One of our finer writers joins me on Bob Edwards Weekend. Invited to give a Pen/Faulkner reading in Washington, DC, Tom McGuane contacted us and asked if he could stop by for some conversation. He’d been listening to the show on his ranch in Montana and apparently liked what he heard. Since he’s between books, he had no current product to sell, but McGuane’s work never goes out of print, so there’s always some in the bookstores.
McGuane spent the 60’s getting some fancy education at Michigan State, the Yale Drama School, and went to Stanford on a Wallace Stegner Fellowship. He spent the 70’s writing novels (The Sporting Club and The Bushwhacked Piano) that critics compared to Faulkner----yet he also managed to have a really good time—the Captain Berserko period in his life. He wrote screenplays, including “Rancho Deluxe” and “The Missouri Breaks.” He even directed his film adaptation of his novel 92 in the Shade. There were actresses and parties and a wrecked Porsche in Texas. Fortunately, McGuane kept writing well, and before he got to some tragic point of young artist meltdown, he went off to live in Montana where he’d made some prudent real estate investments. He is now the author of nine novels, two collections of stories, and three works of non-fiction, including a book of essays on horses and another on fishing.
When I grow up I want to write like McGuane. Consider this example:
“When Erik was pulled from the second story of a burning whorehouse on assignment for UNESCO as part of a Boston Congregationalists’ outreach to hungry Guatemalans, Briggs made a desperate stand to keep the matter out of the newspapers and saw that nettlesome citations on his dossier were expunged.”
That’s all one sentence---and there’s not a wasted word.
Stuff happens to McGuane’s characters and they never seem to see it coming. In fact, they are astonished when plans go awry. In a story called Zombie, a father concerned about his couch potato son, conspires with a call girl to introduce the son to life’s pleasures. Now what could possibly go wrong with that? The results bring horrible ruin to one and all. As Tom McGuane knows, stuff happens.