» » Young Men and Fire: A True Story of the Mann Gulch Fire

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by Norman Maclean
Download Young Men and Fire: A True Story of the Mann Gulch Fire fb2
Americas
  • Author:
    Norman Maclean
  • ISBN:
    0226500616
  • ISBN13:
    978-0226500614
  • Genre:
  • Publisher:
    University of Chicago Press; 1st edition (September 1, 1992)
  • Pages:
    316 pages
  • Subcategory:
    Americas
  • Language:
  • FB2 format
    1827 kb
  • ePUB format
    1940 kb
  • DJVU format
    1306 kb
  • Rating:
    4.6
  • Votes:
    271
  • Formats:
    rtf txt mobi lrf


But MacLean warps the form-fearlessly.

But MacLean warps the form-fearlessly. He practically instructs us how to react and think about the tragedy, yanking us up steep canyon walls to ponder the series of easily-made mistakes in the tragedy, where "young men died like squirrels. The lightning-sparked fire was a "catastrophic collision of fire, clouds and winds" in Mann Gulch, located between Butte and Great Falls along the upper Missouri River.

Young Men and Fire is a non-fiction book written by Norman Maclean. The fire occurred in Mann Gulch in the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness on August 5. The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award (1992).

Young Men and Fire, December 4, 1985. THOUGH HE HAD HOPED for many years to write about the Mann Gulch fire, Norman Maclean did not start work on this book until his seventy-fourth year, after publication of A River Runs Through It and Other Stories. He began Young Men and Fire partly in the spirit of what he liked to call his anti-shuffleboard philosophy of old age, but partly, too, out of a deeper compulsion. In Maclean’s files after his death were found some notes toward a Preface, written in 1984

Superficially, Young Men and Fire is the story of fifteen elite Smokejumpers who died in Mann Gulch, Montana, in 1949. This is a book of non-fiction. Many details about the Mann Gulch Fire of August 5, 1949 are documented

Superficially, Young Men and Fire is the story of fifteen elite Smokejumpers who died in Mann Gulch, Montana, in 1949. The Smokejumpers were all young men, the best of the best in their chosen profession: fighting forest fires. Many details about the Mann Gulch Fire of August 5, 1949 are documented. At the same time, the author states that he seeks to tell of the event as a story because a story should capture the souls of the men fighting and portray the events with compassion, compassion for This book was not published until after the author’s death. What is provided here is a manuscript not properly finished.

Young Men and Fire is divided into three parts

Young Men and Fire is divided into three parts. This division of the story is somewhat influenced by my teaching Plato when I was fairly young. He thought the lowest form of knowledge was common opinion (Section 1) but still it was a kind of knowledge; above common opinion is science and to him the highest and most abstract form of scientific knowledge is mathematics. Maclean wrote Young Men and Fire in part to learn about himself - he is explicit about this in the book and in his letters - and at some level he did not want to let the book go because it sustained him.

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Young Men and Fire won the National Book Critics. Books based on true stories can be dry and uninteresting; however, MacLean combines fact, speculation, and emotion in a way that keeps the reader clamoring for more. A unique and haunting story of a tragedy and a quest. com User, March 26, 1999.

Young Men and Fire won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992.

An excerpt from Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean. His description of the conflagration terrifies, but it is his battle with words, his effort to turn the story of the 13 men into tragedy that makes this book a classic.

