Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The New Yorker: "The House on Sand Creek" by Thomas McGuane

October 3, 2011: “The House on Sand Creek” by Thomas McGuane

Since McGuane has a novel coming out this year, and since I didn’t think this story came even close to being satisfying, I thought it surely must be an excerpt. But based on the Q&A with Thomas McGaune, I guess it isn’t. This is the second Mcguane story in TNY this year, and while I didn’t love the first one, I liked it more than I like this one.

Here’s the basic story (spoiler alert—because you don’t need to bother to read the story): small town lawyer marries Monika, a refugee architectural student from Yugoslavia and moves to the country—into a horrid house vacated by crazy people—but after a while she leaves him and moves home. Lawyer becomes acquainted with Bob, a crazy neighbor. Monika comes back, along with Karel, her child by a Nigerian businessman. Karel enjoys Bob’s company, especially while Lawyer and Monika are fighting. Bob kidnaps Karel, Lawyer summons the boy’s father, but Bob and Karel are found. Life goes on.

And that’s about it. Some of these characters are potentially interesting (Monika, for example, is impulsive and quirky), but in this story I don’t think they’re fully developed. Which is why I thought it was an excerpt. We do get glimpses of themes: the lawyer is fond of Karel and can’t help himself with Monika, who will surely leave him again; Bob is also delusional. Beyond that? There’s not much there.


andrewdouglass.com said...

It's funny, I agree the piece was aimless and felt like a teaser, but it's one of the few recent New Yorker stories I've enjoyed reading. I felt drawn along to find out what happened versus in others pushing myself to read out of determination. That the story didn't actually lead to satisfaction was, I suppose, irony.

I wanted to know more about his connection with his frankly unbalanced wife (who ... didn't divorce him?). Her laughter at his crash-and-burn with the babysitter certainly belied an unusual relationship. Together they're chasing windmills, aimess like the story and the oddly engrafted kidnapping thread. Throw in the appearance of the African genetic father and, well, it's potpourri.... Yet I enjoyed it stylistically, which to me counts for a lot.

andrewdouglass.com said...

And btw the dog/vomit proverb was a favorite of mine from a perusal of the Bible in high school, for the bizarre sound of it. Something lost in translation? See, a Scot would tell you that eating vomit is simply a matter of thriftiness. (If you doubt me, consider haggis. And Douglass is Scottish, so I do get to make fun of us. :)

Clifford Garstang said...

Thanks, Andrew, for your comment on the story and on the tagline for this blog. I've been told the reference to vomit is unsuitable for a litblog, which so obviously misses the point that I didn't respond.

andrewdouglass.com said...

I suppose vomit is too apt for much of literature. It did make googling your blog quick! With all the noise online, you need something memorable. (Today's word is "ribaldry." Work it into a sentence.) I now have to rethink mine -- andrewdouglass.com -- I want something enigmatic, annoying even.

I'm enjoying your writing and links, ty.

[Typo alert - McGuane needs a big G ibid. & the ""Adjunct," Predicate, July 2008" sidebar link is busted.]