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The Bushwacked Piano by Thomas McGuane
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The Bushwacked Piano (1971)

by Thomas McGuane

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In short, Nicholas Payne is a rogue hovering at the edge of adult life, reluctant to jump on the bandwagon. We are to understand he is a big and not bad-looking fellow, that he likes risky ventures which going to work in his Dad's law firm definitely will not provide. So he's rebelling. It is sometime in the 1960's (the novel was written in 1971) and Nick is more or less a candidate for the Merry Pranksters, but he missed that bus and is doing his best to make his own party. I 'discovered' McGuane some time ago, and although somehow I haven't worked my way through his ouevre, I've enjoyed every novel or short story of his I have picked up and this is no exception. The plot such as it is, involves a pretty but probably unattainable (at least in his present mood) girl, and a man with only one leg and one arm who has come up with a scheme to build huge bat towers to take care of mosquito problems..... yes..... really. It's a clue, innit, that the plot is just a vehicle to take you on a ride with Nick. The thing is McGuane is a superlative collector of odd information, punctilious detail (there is a fabulous rodeo scene) and of American regional talk, so it's a fun ride if you just allow yourself to let go and hang on. Oh and Nick has terrible hemorrhoids. Just in case you don't get it that he is an ... ****

Seriously though, NOT for everyone. If you love Pynchon and Wallace and that ilk you'll like McGuane, if not, you won't. ( )
  sibyx | Dec 22, 2013 |
Quirky and busy, this is a novel that will either pull you in from the beginning or never quite catch your interest. Simply, it's rather what would happen if Dennis Johnson were to work at capturing the most mundane and unlikable of characters, and with a focus on the ordinary details rather than the spiritual or emotional ones which might engage a reader anyway. There are some interesting moments, to be sure, but nothing at all to really engage a reader in the future of the plot or the characters, or drag one back for more from McGuane. Nothing I'd recommend, I'm afraid. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Sep 10, 2013 |
Nicholas Payne is a law school graduate from Detroit who has less than no interest in following his father into the family law practice. He does however follow the nubile and spoiled Ann Fitzgerald to her family’s Montana ranch. Her wealthy parents hate him. To get Ann’s attention, he takes a death defying turn as bronco rider. He hooks up with a corpulent double-amputee bat tower huckster named C. J. Clovis. Clovis once named a Seminole Bat “Dave.” A run-in with the Fitzgerald’s ranch foreman (and peeping tom, with Ann as the victim) Wayne Codd, leaves Payne concussed.

He persuades Ann to travel to Key West (where “there were many retired persons of legendary mediocrity known locally as ‘just people’ ”) where Clovis has a contract to build a bat tower. To keep the seemingly healthy Clovis company in his hospital room, Payne has hemorrhoid surgery, performed by a ham-handed pill-head former thrill-seeking fighter pilot: “You bastards core me like an apple and let me have a hard stool two days later!”

Thomas McGuane is a wordsmith: “Ann had a beautiful, sandy easy and crotch-tightening voice.” C. J. Clovis, “in his vigor and arrogance,” is “the stick in the candy apple of America.” On Wayne Codd: “It is possible, for example, that he was run over by an automobile quite a few times as an infant.” In Montana: “The summer mountains were the color of cougars.”

The Bushwhacked Piano is McGuane’s second novel, published in 1971. Wicked humor, insightful characterization, and some stunning writing make it seem almost timeless. ( )
  Hagelstein | Apr 13, 2012 |
Writing like a victorian in 1971 doesn't warm me up to the reader, especially with such a unlikeable main character. The stars are because the writing is so literary it deserves credit, but the writing also takes away from the story. ( )
  gazzy | May 18, 2007 |
The book from whence came my moniker. Some of McGuane's funniest writing. ( )
  NicholasPayne | Jul 26, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394726421, Paperback)

A heroic young man is in pursuit of a spoiled rich girl, a career, and a manageable portion of the American Dream.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:50:37 -0400)

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