Review: “The New Yorker” February 27, 2012 Fiction


Thomas McGuane’s “A Prairie Girl”

A cursorily told story that leaves you quite a few bites from satiation.

Former prostitute Mary Elizabeth enters into a marriage of convenience with Arnold Tanner, the gay son of a wealthy banking family. It’s part of a scheme, we learn:  Her childhood home had been foreclosed upon, and a sort of revenge comes full-circle when she inevitably drives Arnold’s parents out of the picture and, after an amicable divorce from Arnold, takes over the Tanner bank herself.

Sparseness is not McGuane’s friend here. The play-by-play narration is ultimately the culprit, never incenting the reader to fully invest, as it were. It’s as if with each elicited “So what?” from the reader, the story’s reply (just like Mary Elizabeth’s oft repeated dismissal) is:  “What business is it of yours?”


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