Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
In Cadillac Jack, McMurtry, drawing on his background as a scout locating rare editions of books, takes readers into the world of antique dealers and scouts, flea markets, auctions, and garage sales, a subculture that provides meaning to the lives of thousands of Americans. Like McMurtry, Cadillac Jack is a displaced Texan living in the Washington, D.C., area.
Jack McGriff—called Cadillac Jack because of his pearl-colored Cadillac—is an antique scout. He combs the United States, locating special items for dealers and collectors. As he gets older he gets pickier, only wanting exceptional items; he is no longer satisfied with the merely first-rate. Exceptional objects can be rare items, such as Billy the Kid’s boots or Rudolph Valentino’s silver cobra hubcaps, or they can be beautiful items such as the Sung vase he found in a junk barn in De Queen, Arkansas. Cadillac Jack is a legend in his subculture—doing what every flea-market and garage-sale addict dreams of doing: He finds treasure among junk. Jack paid $20 for the Sung vase and sold it for more than $100,000. He buys the objects that he falls in love with, but he keeps them only a short time. If he loses his discipline and cannot bring himself to sell what he buys, then he will become a collector or an antique dealer. He will have lost the calling that gives his life purpose.
Cadillac Jack is not strong on plot. Jack does have a problem with women, however. He falls in love with nearly any (beautiful) woman who is in trouble. As the story opens, Jack has just met the beautiful social climber Cindy Sanders, who owns three fashionable shops, including an antique store. Cindy is a self-centered beauty, with little awareness of anyone or anything outside herself. Her beauty attracts Jack, and her antique shop seems to promise some common interest. Jack finds that she really has no knowledge or appreciation of antiques, but he thinks that if he can get her on his turf he can divert her from her fixation on dominating the Washington social...
(The entire section is 834 words.)
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