McGuane used the woods of northern Michigan as the setting for his first novel, The Sporting Club. The Centennial Club, founded by distant ancestors of its present members, has been the retreat for highly paid Detroit executives and their families. Hunting and fishing are the accepted manly activities, while the women and children swim and lie in the sun. Into this setting come two characters who eventually destroy the club. James Quinn, who has rescued his father’s business from the brink of bankruptcy, appears to be the ideal club member. He longs for the solitude of the woods and the established and honorable rituals of sport. He approaches fishing with care, expertise, and reverence, trying to cleanse himself of the stain of business and the attendant cutthroat competition. Returning to the club after an absence of several years is Vernor Stanton, a friend of Quinn from their adolescent days. Stanton is extremely wealthy and has cast himself apart from those who perform any of the normal tasks of upper-class American life. He wants to “make the world tense” and “foment discord.”
Stanton’s return is motivated by his desire to destroy the club and to convince the members that they are not the distinguished descendants of grand ancestors who founded the club on lofty ideals. To effect this goal, he must enlist the help of Quinn, who joined him in many a prank in the past. Quinn resists at first, mainly because he sees himself as a responsible businessman—too old, mature, and content to want to disrupt tradition. Stanton’s...
(The entire section is 642 words.)