Available again, an acclaimed collection from an American master that USA Today called “Powerful . . . lyrical, vivid, engaging.”
Originally published twenty-five years ago, Platte River is one of the early collections that established Rick Bass’s reputation as a master of the short form and one of the best writers of his generation. It contains three novellas of contemporary America, each informed by the mysteries of nature and the heart. Set along borders, both physical and immaterial, all of the novellas combine a spare but radiant naturalism with an outsize aspiration to folklore or myth.
In the title story, a former pro linebacker living a simple, isolated life in the Canadian woods just across the border from Montana struggles with his artist girlfriend’s desire to escape. Invited by his best friend from their college football days to give a talk at the school where the friend now teaches, he flies to northern Michigan. In the class the next morning, after a night fishing party on the Platte River, what he learns brings acceptance, and a kind of salvation.
In “Mahatma Joe,” a despairing evangelist living in a valley that was once so wild the people would go naked when the Chinook winds blew, announcing winter’s end, throws his fervor into planting a garden along the river, bringing purpose to the young woman who had camped there.
“Field Events,” the most comic of the stories, begins when two athlete brothers spy an enormous, muscled man swimming in the river, hauling a canoe loaded with cast iron. Their plan to train him in the discus meets with complications, when the giant and their older sister find in each other the missing part that neither could articulate.