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Showing 1-10 of 113 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 146 reviews
on June 18, 2014
John Graves will eventually be remembered as a 20th century Mark Twain. A through and
through Texan, but with an unusual sensitivity to nuance and nature, capable of capturing in
words sentiments that move and inspire the reader.

I once complained to Texas Monthly magazine that they were not publishing enough of his work and
much to my surprise, an assistant editor contacted me and arranged for me to meet Mr. Graves
at a book signing event. I was not disappointed as a some what wizened, sun burned gent eyed me
over while offering his gnarled hand. I related to him
how as a youngster I too had traveled down a favorite "creek" that was soon to be lost under the
flood waters of a new dam. He listened carefully and muttered about progress destroying nature.
I left with his signature and warm wishes, and have read everything he has published.
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on May 15, 2017
Not the kind of book I usually read, but I'm soon going on the Brazos River and had heard about this book. The author writes in a conversational, sometimes cowboy sort of style, about his trip down the Brazos River and camping out of his canoe. He interjects a lot of stories from the days of the Comanches and pioneers. It's very interesting to hear about a particular skirmish that occurred near the spot that you're going to visit. Very colorful. Good reading.
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on April 20, 2017
John Graves was a Texas writer with a connection to its history and the people of the State. Goodbye to a River provides history and a creates a feeling of the value of the Brazos River including the prospective loss to be experienced when the waters long free were expected to be impounded by two Dams. One was ultimately built, but John Graves provides a window to the native Indians that possess the area, the characters and adventurers that formed the North Texas ranches and the quiet river trip providing an opportunity for enjoyment of it all. A good book.
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on November 19, 2016
I love this book. It's so lyrical and slow and meandering, like the river the author is traveling down. The first time I read it, I found the style a bit odd and jolty, but the second time, I get caught up in his language, his observations, and the way he intermixes his trip down the river with a trip down memory lane -- memories of the forefathers of those who settled in wild Texas in the mid-1800s amid the Comanches.

This is a no-holds-barred oral history of lives along the Brazos River northwest of Fort Worth in Texas. It's no apology for savagery of the clash between Anglo settlers and the Indians who reigned supreme until killed off or relegated to reservations in Oklahoma.

Chapter 9 is especially brutal, but if you skip that one, the book is a fabulous addition to any high schooler's Texas History study. It brought me to realize that most of what Texas History courses teach has failed to include the wildness and danger of northwest Texas, and that the state's "six flags" is missing a seventh which lasted longer than all the others: that of the Comanche nation.
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on September 28, 2015
This is a singular piece of writing. While it came well recommended, its title made me avoid it for months; but it is an enchanting and engaging book. Goodbye to a River was written well ahead of its time for its global view of human behavior and long-term consequences of land mismanagement. A proposal to dam Texas's Brazos River at multiple sites prompted John Graves to canoe the stretches of the river that held personal memories for him, before the area was inundated. Intentional spoiler alert: the plan was abandoned, but not before Mr. Graves created a remarkable narrative. The author interweaves personal observations and experiences with local and regional history to make a memorable book with passages I know I will revisit. This would make a worthy addition to college curriculum, and would be a great book club selection.
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VINE VOICEon December 7, 2009
An astonishing book, by an extraordinary writer, and more importantly, an extraordinary human being. The book assumes the form of a narrative of the author's three week solo canoe trip down the Brazos, a river about one hour by speeding car west of Ft. Worth, Texas; the journey was taken "way down in the fall," in late November, 1959, when the northerners begin to howl, and bring snow. By most estimations, it is not much of a river, and even the author says: "...on a salty river unloved, unlovable except by a few loners and ranchers and cedar-hill misanthropes." Graves gives only glimpses into his background, and if you blink, you might miss them. But consider, here is a man who has read Joyce's "Ulysses," and recalls that Leopold Bloom's father had slept with his dog, Athos, in order to cure the father's aches and pains, just as Graves was carrying a six-month-old dachshund he routinely refers to as "the passenger," for his own comfort. But Graves is equally well-grounded in the natural world, knows all the various types of trees, how they burn, and the appearance of the wood's grain, and that: "the white oaks are prime...one of the finest of aromatic fuels is a twisted, wave-grained branch of live oak..." Graves was a Marine Captain during World War II, wounded on Saipan, but again the reader only gets the slightest glimpse of that in one passage in which that perspective is used to reflect on the casualties of this countryside during the frontier days: "I once saw 4,000 Japanese stacked like cordwood, the harvest of two days' fighting, on one single islet on one single atoll awaiting bulldozer burial, more dead that the Brazos could show for its whole two or three decades of travail..." Graves has traveled as well, slight glimpses of which are permitted in "I'm familiar with the washed silent streets of Manhattan at five o'clock in the morning..." and "...did see dawn wash the top of the old wall at Avila..." and it was almost certainly there that he watched a man carve out a pair of wooden clogs with an ax, in fifteen minutes; a skill now permanently lost. An aspect of his life we are not afforded even the slightest glimpse are those that might be characterized, with a bit of leniency, as his "women problems," and thus why he might be alone. In anticipation of that conversational gamut, he rebukes us all: "Few people are willing to believe that a piece of country, hunted and fished and roamed over, felt and remembered, can be company enough."

