Guiding Elliott

Robert Lee, Author
Robert Lee, Author Lyons Press $22.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-55821-603-7
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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In what might be called a backlash to recent sentimental and metaphysical treatments of his sport, Montana fishing guide Donnie Phillips, the Archie Bunker of fly-fishing, offers the view of a true (though decidedly hapless) professional in his didactic letters to a New York-based fly-fishing newsletter. Donnie considers himself the finest guide working, but his own accounts of his misadventures (always someone else's fault) on the rivers of Montana make it clear that he is less than fully competent and probably dangerous. While Donnie admits a grudging respect for the skills of his friend Elliot, a transplanted city slicker from New York, he rails at the notion of fisherwomen--along with environmentalism, vegetarians, fishing outside Montana and anyone who stops fishing to watch the fauna (except for bears and a few rare birds). First-novelist Lee demonstrates his narrator's loutishness with a heavy hand. Never convincing, the running joke of Donnie's inability to comprehend common words and expressions quickly grows tiresome, and the Wodehousean challenge of revealing his foolishness through Donnie's own, self-important narrative leads to some awkward, obvious exposition. Still, there are satisfying moments in the evolving relationship between Donnie and Elliot and in Donnie's occasional flashes of sweetness and simple joy, on the river and off. (Oct.)
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