Thomas McGuane Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

How is fishing used as a metaphor in Thomas McGuane’s fiction?

McGuane’s economic writing style has been compared to that of Ernest Hemingway. Are the two writers similar in other ways?

What does McGuane’s fiction say about relations between fathers and sons?

What does McGuane’s fiction say about being a man in contemporary America? Is he suggesting that something has been lost from American life?

Describe the vision of the American West in McGuane’s Montana novels.

How is business corruption a consistent theme in McGuane’s fiction?

Compare two McGuane novels as voyages of self-discovery.

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

In addition to writing novels, Thomas McGuane (muh-GWAYN) produced work for motion pictures and for popular magazines. He wrote the screenplay and directed the film version of Ninety-two in the Shade (1975), wrote the scripts for Rancho DeLuxe (1973) and The Missouri Breaks (1975), and shared credit with Bud Shrake for Tom Horn (1980) and with Jim Harrison for Cold Feet (1989). An Outside Chance: Essays on Sport (1980) contains many of his magazine pieces, and The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing (1999) and Some Horses (1999) are collections of his nonfiction writings. His short fiction is collected in To Skin a Cat (1986) and Gallatin Canyon (2006). The year 2007 saw the publication of Conversations with Thomas McGuane, a book of interviews with the author.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Early in his career, Thomas McGuane was heralded as one of the most promising writers of his generation, one with a good chance to become a major American writer. He appeared on the cover of The New York Times Book Review and was compared favorably with Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Saul Bellow. The Bushwhacked Piano won the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and Ninety-two in the Shade was nominated for a National Book Award. In the mid-1970’s, however, when he began to devote the majority of his energies to writing for films, McGuane was dismissed as a sellout. In the late 1970’s, his film career seemingly over, McGuane returned to publishing novels. Although Hollywood would continue to option screenplays written in the 1970’s, McGuane maintained that novels were his true calling and that his goal was to be “a true man of literature,a professional.” Something to Be Desired and Keep the Change reaffirmed his position as a contender for inclusion in the Americancanon. In 1989, McGuane received the Montana Centennial Award for Literature.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Carter, Albert Howard, III. “Thomas McGuane’s First Three Novels: Games, Fun, Nemesis.” Critique 17 (August, 1975): 91-104. Although McGuane’s use of the pathos and humor inherent in competition has become decidedly more sophisticated as he has matured, this article is essential for understanding the early novels.

Ingram, David. “Thomas McGuane: Nature, Environmentalism, and the American West.” Journal of American Studies 29 (December, 1995): 423-459. Analyzes environmental and outdoors themes in McGuane’s work.

Klinkowitz, Jerome. The New American Novel of Manners: The Fiction of Richard Yates, Dan Wakefield, Thomas McGuane. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986. Examines the twentieth century novel of manners and customs. Includes index.

McClintock, James I. “‘Unextended Selves’ and ‘Unformed Visions’: Roman Catholicism in Thomas McGuane’s Novels.” Renascence 49 (Winter, 1997): 139-151. Focuses on McGuane’s works from The Sporting Life through Nothing but Blue Skies, comparing him with a host of writers including, particularly, Flannery O’Connor.

Masinton, Charles G. “Nobody’s Angel: Thomas McGuane’s Vision of the Contemporary West.” New Mexico Humanities Review 6 (Fall, 1983): 49-55. This article analyzes Rancho DeLuxe and Nobody’s Angel and insightfully concludes that McGuane finds the contemporary West absurd and without hope.

Morris, Gregory L. “Thomas McGuane.” In Talking up a Storm: Voices of the New West. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994. A 1989 interview with the novelist, in which he discusses his relationship to the West, his working methods, and the state of the American novel.

Rebein, Robert. Hicks, Tribes, and Dirty Realists: American Fiction After Postmodernism. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001. An assertion that gritty realism has gained ascendency over metafiction in American writing. Examines the works of McGuane, Dorothy Allison, Annie Proulx, Cormac McCarthy, Larry McMurtry, and Louise Erdrich.

Wallace, Jon. The Politics of Style: Language as Theme in the Fiction of Berger, McGuane, and McPherson. Durango, Colo.: Hollowbrook, 1992. Examines McGuane’s use of language. Contains a bibliography.

Westrum, Dexter. Thomas McGuane. Boston: Twayne, 1991. The first book-length study of McGuane’s fiction. It provides a basic biography and a detailed overview of the author’s work through Keep the Change.