Something to Be Desired, McGuane’s sixth novel, stands apart from his other novels in that the protagonist, Lucien Taylor, actually reaches a level of contentment and happiness—after abandoning his wife and young son. The “something to be desired,” though, turns out to be exactly what he gave up, a life of domestic contentment with his wife, Suzanne, and his young son, James. The discovery process is filled with debauchery and aimless behavior, accompanied by a gradual increase in common sense and maturity and a huge increase in personal wealth.
Lucien’s inability to tolerate contentment can be traced to his father, who ran off to Peru with a friend, Art Clancey. A high point in Lucien’s life occurred when his father “kidnapped” him from school to camp in the mountains above Deadrock, Montana. Although the trip was a failure in one sense (they spent two days without food or shelter wandering in search of their campsite), Lucien was thrilled to be doing something with his father. When he discovered that his wife had loved Art Clancey (now dead), the elder Taylor had walked out of the house for good, leaving Lucien and his mother dependent on alimony, child support, and handouts from relatives.
During a successful career with the United States Intelligence Agency in Latin America, Lucien returns to Montana without his wife and son to find a more romantic life. He is abandoning what is generally understood as the good...
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