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The Bushwhacked Piano Paperback – September 12, 1984


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Vintage Contemporaries ed edition (September 12, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394726421
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394726427
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #553,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

As a citizen, Nicholas Payne is not in the least solid. As a boyfriend, he is nothing short of disastrous, and his latest flame, the patrician Ann Fitzgerald, has done a wise thing by dropping him. But Ann isn't counting on Nicholas's wild persistence, or on the slapstick lyricism of Thomas McGuane, who in The Bushwhacked Piano sends his hero from Michigan to Montana on a demented mission of courtship whose highlights include a ride on a homicidal bronco and apprenticeship to the inventor of the world's first highrise for bats. The result is a tour de force of American Dubious.

"The work of a writer of the first magnitude. His sheer writing skill is nothing short of amazing. The preternatural force, grace, and self-control of his prose recall Faulkner.... McGuane is a virtuoso." -- Jonathan Yardley, The New York Times Book Review

"McGuane shares with Celine a genius for seeing the profuse, disparate materials of everyday life as a highly organized nightmare."

-- The New Yorker

"A novel of wisecracks and puns and ordinary objects invested with legendary potency."

-- Geoffrey Wolff, Newsweek

From the Inside Flap

A heroic young man is in pursuit of a spoiled rich girl, a career, and a manageable portion of the American Dream.

Customer Reviews

From there it really went off the deep end.
Jim Holmes
Not many genius writers/masters of language have McGuane's keen sense of humor, which is what makes the book tick.
Chris
Despite obvious flaws and possible insanity, you love these characters right away.
Shaun Mason

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "randytheviking" on May 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Nick Payne, McGuane's probably schizophrenic hero, is what we all (well, men at least) would like to be - someone driven by purity of impulse, who sees consequences as unimportant obstacles between his goals and his deeds. Payne's humanity is almost painful in its vulnerability, and yet Payne exhibits more courage and integrity than the ostensibly sane characters populating McGuane's work. The writing is original and unconventional, but for those of us who like to be challenged, entirely satisfying. This is the book that turned me on to McGuane's great talent (later confirmed when I read Ninety Two in the Shade). One of my favorite books.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Shaun Mason on December 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
In many ways this is McGuane's finest hour as a novelist. Considering the fact that he is America's greatest living novelist, that puts this book in a high place, and I don't mean a dusty old shelf. In The Bushwhacked Piano McGuane's glorious command of language is operating with a fully open throttle. Few writers can endear the reader to characters so quickly and with so little effort. Despite obvious flaws and possible insanity, you love these characters right away. Among all his desperate men trying to hold true love in one hand and bottled lightning in the other, this is the most desperate, most unpredictable, and ultimately most sympathetic protagonist. McGuane's modern American Western existentialism is at its most finely honed, whereas his sense of humor permeates each sentence. This book has plenty of McGuane's fun for fun's sake, and his hero is fearless in the face of danger, but he never let's anyone have too much control. This is a batrium of amazing language, humor, and desolate western spirit. It draws you in for a ride, but the bronc is going every which way, and the saddle isn't hitched tightly either. You might dig in your spurs and the next thing you know you're sideways on the SOB. Men who can write like this should be given money and be well cared for.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Carper on October 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
Complicated, challenging, endlessly entertaining and very amusing. Nick Payne is unpredictable and wild and hapless and completely his own person. The book is cinematic in a way a movie could never be, and McGuane's humor switches effortlessly between the dryest irony to outright slapstick. This is a good book by an inventive author with an impressive command of the language.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Reed Hubbard on November 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Nicholas Payne is one of those quirky, independent characters that I normally love, but Payne crosses over from eccentric to obnoxious. This book was published in the early 70s when rebellious youth triumphing over pompous members of the "establishment" (to borrow from the contemporary vernacular) was a popular theme, but looking back from the 21st century, Payne seems more of a spoiled brat than an iconoclastic rebel. McGuane is a good writer with an impressive command of the language, but at times, the obscurity of his words leaves one with the impression that he writes with an open thesaurus. Still, an interesting read with some funny moments.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Chris on September 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
Nicholas Payne is one of the most memorable characters that's ever existed in American literature, and that goes for Huck Finn and Sal Paradise. A hilarious ride from start to finish, The Bushwhacked Piano combines side splitting humor with irony, satire, and reflection. The Bushwhacked Piano is funny, sad, and everything in between. But, most importantly, it's funny. Not many genius writers/masters of language have McGuane's keen sense of humor, which is what makes the book tick. Here's my formula for a good time:
1). Read The Bushwhacked Piano
2). Drink malt liquor
3). Talk to a pretty girl
4). Get smacked in the face, or, if you're lucky, get lucky!
Nick Payne straddles the line between jackass and heroic visionary...if we could all only be so lucky. McGuane is the best living writer in America today. Non Serviam. Read this book to increase your vocabulary and mental health.
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Format: Paperback
What a strange little book....

At times, I felt the characters undeveloped and the plot unconvincing, yet I was compelled to keep reading—no easy feat considering the book's ridiculously tight spine kept forcing its covers closed despite my endless attempts to pry it open!

This was my first time reading McGuane. I came across a number of his books in a used bookstore when their perfectly uniform Vintage Contemporaries spines caught my attention. I picked up a few for cheap and started with this one as it was one of his more well-known (and shorter) novels.

Supposedly The Bushwhacked Piano is somewhat different than McGuane's other novels and has often been described as rather picturesque—it was definitely 'out there'. I came into this looking for a quick and easy read, but that's not what I got—McGuane demands the reader's full attention. He can write a knockout sentence and has a knack for unique descriptive prose. I suppose it's fair to say his writing style and utter command of language carry this novel when plot and characterization fail to do so—which is fine by me, I'm a sucker for an interesting an unusual narrative.

A rather pedestrian story of ne'er-do-well pursues love interest cross country is accompanied by a creative business venture involving bat-driven mosquito control, but then McGuane treats us to the inside scoop on a rather intrusive operation that borders on cringeworthy. At least there's some humor sprinkled throughout though, some dated, but most still effective.

Overall, despite it's weird shortcomings, I enjoyed reading this one.
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