Synopses & Reviews
From one of Americas most acclaimed literary figures (“an important as well as brilliant novelist”—The New York Times Book Review
) a major new novel that hilariously takes the pulse of our times.
The unforgettable voyager of this dark comic journey is I. B. “Berl” Pickett, M.D., the die of whose uncharmed life was probably cast as soon as his mother got the bright idea to name him after Irving Berlin. The boyhood insults to any chance of normalcy piled on apace thereafter: the traumatizing, spasmodic spectacle of Pentecostalist Sunday worship; the socially inhibitory accompaniment of his parents on their itinerant rug-shampooing business; the undue technical advancement and emotional retardation that ensued from his erotic initiation at the hands of his aunt. What would have become of this soul had he not gone to medical school, thanks to the surrogate parenting of a local physician and solitary bird hunter?
But there is meaning to life beyond professional accreditation, even in the noblest of callings. Berls been on a mission to find it these past few years, though with scant equipment or basis for hope. Hard to say (for the moment anyway) whether his mission has been aided or set back by his having fallen under suspicion of negligent homicide in the death of his former lover. All the same, being ostracized by virtually all his colleagues at the clinic gives him something to chew on: the reality of small-town living as total surveillance more than any semblance of fellowship, even among folks youve known your whole life.
Fortunately, for Berl, it doesnt take a village. And he will find his deliverance in continuing to practice medicine one way or another, as well as in the few human connections he has made, wittingly or not, over the years. The landscape, too, will furnish a hint in what might yet prove, if not a certifiable epiphany, a semi-spiritual awakening in I. B. Pickett, M.D., the inglorious but sole hero of Thomas McGuanes uproarious and profound exploration of the threads by which we all are hanging.
"McGuane (Gallatin Canyon) adds another rueful portrait to his gallery of flawed masculine types, set, again, in Big Sky Country. Berl Pickett is a smalltown doctor whose ill-advised decision to try to cover up an old friend's suicide attempt leads to dire consequences when she later dies from her injuries: his clinic privileges are suspended and he faces a possible criminal negligence charge. With plenty of time on his hands, Berl reverts to his former profession of house painter. Between jobs, he contemplates his past--seduced at 14 by his aunt, professionally inspired by a kindly doctor who alone saw the potential in him--and contends with a couple of women: Jocelyn, a pilot with a shady acquaintance, and colleague Jinx Mayhall, a quiet beauty who discomfits him with her pointed inquiries into his character. The novel is more contemplative than dramatic, ending, as it does, on a decidedly anticlimactic note, but readers who relish McGuane's signature descriptions of hunting, fishing, birding, and cruising (in a rattletrap Olds Starfire 88) will once again be satisfied with the bard of the Absaroka Mountains' laid-back take on contemporary American manhood. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
The unforgettable voyager of this dark picaresque is I. B. “Berl” Pickett, M.D., whose die was probably cast the moment his mother thought to name him after Irving Berlin. Other insults piled on apace thereafter: the spasms of Pentecostal Sunday worship; the social debilitation of following his parents’ itinerant rug-shampooing business; the erotic initiation at the hands of his aunt. It’s hard to imagine what would have become of him had he not gone to medical school, thanks to the surrogate fathering of a local physician and bird-hunting loner.
But there must be meaning to existence beyond professional accreditation, and though scantly equipped, Berl Pickett has been on a mission to find it, despite being charged with negligent homicide in the death of his former lover, a business that lays bare the true benefits of small-town living. Fortunately, Berl will find deliverance in work and in the few human connections he has made, wittingly or not, over the years. The Montana landscape, too, will furnish, if not a certifiable epiphany, at least a semi-spiritual awakening for the inglorious hero of Thomas McGuane’s hilarious and profound illumination of the threads by which we are all hanging.
There must be meaning to existence beyond professional accreditation, and though scantly equipped, Berl Pickett has been on a mission to find it, despite being charged with negligent homicide in the death of his former lover.
About the Author
Thomas McGuane lives on a ranch in McLeod, Montana. He is the author of nine novels, three works of nonfiction, and two collections of stories.