Social Concerns / Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Perhaps nowhere else in McGuane's fiction is the melding of theme and social awareness more complete than in Nothing But Blue Skies. Persistent as background noise here is McGuane's usual searing critique of the tabloid mentality of American public discourse, and its reduction of complexities of human emotion and desire to formulae of money and disinformation. But while he is as capable as ever of satirically barbed throwaways, as when he notes that "everyone in California seemed surrounded by quotation marks," McGuane's point of view on the vagaries and excesses of American social life comes not in this novel from a struggling and unregenerate outsider.

On the contrary, the novel's protagonist, Frank Copenhaver, is already a successful Montana businessman when the novel opens. A small-scale tycoon, deal maker and speculator, with interests ranging from real estate to cattle ranching to rental car franchises to whatever else comes to hand, Copenhaver has already bought into the ethos that earlier McGuane heroes like Nicholas Payne and Joe Starling had explicitly rejected. For Copenhaver, the question is not one of a refusal to enter the world of commerce; for he is already there. Instead, it is a matter of what to do when the assumptions underpinning that world begin to fall short, when one can no longer maintain the interest or energy necessary to sustain the illusion that one's ultimate self is constructed on the making of money.

Copenhaver's best option would seem to lie between the impotent rage of his daughter Holly's history professor, who is paralyzed by the spiraling stupidity of the American people, and his brother Mike's ethic of acceptance, which would dictate that instead of decrying the selling off of timber from the family's ancestral ranch, one should come to acknowledge that the time has probably come "for Americans to learn to love pavement...

(The entire section is 775 words.)