On August 5, 1949, a crew of fifteen of the United States Forest Service's elite airborne firefighters, the Smokejumpers, stepped into the sky above a remote forest fire in the Montana wilderness. Two hours after their jump, all but three of these men were dead or mortally burned. Haunted by these deaths for forty years, Norman Maclean puts back together the scattered pieces of the Mann Gulch tragedy.Young Men and Fire won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992."A magnificent drama of writing, a tragedy that pays tribute to the dead and offers rescue to the living.... Maclean's search for the truth, which becomes an exploration of his own mortality, is more compelling even than his journey into the heart of the fire. His description of the conflagration terrifies, but it is his battle with words, his effort to turn the story of the 13 men into tragedy that makes this book a classic."—from New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, Best Books of 1992"A treasure: part detective story, part western, part tragedy, part elegy and wholly eloquent ghost story in which the dead and the living join ranks cheerfully, if sometimes eerily, in a search for truth and the rest it brings."—Joseph Coates, Chicago Tribune"An astonishing book. In compelling language, both homely and elegant, Young Men and Fire miraculously combines a fascinating primer on fires and firefighting, a powerful, breathtakingly real reconstruction of a tragedy, and a meditation on writing, grief and human character.... Maclean's last book will stir your heart and haunt your memory."—Timothy Foote, USA Today"Beautiful.... A dark American idyll of which the language can be proud."—Robert M. Adams, The New York Review of Books"Young Men and Fire is redolent of Melville. Just as the reader of Moby Dick comes to comprehend the monstrous entirety of the great white whale, so the reader of Young Men and Fire goes into the heart of the great red fire and comes out thoroughly informed. Don't hesitate to take the plunge."—Dennis Drabelle, Washington Post Book World"Young Men and Fire is a somber and poetic retelling of a tragic event. It is the pinnacle of smokejumping literature and a classic work of 20th-century nonfiction."—John Holkeboer, The Wall Street Journal"Maclean is always with the brave young dead. . . . They could not have found a storyteller with a better claim to represent their honor. . . . A great book."—James R. Kincaid, New York Times Book Review

Mr.Death
Published 22 years ago, "Young Men & Fire" still crackles today. Norman MacLean's account of the Mann Gulch fire, which claimed the lives of 13 firefighters in 1949, is a powerful piece of narrative journalism. But MacLean warps the form--fearlessly. He practically instructs us how to react and think about the tragedy, yanking us up steep canyon walls to ponder the series of easily-made mistakes in the tragedy, where "young men died like squirrels."

The lightning-sparked fire was a "catastrophic collision of fire, clouds and winds" in Mann Gulch, located between Butte and Great Falls along the upper Missouri River. The fire was first spotted by a forest ranger and soon a C-47 was on the way with smokejumpers on board, heading to the remote canyon with winds so rough that one smokejumper got sick and did not jump. Fifteen smokejumpers parachuted into the fire and joined the forest ranger, who had been fighting the fire on his own for hours, on the ground. MacLean parses these first few decisions carefully and highlights the many ways in which it was unlikely this crew might succeed--their youth, lack of training and lack of training together. To make matters worse, their radio was destroyed during the jump (its parachute failed to open).

The tragedy unspools over a few fast hours, flames racing up the steep slopes of the canyon, feeding on knee-high cheatgrass. MacLean does an admirable job of breaking down the series of events, but it gets a bit complicated and hard to picture, no matter how many times MacLean takes us back to various vantage points to consider (and reconsider) how the flames won and the men lost.

The Mann Gulch fire is infamous for the tragedy but also noted for the "escape fire" lit by Wagner Dodge, who figured out in the high-pressure situation that the way to survive was to light his own fire and lay down in the smoking embers in order to hide, essentially, from the bigger onrushing blaze. Dodge urged others to join him, but they didn't heed his pleas--or didn't understand the strategy, given the panic. Dodge was one of three survivors. The controversy over this moment--could others have survived as well?--remains.

MacLean takes on the role of investigator, prosecutor and philosopher. "Young Men & Fire" is compelling reading precisely because MacLean asserts his point of view and takes us inside his thought process, neatly interweaving his personal take with events on the ground and almost insisting that we try and figure out what happened. "We enter now a different time zone, even a different world of time. Suddenly comes the world of slow-time that accompanies grief and moral bewilderment trying to understand the extinction of those whose love and everlasting presence were never questioned. Al there was to time were the fixty-six speeding minutes before the fire picked watches off dead bodies, blew them up a hillside ahead of the bodies, and froze the watch hands together. Ahead now is a world of no explosions no blowups, and, without a storyteller, not many explanations."

