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The Cadence of Grass

McGuane, Thomas Author

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In his first novel since his best-selling Nothing but Blue Skies, and thirty-three years after The Sporting Club established his reputation, Thomas McGuane’s trademark combination of high wit, low behavior, and hard-won wisdom has never been on sharper—or, ultimately, more moving—display. This is the story of the Whitelaws, a family whose values are as far-flung as the territory they helped settle, and whose most recent generations have pioneered the landscape of dysfunction.

The patriarch, Sunny Jim, exerts his perverse control even posthumously, by means of a last will and testament that binds the family fortune (a bottling franchise) to a marriage that ought, by general assent, to be rent asunder. The charms of this particular son-in-law, lately released from prison, are potent if short-lived; Evelyn Whitelaw, his estranged wife, is quite literally bedeviled by them. And as her mother and sister court this twisted inheritance, her own yearnings point toward a way of life once habitual on these western plains but now embodied only by Bill Champion, the family’s ranch foreman and Evelyn’s one true compass.

A novel charged with the relentless and often contradictory claims of blood, money, history, and love, The Cadence of Grass is at once a masterpiece of savage comedy and an elegy for what has been lost. Long one of our most compelling novelists, Thomas McGuane has written the most ambitious book of his singularly distinguished career.

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Thomas McGuane's The Cadence of Grass is a brawling, barrel-chested novel full of irreverent humor and outrageous characters and situations. Set in Montana, the story begins with the funeral of Jim Whitelaw, the family patriarch, who has cunningly crafted a will that ties up the assets of his bottling company until his older daughter reconciles with her estranged rogue of a husband. With Jim's ditzy yet determined widow; his wild younger daughter and her sweet but unbalanced husband; a cross-dressing rancher; a missing kidney; and a mysterious Bengali, it all adds up to a wild ride. But it's Bill Champion, Jim Whitelaw's old ranching partner, who wins our hearts. A throwback to the old days, Bill is full of Western wisdom and pungent sayings--he defines a "coyote breakfast" as "a piss and a look around." Eventually, Bill reveals a surprising secret as well as the identity of Red Wolf. Like his previous novels, including Nothing but Blue Skies, Panama, Ninety-Two in the Shade, and The Bushwhacked Piano, McGuane's The Cadence of Grass is a ripsnorting read indeed. --Susan Biskeborn

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“[D]arkly fiendish, wildly unsettling, and viciously good.” –Men’s Journal

“A hearty welcome home. . .a tale of betrayal, revenge and spousal loathing. . .[that] rollicks along on the legs of its comic characters.”– Outside

“Beautifully turned….a surprising, affecting mix of bitterness and delicacy.” –Entertainment Weekly

“McGuane’s sentences are like no one else’s, crisp and spare, yet somehow baroque, and he perpetually balances the picaresque against the sublime.”— The New Yorker

“McGuane has struck a perfect balance. . .between his large cast of beautifully drawn and memorable characters and the animals they raise and work and love.” Alan Cheuse , Chicago Tribune

“A fine, quirky, funny, startling novel . . . with witty dialogue and hilarious moments and sudden violence and awful betrayals.”— Miami Herald

“McGuane is a terrific writer, a great chronicler of the vanishing West.”— The Orlando Sentinel

“There is a raw exuberance to this hard-edged novel. . . . McGuane proves that he is still an accomplished cowpuncher with words.”— Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“McGuane’s unflagging invention is consistently engaging. . . . He is remarkably attuned to the psychological discomfort and indirect jousting underlying routine social interactions, and his language is rich, varied and effortless.”— The San Diego Union-Tribune

“When McGuane dissects his characters to their squirming core, The Cadence of Grass is downright hilarious.”— St. Petersburg Times

“The plot . . . unfolds with McGuane’s characteristic wit and delight in the absurd. . . . His voice gets truer every time.” — The Plain Dealer

“One of our most readable and accomplished writers. . . .Consistently entertaining.” –Rocky Mountain News

“A complex and dark novel in which detailed rendering of psychological landscapes creates a fascinating portrait of the suffering heart of an old and perhaps dying way of life.”— The Globe & Mail, Toronto

“There is an earthy and comedic magic about this expansive story within the expanse of the Western plains.”— Deseret News

“McGuane portrays an American West that is vivid and alive, writing crackling dialogue with an eye for the ridiculous.”— The Boston Phoenix




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Book Description Knopf, 2002. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: Ten years after his last novel, Nothing but Blue Skies, Thomas McGuane returns to the form with a sulfurously funny yet genuinely elegiac tale of blood, money, sex, and chicanery set on the majestic stage of Montana cattle country.Sunny Jim Whitelaw has left his profitable bottling plant to his family, but only on the condition that his daughter Evelyn reconcile with her estranged husband, Paul. But Evelyn is a strong-willed horse-woman while Paul is a suave manipulator, intent on living well. What ensues is a family drama that suggests a marriage of Dickens, Chekhov, and Jim Thompson. The Cadence of Grass reminds us that McGuane is one of the finest writers we have, capable of burnishing the myths of the West even as he demolishes them. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_0679446745

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