cover image Cloudbursts: Collected and New Stories

Cloudbursts: Collected and New Stories

Thomas McGuane. Knopf, $35 (576p) ISBN 978-0-385-35021-1

This outstanding career-capping volume combines McGuane’s three published story collections (To Skin a Cat, Gallatin Canyon, and Crow Fair) with eight new stories, together demonstrating how the Montana author’s portraits of people (mainly men) who fail to connect to or comprehend other people (mainly women) have grown darker, funnier, and more complex over time. In an early story, “The Road Atlas,” a couple’s relationship falters as they plan a road trip. In the more recent “Little Bighorn,” a splintering couple plans to join another splintering couple for a visit to the site of Custer’s Last Stand. Parental distraction leads to confusion in “Miracle Boy” and tragedy in “The Driver.” Like their predecessors, protagonists in later stories entrap themselves by making poor choices. The runaway parolee of “Kangaroo” heads home, his probation officer and a trigger-happy sniper close behind. Errol Headley of “The Refugee” sets sail again in “Papaya,” only to be washed ashore and put to work shoveling bat guano. In pursuit of lost causes, an aging California hippie refurbishes a rotting boat (“Viking Burial”); adult siblings recall their parents’ divorce (“Ghost Riders in the Sky”); and a premed student attends dance class (“Tango”). The last story, “Riddle,” in which a man becomes utterly perplexed after witnessing a joyous moment, exemplifies McGuane’s casual, conversational style and well-honed craftsmanship. Brief, stormy, and refreshing, McGuane’s stories erupt like the namesake of this marvelous collection. (Mar.)