Where some writers of narrative non-fiction work hard to keep their distance from their subject, MacLean purposely weaves himself into the story, determined to come to terms with the tragedy in the same way he wrote the novel "A River Runs Through It" as a way to come to terms with the death of his brother.

In the end, MacLean doesn't have all the answers and views the Mann Gulch with a long view. The "truculent universe," he concludes, "prefers to retain the Mann Gulch fire as one of its secrets--left to itself, it fades away, an unsolved violent incident grieved over by the fewer and fewer still living who are old enough to grieve over fatalities of 1949."
Xig
First read this book when it came out. Nice to see it again. Published after Maclean’s death it has the feel of a series of articles fitted together. At times lyrical and at others clearly roughly written. It is more an account of the author’s personal investigation then an account of the first death of smokejumpers in 1949. A great read if you are patient.
Sironynyr
Norman MacLean inadvertently gave me one of my formative views on writing. I was in high school when "A River Runs Through It" came out. I don't remember much about it, fly-fishing not being my passion, but I remember a crusty newspaper editor saying to a young writer, "Good. Now half."

Good. Now half.

I carried that piece of wisdom around from that day on. So it seems interestingly circular that Young Men and Fire is really two books, and if halved, either could stand alone.

The first half is the story of the Mann Gulch fire: what the terrain is like, who the boys were, what smokejumping was like at that point. It includes a meticulous and heart-pounding timeline of how everything went so wrong, and the rescue efforts, such as they were. It is the classic disaster analysis narrative, but with some really beautiful prose, and a weird dreamlike recounting of MacLean's own firefighting experience.

As I was reading, I thought that I was glad I was not John MacLean, to try and cover the same ground his father had, but with less obvious mastery of the language. The elder man's writing is so sharp and vivid.
"Here the fire rocked back and forth like a broadjumper before it started toward the takeoff. Then it jumped. One by one, other like fires reached the line, rocked back and forth, and they all made it."

"The black poles looked as if they had been born of the gray ashes as the result of some vast effort at sexual intercourse on the edges of the afterlife."

"There's nothing wrong with romanticism, except that sometimes it isn't enough."

Alone, this would be a near-perfect book (he gets a little distracted by prose sometimes).

The second half of the book is also fascinating, in a less whizz-bang way. It is the story of MacLean teaching himself investigative journalism late in life, in pursuit of this one story. It's about an old man and his need to understand what happened.

He fights through both literal and metaphorical obstacles, trying to track the paper trail, the minimal amount of data that was collected, the way processes were changed.

"Also genetically they like shady secrets and genetically they like to protect shady secrets but have none of their own. I gather that government organizations nearly always have this unorganized minority of Keepers of Unkept Secrets, and one of these, I was told, went so far as to write a letter to be read at a meeting of the staff of the regional forester reporting that I was making suspicious visits to Mann Gulch and reportedly and suspiciously arranging to bring back with me to Mann Gulch the two survivors of the fire."

"Scholars of the woods know that one of the best bibliographical reference works to consult is the postmistress of a nearby logging town."

He also went back to Mann Gulch over and over, trying to pace out the locations of the bodies, the fires. Imagine this old man, clambering awkwardly up the steep slope in the hot summer sun, trying to think what it had been like.

Eventually he trails off into the realm of math and science, studying how fast a fire travels in different fuels, what effect slope has, what we can now figure out and reconstruct.

Overall, it's a very hopeful story, that we can learn enough to prevent the same thing from happening over and over again.

"I said to myself, "Now we know, now we know." I kept repeating this line until I recognized that, in the wide world anywhere, "Now we know, now we know" is one of its most beautiful poems."

Read if: You are looking for evocative, mannered prose. You love fire stories and investigative reporting. You are on some kind of wildfire book kick as I obviously am.

Skip if: You are an impatient reader, in search of a plot. You will be bothered by trying to find meaning in a disaster. Philosophical noodling will make you nuts.

Also read: All the President's Men for the story of reporting a story. The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America for information on what led to the nature of the Forest Service that MacLean is dealing with.