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September 19, 1989 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-09-19

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The Michigan Doily - Tuesday, September 19, 1989 - Page 9

_ F

Keep the Change
by Thomas McGuane
Houghton Mifflin/$18.95
Thomas McGuane's seventh novel
is like a good canoe: solid, light, and
streamlined. It will move you along
along easily at a decent pace, and if
you keep it in control it will really
take you places.
Geographically, it travels to Key
West, the Yale Club of New York
City, and a cattle farm in Montana.
Psychologically, it voyages into
McGuane's familiar waters of love
and hate, commitment and betrayal.
Joe Starling is a successful artist
in New York until, "his love of paint
and painting deepened to a kind of
dumb rapture." He feels, simply, he
has run out of things to paint. Rec-
ognizing this, he gives it up to be-
come a freelance illustrator of opera-
tion manuals. He moves to Florida
and soon meets Astrid, a Cuban en-
chantress who rules his heart for the
rest of the novel. Theirs is a unsteady
union plagued by her health-food ob-
ssessions and her numerous friend-
ships with other men, and his mad-
dening practice of what she calls
"poetic detachment."
Joe and Astrid share several tender
moments, like when he sings "Like a
Fridge over Troubled Waters" to her
one night after a reconciliation which
follows a long separation. More
often, though, they are saying "I hate
you" in voices quiet enough to really
mean it.
The fact is, Joe can't survive with-
out Astrid. But when he steals her
pink convertible and takes off with-
out saying goodbye, he refuses to

William Butler Yeats' wonderfully musical poetry will be presented by
his son and daughter-in-law this afternoon in Rackham Auditorium.


'Sing what-

Thomas McGuane, once an undistinguished student at the University, will make his peace with Ann Arbor
professors tonight at Rackham Auditorium when he reads from his new novel, Keep the Change.

ever is well-made'

'THOUGH nothing could match
the pleasure of the wild old wicked
man himself growling through
"The Lake Isle of Innisfree,"
we've got the next best thing:
Michael Yeats and GrAinne Yeats.
Michael, who has served as
Chairman Irish Senate and Vice-
President of the European Parlia-
ment, is the son of the great
,.William Butler Yeats and will
give a lecture on his father's
works. Gr ainne Yeats, one of the
foremost singers and harpists in
Breland and Michael's wife, will be
,on hand to perform some of her
father-in-law's songs and ballads.
Essayist, dramatist, poet, and
,mystic, W. B. Yeats died 50 years

ago, and his poetry continues to
dominate the verse of this century.
Poems such as "The Second
Coming," "Song of the Wander-
ing Aengus," and "Sailing to
Byzantium" can still evoke a
shudder in the loins. Rich with
images from all seven heroic cen-
turies of Ireland's mythic past,
Yeats' poems and plays revived
interest in Celtic folklore and its
heros. Railing against British
economic and cultural imperial-
ism, he created a new Irish iden-
tity for his revolutionary times.
WORK OF W. B. YEATS begins
at 4 p.m. in the Rackham East
Conference Room. The program
is sponsored by the Department
of English and Rackham Gradu-
ate School.

admit the fact to himself. "Joe was
filled with a mad sense of freedom,
free to eat fast food, free to sleep
with a stranger. Instead of solving
his problems, he had become some-
one without problems, a kind of
ghost," assesses McGuane.
Joe Starling's dominant conflict in
the novel is not merely with Astrid.
It is a struggle to quit being a ghost,
to be a human being with enough
courage to care about and relate to
others. Smitty, for example, his al-

coholic uncle who faces a jail sen-
tence for an insurance scam involv-
ing rotten seafood, laughs when he
tells Joe that his father never liked
him. Joe has been patient with the
abuse but "he was weary of trying to
understand Smitty. He had just seen a
child abusers' support group on tele-
vision. It seemed society didn't un-
derstand their need to beat children. It
was getting harder and harder to be
Without ever shaking things

around to much - remember, this is
a canoe ride and not an amusement
park adventure - McGuane gets it
across that Joe wins the struggle. He
finds a way to feel compassion for
even the most intolerable of his fel-
low men. Of course, the small men-
tal victory doesn't turn his life
around like winning the lottery
might. But there is, indeed, a ray of
hope at the end of this novel that ut-
terly convinces. With change to
-Mark Swartz




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