40 Norman Maclean Quotes from the American Writer

Norman Maclean, born in 1902 in Iowa, was a respected American writer whose work was deeply influenced by his experiences in Montana and his deep love for fly fishing, a skill taught by his minister father.

As a teenager, he spent summers working in logging camps and for the United States Forest Service, experiences that would later inspire his writings, including stories featured in the Norman Maclean Reader.


After studying at Dartmouth College, he returned to Montana and later attended the University of Chicago for graduate study.

Maclean’s academic career blossomed at the University of Chicago, where he was a beloved teacher and even won the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching thrice.

His personal life was marked by a long-lasting marriage to Jessie Burns and the tragic murder of his brother Paul.

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Maclean’s distinguished career in academia did not overshadow his passion for writing.

He published his first fiction, “A River Runs Through It and Other Stories” after retirement at the age of 73, which was lauded as an American classic and later adapted into a film by Robert Redford.

His posthumously published manuscript “Young Men and Fire”, recounting a tragic fire incident near his home, was a New York Times bestseller and won the 1992 National Book Critics Circle Award. Maclean passed away in 1990 at age 87.

I have handpicked some of the best quotes of Norman Maclean for you.

Top 5 Norman Maclean Quotes


All good things come by grace, and grace comes by art, and art does not come easy. ~ Norman Maclean.


The nearest anyone can come to finding himself at any given age is to find a story that somehow tells him about himself. ~ Norman Maclean.


Power comes not from power everywhere, but from knowing where to put it on. ~ Norman Maclean.

It is clear to me now that the universe in its truculence doesn’t permit itself to be that well known. ~ Norman Maclean.


Many of us would probably be better fishermen if we did not spend so much time watching and waiting for the world to become perfect. ~ Norman Maclean.

Famous Norman Maclean Quotes

At sunrise everything is luminous but not clear. It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us. You can love completely without complete understanding. ~ Norman Maclean.


Sunrise is the time to feel that you will be able to find out how to help somebody close to you who you think needs help even if he doesn’t think. At sunrise everything is luminous but not clear. ~ Norman Maclean.

When I was young, a teacher had forbidden me to say “more perfect” because she said if a thing is perfect it can’t be more so. But by now I had seen enough of life to have regained my confidence in it. ~ Norman Maclean.


Time was just a hangover from the past with no present meaning. ~ Norman Maclean.

It would be hard to know what gigantic proportion of human life is spent in this same ratio of years under water on legs to one premature, exhausted moment on wings. ~ Norman Maclean.


The hardest thing usually to leave behind, as was the case now, can loosely be called the conscience. ~ Norman Maclean.

Now nearly all those I loved and did not understand when I was young are dead, but I still reach out to them. ~ Norman Maclean.

My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him all good things-trout as well as eternal salvation-come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy. ~ Norman Maclean.


In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. ~ Norman Maclean.

At the time I did not know that stories of life are often more like rivers than books. ~ Norman Maclean.

When I looked, I knew I might never again see so much of the earth so beautiful, the beautiful being something you know added to something you see, in a whole that is different from the sum of its parts. ~ Norman Maclean.


All there is to thinking is seeing something noticeable which makes you see something you weren’t noticing which makes you see something that isn’t even visible. ~ Norman Maclean.

Slowly we became silent, and silence itself if an enemy to friendship. ~ Norman Maclean.

A river, though, has so many things to say that it is hard to know what it says to each of us. ~ Norman Maclean.

One of life’s quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful even if it is only a floating ash. ~ Norman Maclean.

So it is that we can seldom help anybody. Either we don’t know what part to give or maybe we don’t like to give any part of ourselves. Then, more often than not, the part that is needed is not wanted. And even more often, we do not have the part that is needed. ~ Norman Maclean.


I tried to find something I already knew about life that might help me reach out and touch my brother and get him to look at me and himself. ~ Norman Maclean.

If our father had had his way, nobody who did not know how to fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him. ~ Norman Maclean.

Best Norman Maclean Quotes

A mystery of the universe is how it has managed to survive with so much volunteer help. ~ Norman Maclean.

To him, all good things – trout as well as eternal salvation – came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy. ~ Norman Maclean.


I knew that, when needed, mountains would move for me. ~ Norman Maclean.

We can love completely what we cannot completely understand. ~ Norman Maclean.

The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana. ~ Norman Maclean.

When exhausted and feeling sorry for yourself, at least change your socks. ~ Norman Maclean.

Unless we are willing to escape into sentimentality or fantasy, often the best we can do with catastrophes, even our own, is to find out exactly what happened and restore some of the missing parts. ~ Norman Maclean.

How can a question be answered that asks a lifetime of questions. ~ Norman Maclean.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. ~ Norman Maclean.

Ahead and to the west was our ranger station – and the mountains of Idaho, poems of geology stretching beyond any boundaries and seemingly even beyond the world. ~ Norman Maclean.


I am haunted by waters. ~ Norman Maclean.

One great thing about fly fishing is that after a while nothing exists of the world but thoughts about fly fishing. ~ Norman Maclean.

He himself has thinned out to the vanishing point of being only decisions once made that he can’t do anything about ever after. ~ Norman Maclean.

It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us. ~ Norman Maclean.

Eventually the watcher joined the river, and there was only one of us. I believe it was the river. ~ Norman Maclean.

Help is giving part of yourself to somebody who comes to accept it willingly and needs it badly. ~ Norman Maclean.

To others in my family, the dog was something of a sacred object that had prolonged my father’s life and helped to steady the rest of us. He was a fine dog, and after him, my father had no other dog. ~ Norman Maclean.

So these were the 40 top quotes about Norman Maclean.

If you like these quotes and sayings, then you can also read my other posts on Chris Stapleton quotes and Tee Grizzley quotes.

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

I’m the Founder of Internet Pillar - I love sharing quotes and motivational content to inspire and motivate people - #quotes #motivation #internetpillar