Two from McGuane and McCarthy

Novel:  “Ninety-Two in the Shade”

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 10.28.21 AM This is an early Seventies book from Thomas McGuane’s Key West days: a yarn with a fair share of conchs, crackers, tourists, and salts. The story’s suspense element involves a skiff war between rival fishermen guides.The boat duel takes on a “High Noon” sort of stubborn seriousness and asks for the reader’s benefit of the doubt.

Otherwise this is McGuane’s canvas of Key West with all its beauty and its warts, and much of the description stands the test of time. The book is comical in most parts, and the writing is rich, even if occasionally it flies too high.

The story features the dissipated Tom Skelton (who lives in a junked fuselage, cf. Barthelme’s re-usage in “Tracer”), Tom’s eccentric father and grandfather, and the violent Nichol Dance as Skelton’s mortal rival. The insatiably willing Miranda, who the author tries to portray as something other than a mere receptacle of sex, doesn’t quite rise to a character beyond that (the froo-froo baking business doesn’t fly, nor does the mention of her being a geography teacher). We get an eclectic mix among all of these characters of both dumb and erudite dialog, woven into both stupid and clever actions.

The author has long since moved to Montana and writes about dysfunctional westerners rather than Florida stoners. His recent story in the New Yorker “Weight Watchers” is a good one – more about trades and occupation than diet.

Movie “The Counselor”

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 10.29.33 AMCormac McCarthy skipped the writing a novel part and went straight for the big bucks with a screenplay. Artfully directed by Ridley Scott, the movie’s a balanced story of good and evil, love and lust, and three men’s ruination by greed and by women. The film offers a realistic depiction of life along the US-Mexico border near the hell hole called Ciudad Juarez. Lots of subtleties and complexities are amid the bling and squalor. There’s even a cautionary diamond and a pair of cheetah. Philosophy permeates the dialog in some occasional high-fallutin’ language. The visuals and photographic details are excellent.

Brad Pitt plays a Texan-type to perfection, with an overly eager eye for the gals and a suit that’s too tight. His character gives us the movie’s biggest social commentary line: “It’s all shit.”  In the looming irony department we notice that Michael Fassbender’s  lawyer character is incapable of everything, including being a counselor. In over his head, he is the one who gets all the advice and who seeks help from other abogados (lawyers). Penelope Cruz plays the yummy and vapid little innocente woman, and Cameron Diaz (now of windshield fame) plays the voracious c__, a hunter with everyone in her sights. Cartel captain Javier Bardem plays a likeable, boozy character in this movie instead of his usual role as a murderous figure of holy terror. Except for the opening scene, which was awkward, it’s some good flick.