First Things First

Once, in a Paris bookstore, biographer Leon Edel heard Ernest Hemingway's take on T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom. "Camels!" bellowed Papa. "Camels!" In his new book, Thomas McGuane has given us Horses! Horses!

There is a theory that the artist who invests too much intellectual capital in the pursuit of sport or hobbies cheapens, or stints, his art. For 30 years—in a dozen books—Thomas McGuane has been one of the Wests foremost chroniclers of rile sweeping change and daily vagaries of life in America's fastest-growing region. But Mr. McGuane has not published a novel since 1992 (Nothing But Blue Skies), occupying himself in the interim with the writing of essays on the blood sports and a subject close to his heart—horses. Some Horses (complete with a Cormac McCarthy-esque dust jacket) is his latest effort in this vein.

The long holiday from the demands of fiction raises two questions: Has McGuane given up on the novel as his primary form of literary expression, a form with which he has previously dazzled readers (e.g., of The Bushwhacked Piano, Ninety Two in the Shade, Keep the Change) with his virtuosity? And has he become the sort of complacent writer who slips easily into the limbo of updated reprints (three of the nine pieces in Some Horses were cut from the herd of his 1982 collection of sporting pieces, An Outside Chance)?


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