Barbara Corcoran GEORGESS McHARGUE - Essay

GEORGESS McHARGUE

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Everyone] knows what traps and trails await youthful innocence in the sinful city. Nearly as prominent in folk tradition is the urban easterner-gone-west.

Newest addition to the westward procession is 14-year-old Marianne Temple [in "This Is a Recording"]….

Marianne's months in Montana are packed with enough action to satisfy any TV fan. They center on a conflict between [her grandmother's hired hand] Oliver and a bigoted under-sheriff …, and include a barn-burning, false arrest and a dramatic hunting accident.

Counterpoint to these events is Marianne's slowly unfolding realization that her parents are planning a divorce. The spectrum of her reactions nicely complements her growing affection for Katherine and friendship with Oliver, so that in the end her departure is as unwilling as had been her arrival. Though the story does not pretend to offer any great depth of insight into personalities and situations, the narrator's voice (Marianne's) has made the most of a brisk and lively surface.

However, one reservation must be registered. For a with-it kid like Marianne, some initial tenderfoot-type gaffes are just plain incredible. No one who writes outraged letters-to-the-editor about pollution (signed E Pluribus Unum) can convincingly make remarks like "I didn't know Indians went to college."

Caviling aside, this is an exceptionally readable story and possesses one further shining, if negative, virtue. For once in fiction the non-equestrian tenderfoot stays that way to the end, instead of winning the junior trophy in the local rodeo during the last chapter.

Georgess McHargue, "'This is a Recording'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1971 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), October 3, 1971, p. 8.