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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Buckling down and getting to work

“I strongly believe that literature can do something that nothing else can do, and that is embody the human spirit.” Thomas McGuane

McGuane may be the only member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters who’s also a member of both the National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame and the Flyfishing Hall of Fame – both subjects for his writing.  His work includes 10 novels, lots of short fiction, and many screenplays, as well as three collections of essays devoted to his life in the outdoors.

Born in Michigan on this date in 1939, McGuane envisioned himself as a writer from a very young age, admiring what he perceived as the adventurous life of a writer as much as the prospect of writing. He began a serious devotion to writing by the age of 16, studied writing at Michigan State and then got into playwriting and dramatic literature while studying for his MFA at Yale.

His first novel, The Sporting Club, published in 1969, set the high standards he has followed the rest of his career and also set up the types of things about which he likes to write.  “I like to write about the solitary things people do,” he said.  “Humans seem to function best when they're alone.”  And, he noted,  “I think there's only one interesting story... and that's struggle.”

McGuane said he never wanted to be a celebrity writer, but he always wanted to be a good writer. “I'm still trying to be a good writer. That's what gets me out of bed in the morning.”   His best-known work – besides the screenplay he wrote for the Jack Nicholson movie The Missouri Breaks – is probably 92 in the Shade, also made into a movie.  And while he said he sometimes worries about the health of the novel, he’s still a leading
 advocate for it as an art form.                                          

“A lot of the writers I've known for 20 years, who used to say, 'Maybe they're right - the novel is dead!' - well, now they don't feel that it's necessarily the biggest job or most sacred calling on the planet. But it's definitely a real thing - it's always been here, always will be here, and one might just as well buckle down and get to work.”

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