Run River

Paperback | April 26, 1994

byJoan Didion

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Joan Didion's electrifying first novel is a haunting portrait of a marriage whose wrong turns and betrayals are at once absolutely idiosyncratic and a razor-sharp commentary on the history of California. Everett McClellan and his wife, Lily, are the great-grandchildren of pioneers, and what happens to them is a tragic epilogue to the pioneer experience, a story of murder and betrayal that only Didion could tell with such nuance, sympathy, and suspense.

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From Our Editors

Joan Didion's electrifying first novel begins with a murder on the bank of the Sacramento River--a murder that is at once an act of vengeance and a blind attempt to shore up a disintegrating marriage. Out of that act, Didion constructs a tragic and beautifully nuanced work of fiction

From the Publisher

Joan Didion's electrifying first novel is a haunting portrait of a marriage whose wrong turns and betrayals are at once absolutely idiosyncratic and a razor-sharp commentary on the history of California. Everett McClellan and his wife, Lily, are the great-grandchildren of pioneers, and what happens to them is a tragic epilogue to the p...

Joan Didion was born in California and lives in New York City. She is the author of five novels and seven previous books of nonfiction.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 0.57 inPublished:April 26, 1994Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0679752501

ISBN - 13:9780679752509

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from What held her in trance was his total lack of interest: A review of Joan Didion's Run River The thing is, Didion writes like you think. She records the stutter of thought in her prose and dialogue. She includes the off-handed, the contradictory, the stubborn. She doesn’t discard the remains of the day but burns them into memory. RUN RIVER (1963) is her first novel and, on occasion, she’s reflected critically on it. It is too long, she says. It is awkward, she wrote. It is a work of homesickness and nostalgia. Even so . . . Run River is a novel about life on the Sacramento River, California. Rooted life. Life attached to hops and land and neighbours. Bitter heat, aimless violence. It’s about history. About family. About blood running like water. About the river. Oscillating between first and third person Run River portrays the life of Lily Knight McClellan, wife of Everett McClellan. It wouldn’t be fair to say that Lily is unhappy. It’s just that happiness has never really been a part of things, for Lily. She longs for a vacation promised by Everett that never happens. In Chapter 2 Lily is on the dock with Everett, who has a .38 in his hand. Just moments before, everything pursuing Everett with a “nameless fury” for the past ten, twenty years before had stood before him. He gave it a name: Ryder Channing. The novel goes into those twenty years leading to that point, concluding where it began, on the dock. Think about Fight Club. People are always asking if I knew about Joan Didion. Lily has issues with her father, a good man or, at least, good enough. Issues isn’t the right word. Lily has complications. A father who wanted too little and wanted too unevenly but could be counted on in the long run. Her father’s advice to her veritably sums up the agonies of the novel: “I think nobody owns land until their dead are in it,” Walter Knight had said to Lily, playing a familiar variation on a familiar motif (84). Didion’s prose is captivating. She tosses off memorable passages, phrases, and images on almost every page. The chapters are short, written like essays, which suits the sometimes fragmented unfolding on the novel. Lily is the primary protagonist and Didion casts her as an outsider on the inside. Part of the family but never feeling part of the family. Close but distant. Home but homeless. Un-familiar. I liked this novel a lot. It is . . . haunting and dark and emotional. If someone sees you reading it and they've already read it - don't be surprised if they ask you if you're ok. Random Passages “It occurred to [Everett] that Lily had always been keyed to picking up pieces, peculiarly tuned for emergency. What eluded her was the day-to-day action” (19). “Maybe I don’t know what I want. Sometimes I worry about it” (35). “I’m not myself if my father’s dead” (78). “How many nights had he heard Lily crying. AS some parents sleep through fire, thunderstorms, and voices at the back door only to wake at a child’s whisper, so Everett heard Lily crying at night. Her muffled sobs seemed to have broken his dreams for years” (138). “Now Everett. Sometimes I drink too much. Sometimes you drink too much. But neither of us quote unquote drinks too much. Francie Templeton is practically the only person you know who categorically drinks too much” (203).
Date published: 2008-06-06

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From Our Editors

Joan Didion's electrifying first novel begins with a murder on the bank of the Sacramento River--a murder that is at once an act of vengeance and a blind attempt to shore up a disintegrating marriage. Out of that act, Didion constructs a tragic and beautifully nuanced work of fiction

Editorial Reviews

"There hasn't been another American writer of Joan Didion's quality since Nathanael West.... [She has] a vision as bleak and precise as Eliot's." —John Leonard, The New York Times"A slant of vision that is arresting and unique . . . Didion might be an observer from another planet—one so edgy and alert that she ends up knowing more about our own world than we know ourselves." —Anne Tyler, New Republic"A beautifully told first novel . . . written in prose both witty and imaginative." —The Times Literary Supplement (London)