Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Short Stories on Wednesdays - The House On Sand Creek by Thomas McGuane

I have been meaning to read McGuane for ages, just because he is Jimmy Buffett's brother-in-law! I know, I'm shallow. :<) I knew nothing at all about the man or his writing, but according to this he has had quite a tumultuous life.

My opportunity came with the October 3 edition of The New Yorker magazine. The story begins with a rather mis-matched couple moving into a rental house in Sand Creek, Montana. Right off the bat, there's an ominous feeling about the place. It isn't haunted but it does have a rather violent and odd history. Monika is from the former Yugoslavia who is stranded in the US at architectural school when the troubles began back home. She and our narrator meet, get married, move into this house, and soon separate. Monika moves back home, marries a Nigerian and has a baby. Then after a while she comes back to Montana sans new husband, but with a little baby named Karel.

There is another character, a neighbor named Bob, who offers quite delusional stories about his life. But he and the narrator get along well enough, and the baby takes so well to Bob that he ends up being the babysitter, after things don't work out with the teenage girl who had been doing the job.

This doesn't sound like much of a story, but it was. I liked it. I liked the narrator, the tone, the relationship between the two men, and even quirky, unusual Monika. Little Karel is presented as utterly adorable, and we even get to meet his father. A lot happens in just a few pages, and I find myself thinking about these characters, wondering just what happens to them later on. It was an optimistic story which surprises me given some of the things that occur. There's humor in the midst of decidedly unfunny events. I will definitely look into more by Thomas McGuane.

After I finished, I read a nice interview with the author about his story. You may read it here. If you don't subscribe to The New Yorker, I think it is an interesting enough short story to borrow this issue from the library, or even buy it. It's a great publication.


  1. I'd never heard of Thomas McGuane, but this sounds rather good. Glad you enjoyed it :-)

  2. I'm going to look this up. Sounds like something I would enjoy. Besides I would like to read something by Thomas McGuane.

  3. It seems like there's a novel's worth of relationships and characters in this story, and it amazes me how good short story writers can put so much in so few pages. Thanks for the recommendation; I hadn't heard of him.

  4. A very interesting review of an interesting story. You have me captivated. I appreciated the link to the New Yorker as well.

    I'm sure I missed something and understand you read this in the New Yorker, but, is this part of a volume of short stories of McGuane's?

  5. My husband hadn't heard of him either, and I only did because of his famous musical connection. :<)

    Che, I'm glad you're going to give it a try. I'm on the lookout for more TM.

    HKatz, that's exactly it! Sometimes a book is just more than enough. A short story is sort of like life in a nutshell. :<)

    Penny, it isn't part of any collection yet. He's published two in the New Yorker.

  6. I haven't heard of either McCuane of Jimmy Buffet (is that bad?). I don't know if this kind of story is particularly my cup of tea, but from what you say of his style, if I should come across him, I won't give him a miss. :D

  7. Risa, not bad! Jimmy Buffett is what some might call a cultural American icon. He's a singer/songwriter/writer. There's a bit about him here:

    and here:

    I didn't think I was going to like the story as well as I did.

  8. Ah...I see... thanks for the links, Nan!

  9. Risa, and I thank you for coming back! And for hosting this weekly event. I am really enjoying having a set time to read a short story.


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