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(updates)A tasty story. The authors first novel, published in 1968.This is an odd, dark comic story. The locale shifts from the Detroit office where the protagonist Quinn is struggling to save the family auto parts-making business, to the decadent old hunting lodge in wooded northern Michigan where he and a friend-rival from childhood (Stanton) continue a sick and obsessive battle of testosterone wits and wills. The writing, thus far, has a certain flair. McGuane has a talent for description. Theres a baroque, eccentric quality to the whole thing so far; waiting to see if he can pull this together in way that becomes compelling and pacy, so far its a bit jagged. I may be off base, but it reminds me tad of the style of Terry Southern, even though my experience with him so far is very limited.Wow, this Stanton is one of the most mean-spirited boors Ive ever encountered in literature. A bully extraordinaire. Man, is he hateful, not in an outright angry way but in the kind of cocksure unhesitatingly witty way that is disarming and, to some, irresistibly charming. Naturally, it gets him women and at least one devoted, lifelong friend: Quinn. Their relationship is based on oneupsmanship: a kind of focal point of what the gentlemans sport club is really all about. The privileged members resentment of the lowly groundskeeper, Olson, and his hunting prowess is spot-on and funny. The mere presence of a prole who is a better survivalist uncomfortably reminds the elites of their inferiority, is an affront to their manhood and sense of class superiority -- even though he is the best man for the job. He is a threat to the ego.This is a book that tries hard not to be likeable, but I am fascinated by this story and these characters.There, evidently, was a 1971 movie version, which Pauline Kael blasted.UPDATE:Third of the way in and as much as Im fascinated by Stanton and the personal thrills that drive him to manipulate others, Im still a little baffled by some of his games and McGuanes presentation of them. This books quirkiness makes it a bit harder to engage than Id like, but theres a unique authorial sensibility here that I admire and I will keep going.Near HALFWAY:Took a break and resumed this. Ive been trying to figure out the word that best describes McGuanes style and tone in this book and perhaps staccato fits the effect of it. Its not avant garde or experimental or even complicated, perhaps skewed and baroque and unpredictable, and it kind of causes you to stop a bit and bump around. Its not smooth but jagged, and yet, as I say, its not obscurantist. Im still pondering the psychology that draws Quinn to the manipulating bully Stanton, and because Quinn seems to be a willing accomplice to Stantons nonsense, it is Quinn, rather than Stanton, who seems the more reprehensible as the book goes on.WELL INTO SECOND HALF:I detect some Confederacy of Dunces-type quirky humor in it now; even some Evelyn Waugh-style dry humor as it examines the manners of the gentlemans club. (Somebody says Evenin. and the other replies, Whats evenin about it?)The replacement groundskeeper, Earl Olive, whose expertise is dealing in fishing bait, is a wonderful character. I love the section about the cookout. Stanton tries to explain his rationale for shaking up the club, trying to waken the pampered elites from their sleepwalking through life. Theres some stuff to think about here, even if its just an excuse for his insatiable hunger for control. I would have liked more description about Lu and about what Quinn thinks about making love to her, what her allure is, and so on. Anyway...NEAR END:In the home stretch on this and I have to say, this is a book with balls on; McGuane knows the operating principles of things. His mock history of the lodge, with all its convenient exclusions of the power plays and the robbery of the lower classes is just one sharp example. Olive, the violent rebel, is a product of this mercilessly exclusionary system. I think Im going to revise up this rating -- because McGuane has a unique voice and the story is clever and potent, even if overwritten at times.Final thoughts: Although a short novel, it took quite awhile to read this. But theres assurance in how its written, and the trip is a memorable one. Weird, but worthy.

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