Paul Davidson Maclean

Paul Davidson Maclean

Paul Davidson Maclean, brother of Norman Maclean, was a journalist and author. He worked on the Great Falls Tribune and then for the University of Chicago press relations bureau.

After retiring in 1973, he began, as his children Jean and John encouraged him, to write down some of the stories he liked to tell. In 1976 he published A River Runs Through It to wide acclaim.

Born in Clarinda

During his time at the University of Chicago, Maclean taught literature and writing courses and wrote two scholarly articles, “Personification But Not Poetry” (ELH, 1956) and “Episode, Scene, Speech, and Word: A Theory of Tragedy” (1960). He also authored “A River Runs Through It and Other Stories”, which became an iconic novel after it was published in 1976.

Paul Davidson Maclean was the brother of Norman Fitzroy Maclean, the well-known writer who was murdered in 1938. After graduating from Missoula High School, Paul attended the University of Montana for only a year before shifting to Dartmouth College where he was an editor on the humor magazines Jack-O-Lantern and The Tower as well as a member of Sphinx and Beta Theta Pi.

While at Scotch, he was a member of Littlejohn and School Houses and rowed in the 1st VIII. He later served as the William Rainey Harper Professor of English until his retirement in 1973.

A River Runs Through It and Other Stories (1976)

When Norman Maclean sent the manuscript for his book A River Runs Through It to New York publishers, he received a rash of rejection letters. One editor told him, “it has too many trees in it.”

The book’s subtle mission—a celebration of the interlocked beauty of life and art—was realized with its 1976 publication by the University of Chicago Press. The first edition featured a jacket illustration by Robert Williams, and spot drawings and vignettes created on scratchboard by the artist.

After graduating from Missoula High School and attending the University of Montana for only a year, Maclean transferred to Dartmouth College where he earned his degree in English in 1929. He worked as a writer for the Great Falls Tribune and later as a staff member of the University of Chicago’s press relations bureau. In his short stories, Maclean transports readers to early 20th century Montana with his poetic descriptions of fly fishing and Scottish women.

The Thirtymile Fire (1992)

Firefighters on the Thirtymile Fire experienced a series of failures that resulted in four deaths. Several of these failures can be attributed to mental fatigue, which impaired situational awareness and decision making. Identifying and discussing indicators of fatigue on PT hikes, patrolling the fireline, and while preparing to deploy on talus slopes is critical for personal safety.

At the time of his death, Maclean was working on a book about the 1949 Mann Gulch forest fire that killed 13 smokejumpers in Washington state. A selection of his letters from that period, published in The Norman Maclean Reader, “attest to his periodic doubts as well as his determination to finish and publish this large manuscript, first called ‘The Great Blow-Up and later Young Men and Fire.'”

Paul Davidson MacLean was born in 1905 and died in 1938. He was the brother of writer Norman Maclean and a contributor to the Great Falls Tribune and the University of Chicago press relations bureau before graduating from Dartmouth College in 1928.

Young Men and Fire (1992)

This book is about the Mann Gulch fire in Montana. It is a story of nature’s violence and human fallibility. It is also a meditation on compassion, mortality, and understanding tragedy.

It is based on the true story of a tragedy that took the lives of 15 men in 1949. The men were members of the United States Forest Service’s elite airborne firefighters, known as smokejumpers. The fire was raging out of control in a deep gulch. The smokejumpers flew in on a C-47, and, because of their inexperience and youthful bravado, they believed that they had a good chance of controlling it.

Maclean wrote this book after he retired from the University of Montana in 1973. He died on 2nd August 1990 at Chicago. He is best known for his books such as The Theory of Lyric Poetry from the Renaissance to Coleridge, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, and Young Men and Fire.

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