Western Man

Thomas McGuane is back, with a dazzling story collection about strong-willed guys, mysterious women, and stark realities on the range

Jun 15, 2006
Outside Magazine
Coming Soon

Hollywood is dusting off two literary classics: Catherine Hardwicke (Lords of Dogtown) will direct a big-screen version of Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang, and Sam Raimi (Spider-Man) will update Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Meanwhile, surfing gets silly with Big Wave, a comedy from Dodgeball producer Ben Stiller and directors Emmett (Thicker Than Water) and Brendan Malloy. No word yet on release dates.

Gallatin Canyon

THROUGH A CAREER spanning four decades, nine novels, and three works of nonfiction, Thomas McGuane has demonstrated literary virtuosity, a brilliant eye for the natural world, and an almost universal knowledge of outdoor skills—from handling a fly rod to reining a runaway horse. Gallatin Canyon (Knopf, $24), his first collection of short fiction since 1986's To Skin a Cat, is classic McGuane, packed with emotionally wayward characters following dark, twisted paths where chance occurrences, strange coincidences, and surprising bursts of humor wait in dark corners with clenched fists. Although the bulk of Gallatin Canyon is set in McGuane's home state of Montana—the book takes its name from the fabled river gorge south of Bozeman, a death trap of blind, icy curves—the writing never lapses into clichéd western fantasy. Instead, when McGuane's male characters adhere too tightly to the empty ideals of rugged individualism, they suffer unbearable defeat. In "The Zombie," a Billings banker hires a girl to seduce his virgin son but destroys all three of their lives in the process. In "North Coast," a pair of heroin-addicted wilderness buffs head into the grizzly country of western Canada, willing to damage the land they love to pay for their next fix. And in the title story, a lonely and ruthless Bozeman businessman louses up a land deal, only to find himself and his girlfriend playing a high-speed game of chicken one night in Gallatin Canyon. His aggressiveness keeps them alive, but the other driver—and his romance—are DOA. As the day goes horribly wrong, the narrator concludes that "at no time in the future would I act out a role to accomplish anything." But his next sentence betrays the fatalism with which McGuane views the modern male: "This decision quickly evaporated with the realization that that is practically all we do in life."

Filed To: Culture

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