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Wednesday, June 19th, 2002


The Cadence of Grass

by Thomas Mcguane

Big Bad Book of the Day

A review by Scott Raab

I enjoyed Thomas McGuane's The Cadence of Grass so little — in fact, I disliked it so much — that after finishing it, I immediately reread The Sporting Club, his first novel, to see what had gone wrong.

Nothing. McGuane hasn't changed. His men are still vacant, voiceless boys; McGwomen are still a little less rough and a whole lot more needy; the prose is lean and clean, a telegraph from the land of that Big Sky Between the Ears. You could set Cadence — a truncated horse opera about a family whose dysfunction extends to organ harvesting — to a Warren Zevon riff, or strip it down to a screenplay, but as a novel it's pinched of life, enfeebled by characters who lie as flat as brushstrokes on the page, victims of a parched, laconic style that exalts horses, cows, birds, and snow while despising human beings.

Lonesome Cowboy Tom can write. The problem isn't him, it's me. I need more nourishment, something to cheer for other than the wind and arrested development. And while this ain't the space for a discourse on moral fiction, here's rule numero uno: Wipe that fucking smirk off your face.

Scott Raab is a writer at large for Esquire.

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