of Fishing With My Old Guy

Awards

WINNER 1998 Governor General's Literary Award - Nonfiction

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