>The New Yorker: "A Prairie Girl" by Thomas McGuane


February 27, 2012: “A Prairie Girl” by Thomas McGuane
I didn’t care much for this story, which feels far too “told” for me. Where are the scenes? Too few and far between. Also, it doesn’t seem terribly fresh. A prostitute in a small town marries the gay son of the town’s banker. Her motivation is related to the reason she’s a prostitute—her family’s farm was foreclosed on when she was a kid—and her goal is to take over the bank. Meanwhile, she has a son—the husband doesn’t ask too many questions about how that happened—and isn’t too upset when the husband moves to California to be with his lover. Eventually she has to answer some of her son’s questions. The end.
The author also had two stories in the magazine in 2011, and I didn’t much care for them either.

About the author


  1. >I haven't read this one yet, Cliff. I love the way how, often when you don't like a story, you write "The end." after giving a summary. An extremely succinct and in fact rather subtle way of expressing disdain.

    Paul Epstein

  2. >I agree, Cliff. This story left me cold, and not because of the desolate landscape. All the characters are flat and feel like props the author, and his hasty narrator, are using to deliver a lecture on how bad the townspeople are for looking down on Mary. And as a bonus, the narrator provides a mini-rant on the foreclosure crisis (poor Mary's family lost their farm and equipment because the President "had tole them to borrow, borrow, borrow." Please. Hopefully something better is in store for next week!

  3. >I think the essence of the story, a Boule de Suif in reverse I suppose, had quite a lot of meat. But it does seem to have been watered down a lot by what Cliff refers to as the story's having been too "told."

    I think the flaw, here, is revealed toward the end of the author interview, where McGuane refers to his writing strategy for the story as having been akn to Muhammad Ali's "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" phrase. I wish he'd have ditched his effort to fit its limited demographic persistence and society fluid the American west (whatever the heck that means). This is one of those stories that make me want grab the author by his lapels and shout: "F*** the style, just write the damn thing!"

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