Review of Jack Harrell, Writing Ourselves: Essays on Creativity, Craft, and Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016).
My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things…come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy. – Norman Maclean 
Maclean’s novella A River Runs Through It (and the Robert Redford film inspired by it) is a fine example of uncovering the sacred in the mundane and the profundity of a craft or task. Though there is much more to the memoir than this, the idea that one’s craft can become pregnant with such meaning is an important takeaway. Early on, Maclean explains the tedious labor of learning the purely functional elements of fly fishing: “So my brother and I learned to cast Presbyterian-style, on a metronome.” It was a craft that must be done with great care. “If our father had had his say, nobody who did not know how to fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him.” It was part of the Maclean boys’ “religious training” to never be late for “church, work, and fishing.” These three all operated under the same metaphysical assumptions, the same religious framework. It was through fly fishing that Maclean’s alcoholic and gambler brother Paul (played by Brad Pitt in the film) became his best self. While witnessing “the last fish we would ever see Paul catch,” the Maclean brothers’ father simply states, “He is beautiful.” The struggle with the enormous trout transformed Paul. He was the very messiness of humanity endowed with divinity; “a distant abstraction in artistry and as a closeup in water and laughter.” He was, in the words of his father, “a fine fisherman.” Through his art, grace was made manifest. Continue reading “Co-Creators With God: A Review of “Writing Ourselves”” »