The stories of Gallatin Canyon are rich in the wit, compassion, and matchless language for which Thomas McGuane is celebrated.Place exerts the power of destiny in these tales: a boy makes a surprising discovery skating at night on Lake Michigan; an Irish clan in Massachusetts gather around their dying matriarch; a battered survivor of the glory days of Key West washes up on other shores. Several of the stories unfold in Big Sky country: a father tries to buy his adult son’s way out of virginity; a convict turns cowhand on a ranch; a couple makes a fateful drive through a perilous gorge. McGuane's people are seekers, beguiled by the land's beauty and myth, compelled by the fantasy of what a locale can offer, forced to reconcile dream and truth.
McGuane returns to the territories of his novels (Some Horses, etc.) in this collection of stories set in Montana, Michigan and Florida. Most of the characters are older, divorced and still looking for attachment but without much hope of love. They are alcoholics (in "Vicious Circle" and "The Refugee"), junkies ("Northcoast"), low-grade ex-cons ("The Cowboy"), embezzlers ("Old Friends"), disconnected fathers ("The Zombie" and "Aliens") and lackluster ordinary men. In the title story, an unnamed smalltimer sets out on a business trip down the winding Gallatin Canyon, Mont., road with his girlfriend, Louise. He conducts his business dealings with phony bluster and indecision, humiliating himself in the eyes of this woman he hopes to marry; things get worse from there. Any attempts these characters make to draw happiness back into their lives backfires clumsily, pushing it further from their grasp. McGuane's sentences still have a playful quality, but the prevailing dreariness ("I wish I could feel something," exclaims Louise) is something other than inspiring.