The Last Convertible
Anton Myrer is a courageous and gifted novelist. He never avoids the largest subjects, and he treats them with deep respect and skillful craft. Certainly anyone interested in depictions of the 1940’s in American life should go to his fiction. That era was a vital and large event in American history. Typically set mainly in that period, Myrer’s latest novel, The Last Convertible, is commensurately enormous in its scope, ambitious in its intent, and remarkable in the fullness of its achievement. It is obviously a major effort by a writer who cares deeply about his country, his countrymen, where they are going, and why.
Myrer has written seven lengthy novels, each built and told with care and attention to exact details of character, setting, and mood. He has written about a restless array of subjects. In The Tiger Waits, for instance, he explored international and national politics, along with the dramatic sociological changes of America in the 1960’s; and earlier, in the powerful yet unappreciated The Big War, he wrote a moving novel about World War II. The Big War has some of the most harrowing yet precisely written and effective descriptions of men in combat of any of the war novels of that era. Neither Norman Mailer nor James Jones equals Myrer’s masterful depictions of the commingled hatred for and fascination with the “aliveness” of war. Those sections in The Last Convertible describing combat also have a strong visceral impact. In each of his subsequent novels as well, Myrer has continued to explore the relationships between men and women in love, struggle, and turmoil.
Now, nearly forty years later, the World War II period still haunts Myrer, and in The Last Convertible he uses the period as the setting to help his generation come to grips with its children’s attitudes towards the war in Vietnam. Myrer is adept at suggesting the delicate and deadly mixture which the decade of the 1940’s was for him, with its acute sense of beginnings, its seemingly boundless future, and its imminent possibility of sudden death. This fusion produced a period of clearly defined, firmly grasped joys—pleasures made all the deeper for their defiance of death. Myrer survived the trauma of his war and came out of those years with values clarified and a desire to write about some of the things he deeply cared about.
In The Last Convertible, the author attempts to explain those hard-won joys. The Vietnam War years—the tumultuous, tradition-shattering 1960’s—seem to have eroded, attacked or confused those very values Myrer’s generation fought so tenaciously to protect. Today’s world makes the old values, attitudes, music, and general style all seem “square.” Typically, Myrer confronts this hurtful premise. He asks questions, analyzes, attempts resolutions, offers answers—he refuses, in short, to give up. Many of his generation have withdrawn into reactionary sullenness and despair as their children lose themselves in life-styles which seem radical and incomprehensible to their parents. Myrer loves his country and its people, old and young, too much to give up on them. They are alive, and therefore they have the potential for synthesis, change and the achievement of unity and human understanding.
The story of The Last Convertible opens in the early 1970’s in a typical American home. The youngest daughter of the novel’s narrator, George Virdon, reads aloud over breakfast a newspaper article announcing the production of the last convertibles in the United States. Although this news impresses George, it does...
(The entire section is 1485 words.)