Authors / Interviews / Watch & Listen

More than an audiobook: The River You Touch

Milkweed Staff — 10/23/2022

By Jeffrey Foucault

  If I were made to write an essay entitled, “How I Spent My Summer,” it would be pretty good. I fished ten rivers in five states, camped wild country, met a lot of nice people, visited loved and far-flung friends and family, and played music on the road. I also spent an aggregate month of forenoons rising early, taking my steaming coffee out to the truck, and driving ten miles and thirteen-hundred feet up the hill to a friend’s barn, where I keep my recording rig and a handful of guitars, to record the audiobook of my friend Chris Dombrowski’s brilliant new work, The River You Touch: Making a Life on Moving Water.

Unique to this audiobook, you’ll hear the stripped down acoustic guitar compositions I wrote to announce the title and section headers: a total of five related instrumentals, simple, repetitive figures played on just two or three strings at a time, all on an 1896 Baystate parlor guitar, in an attempt to imitate the openness of Satie’s Trois Gymnopédies.

I’ve known Chris about fourteen years now, though I’ve never once called him by his first name, and when I think of him I always hear the late author and poet Jim Harrison’s halting nasal growl, Dommer! Introduced by our mutual friend, the author David James Duncan, at the end of a week’s rambling and fishing, Chris presented me with a small box of hand-tied dry flies, told me he’d seen me play in Missoula a couple of times, and gave me his first book of poems. As with all great friendships, we started talking and just never stopped.

Over the years we’ve collaborated, commiserated, critiqued, and called when our lives were in disarray. When I was flush, or thought I was, I would send him a hundred dollars in the mail and tell him to take his wife out to supper, and when he was flush, he would send it back to me with the same instruction. This went on for years. We traveled and performed together various times, him reading his incomparably vivid poems opening for us in bars and clubs, and Billy and I playing improvised music behind him at readings. I’ve read both his poems and his long-form non-fiction in manuscript, and he’s had every demo and every rough mix as soon I’ve made them. We’ve weighed in, argued, and shot the shit, in letters, in voicemails, from twenty-five hundred miles away, or floating together down the Clark Fork with fly rods, or chasing pheasants on the bench.

The River You Touch is a lyric memoir detailing the strict wonder and occasional terror of a life lived in direct relationship to the rivers and mountains of the Montana landscape that claims him, and which he and his family call home. It’s a lovely book. As I read it alone and aloud into a microphone, the depth and complexity of the narrative, the harmonic structure and sympathetic resonance – the way it establishes itself over and over firmly within what Barry Lopez called the “myriad, enduring relationships of the landscape” – rang me like a bell every morning. The descriptions of the natural world are as good as any I’ve read by anyone, poet or author, bar none.

The hardcover and audiobook are available now on all platforms, so go and find them while supplies last, and then, please send the links to your people, which will flatter your intellect and good taste, and help my friend sell a few more books.

DOWNLOAD/STREAM/PURCHASE: (select “audiobook”)
Or search for “The River You Touch” wherever you get your audiobooks

Chris Dombrowski and Jeffrey Foucault