Graves wrings so much meaning, and numerous stories, just like Faulkner has done before him, about a similarly "postage-stamp size" part of America; in the formers' case it is the upper-middle Brazos river, maybe only a twentieth of its total length. He knows the history of the area well, particularly as it was settled during the frontier days, and one tectonic plate overwhelmed the one that had been there the longer, represented by "The People," the Comanche's, the "Lords of the Plain," and the Kiowas. He weaves some beautiful vignettes from that period into his journey, with my favorite being the hanging of Cooney Mitchell; but there are numerous other memorable ones, including the smoking out of the recluse, Sam Sowell, from his shack. Graves teases the reader at the end, indicating that there is "No room..." for so many other tales that he has left untold.
The central theme is the river itself, and his farewell to it. At the beginning he describes his "enraged awe" when learning that it would shortly not exist, at least as he knew it, since it was being damned at several locations. Graves is one of the best naturalist writers extant, describing with love how the land lays "this way and that," and the wildlife along the way, some of which he kills for his food. He is inspired by Thoreau, whom he repeatedly calls "St. Henry." At the end, he questions whether it is all "a lament," but overall, you get the sense of acceptance; that things change, and this is one more, as so many residents flee to the factories of Fort Worth, Dallas, and Detroit. And how many nature writers, traveling down a river, sleeping in skewed tents, and eating squirrels, could wryly reflect on his existence through the prism of Veblen's "The Theory of the Leisure Class"?

Grave's book is chock full of philosophical takeaways, that should last me a long time, if not forever. I've traveled over the Brazos, about eight times in my life, each time I was going between 70, and hopefully 80 mph, trying to get out of Texas before nightfall. Thus, Graves rebuke stung: "The hard thing is to get slowed down." A more ironic thought recently resonated, when I was traveling with my wife to Death Valley. She said, of a road 30 miles to the east of DV: "We've been on this road before." And she was right: it was so like some other road we had previously traveled down in a desert landscape. I had to chuckle, because I assured her that it was quite impossible, but I shared with her one of Graves' insights: "On the fringes of the middle age and after, the déja-vu is likely not to be illusory." Even less so, considerably beyond such a fringe!

Graves is one of the wonderful members of the exclusive 6-star read club.
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on November 4, 2014
I had been meaning to read this book for years but kept putting it off for one reason or another. When my book group made it our October 2014 selection, I was unable to delay it any longer. In a way, I'm glad I waited because I don't believe I would have enjoyed it as much as I did had I read it as a younger man.

First, you need to have patience with his style--it's almost a metaphore for the Brazos river those 3 weeks he spent on it. Each page was like each section of that river, never the same, full of surprises.

Second, as a younger man I had not read Paul Theroux. It was fun imagining this New Englander and the authors hero, another New Englander Henry David Thoreau (Sir Henry) along for the ride. Paul's sarcastic comments counterbalanced Sir Henry's Waldenesque phrasings as they helped Mr. Graves navigate.

Yeah, I'm glad I waited.
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on December 7, 2015
For the last decade I have lived embarrassingly close to the Brazos River without fully appreciating the history, value and beauty of the area and the people who have encountered it. Recently, Graves' book "Goodbye to a River" was recommended by two people who hold my respect; the last time I was this grateful for a book recommendation was after James Lee Burke was added into the lineup. Graves is that good. Although at times frustrating as Graves wanders off into stories and tales not quite told, at the same time Graves teases the reader into going and seeing for him or herself what the fuss is all about, whether through additional reading or through a trip down the Brazos. This is one of those rare books that changes everything...
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on December 4, 2013
John Graves died recently (in 2013) and there was some coverage in the local Houston paper. My book club decided to read it as a sort of homage, and I am grateful we did. This book is a memoir of a canoe trip down part of the Brazos, before much more of the river was dammed and civilized in the 1960's. The weather was terrible, and John Graves had only a young dachshund pup for company. Local Texas history is skillfully woven into the narrative, and local Texas characters, living and historical. He researched much of the book in local libraries: "illiterate memoirs" is how he described some of them. Who knew that unusual colored hair made for more desirable scalps?
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on July 24, 2016
John Graves says goodbye to the Brazos River that he knew as a child and young man, growing up in West Texas before the river was dammed and life changed forever on the Brazos. This is one of the iconic Texas books that every Texas student should read to remember what life was like before the changes that occurred in that part of Texas.

What now exists there is a marvel of man's inventiveness, but I would imagine that to those who knew the Brazos before it was dammed, it is a sad remembrance of a life that no longer exists.
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