Picks and Pans Review: The River Why

updated 04/18/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/18/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

by David James Duncan

Known for tomes that display nature's photogenic magnificence, Sierra Club Books mines a small national treasure in this, its first novel. The River Why, which is also Duncan's first novel, chronicles the hilarious life of one Augustine "Gus the Fish" Orviston. Spawned by an English fly fisherman, known worldwide as "The Bishop of Brooks," and a Western cowgirl, Duncan's hero grows up as an obsessive angler. He eventually achieves his "Ideal 24-Hour Schedule," which includes "nonangling conversation: 0 hrs" and rewards him with "4,000 actual fishing hrs. per year!!!," only to find himself lonely and troubled by questions of conservation. Gus ultimately falls for an alluring female angler, but more important, Duncan raises questions about nature—and the need for taking personal responsibility for it. The 31-year-old author would know about that; he drives a recycling truck in Oregon. (Sierra Club, $12.95)

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