Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Although the discussion of the novel’s action and characters might indicate that it is second-rate, it is not. McGuane has been compared to Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Thomas Pynchon, and the main reason for the comparisons is his style, a certain richness and seriousness that it expresses. The style is totally unlike those of the three authors mentioned above: It is a combination of very creative, original metaphors and wry, satiric concision. It is this style that holds the novel together and lifts it above the domain of superficially exciting, forgettable commercial reads, and it is the style—not the characters or action—that penetrates the contours and textures of contemporary American life. Although the characters may be two-dimensional, the style is three-dimensional and closely follows real thoughts:Now she is in the tub with him. They struggle for purchase against the porcelain. The window here is smaller and interferes not at all with the smoky swoon of half-discovered girls in which Skelton finds himself. In his mind, he hears Lovesick Blues on the violin. He reaches for a grip and pulls down the shower curtain, collapses under embossed plastic unicorns. The shaft of afternoon light from the small window misses in its trajectory the tub by far; the tub is in the dark; the light ignites a place in the hallway, a giant shining a flashlight into the house. A rolled copy of the Key West Citizen hits the front porch and sounds like a tennis ball served, the first shot of a volley . . . Traffic bubbles the air. Skelton thinks that what he’d like is a True Heart to go to heaven with.

Often the style is wry, biting, somewhat nihilistic:By dint of sloth, nothing had set in. And Skelton had been swept along. The cue ball of absurdity had touched the billiard balls in his mind and everything burst away from the center. Now the balls were back in the rack. Everyone should know what it is to be demoralized just so everyone knows what it is to be demoralized.

The throwaway flipness, the wryness are largely justified because they reflect the attitude and thoughts of the protagonist. On the other hand, this same style carries over to...

(The entire section is 896 words.)

Ninety-Two in the Shade Themes

Given the total failure of the culture's promises toward sustenance and meaning, McGuane's novel turns instead to the question of the...

(The entire section is 415 words.)