Tuesday, June 28, 2011
HEY!!!!!! Henry Winkler Reels in New York Times Bestseller
Henry Winkler, one of TV's all-time favorite stars as The Fonz on the hit 70's and 80's sitcom Happy Days, has a legendary acting and directing resume that dates back four decades. He is now about to hit the New York Times best seller list with his debut adult non-fiction book I've Never Met An Idiot on the River: Reflections of Family, Photography, and Fly-fishing.
He’s a Fishaholic. In interviews he has been known to refer to a day on the river as a “washing machine for the brain,” problems being washed away by the river. As true as that may be, it does sound like a form of rehab. He talks about brown and rainbow trout. His first trip on the Smith River and being hooked, he even describes fly fishing in Zen like terms. In one interview he was asked, what are some of your favorite places to fly fish? His response was, “Montana. Montana. Tennessee was good, Idaho was very good, Wyoming is good, but Montana is like heaven on earth.” He talks about being banished to his own boat because he fishes his wife’s water. Does this not sound like someone with the addiction we all share?
This book exists because Jan Miller said yes. We never met. We never telephoned. We never e-mailed before this book idea became an idea.
Winkler’s warm-hearted spirit anchors the simple collection of Montana and Idaho river photos, reminiscences, and asides, resulting in a fantastic Father’s Day gift for any patriarch who owns a pair of knee-high rubber boots. The hand-written photo-captions font is also a nice touch.
Idiot begins with a good-natured and sometimes humorous chapter by Winkler’s wife, Stacey. If she is to be believed (and probably she should be; no one is more unbiased than a spouse), Winkler really is as he appears – a kind, humble, open, genuine person. (Note, though, that she also describes Winkler as having “no tolerance for anything that distracts from the wilderness experience” while he’s on the river. Like, um, idiots? No!)
The first chapter also contains a noteworthy photo of Stacey holding a nice trout in her gloved hands. The amazing part – her gloves appear to be leather. That’s a new one; no Glacier Gloves for her.
The six remaining chapters are Winkler’s own, and they are an unusually unguarded bit of writing. Winkler is candid about his insecurities and limitations, and his struggles to overcome them. There is plenty of self-mockery, but no self-protection, and the book is refreshingly free of irony. Winkler seems to realize that there’s no joy in scornful irony, nor is there any shame in open enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures. The book is suffused with a gentle humor, homey anecdotes, and startling humility. For example, Winkler apparently falls in the river at least once a day. This should endear him to many readers.
Winkler also draws many analogies between trout fishing and life, and while none of the analogies is necessarily earth-shattering, most all of them ring true. And it seems like every life lesson improves Winkler’s fishing, and his time on the river improves his life. Sound familiar?
Overall, this book is a quick read, and it’s frequently amusing. It does not pretend to be anything more than its subtitle suggests. It paints a clear picture of a fanatical fly-fisherman, someone who’s single-minded in his pursuit of trout. It also showcases Winkler’s focus on family (not in the political sense). And speaking of family: if you are a father, there are some insights and observations that will probably strike a chord – though be forewarned that some of Winkler’s fatherly anecdotes will likely make you feel like a bit of a heel. Not only is Winkler the Fonz, but he is apparently just about the most aware, reflective and attuned Dad too.