CADILLAC JACK  by Larry McMurtry


A Novel
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McMurtry's down-home fictions have always been juiced up with side-orders of raunchy charm and beer-barrel comedy--but this time he tries, with middling results, to make an entire novel out of such enticing (yet ultimately wearying) trimmings. Narrator-hero "Cadillac Jack" McGriff is a onetime rodeo bulldogger who now travels the country, in his pearly Cadillac, as a super-duper dealer/scout--picking up antiques and other collectibles (e.g., a load of gem-entrusted cowboy boots), buying at garage sales, selling to the super-rich. His prime client: Texas tycoon Boog, now living in Washington D.C. with gorgeous wife Boss--who fights fire with fire when it comes to Boog's lust for cheap women. (She'll "fuck six famous Yankees for every little pot he stuck his dipstick in.") And so twice-divorced Cadillac Jack winds up visiting D.C., where he promptly falls for two contrasting residents: social-climbing boutique owner Cindy, a freewheeling insta-bedmate who drags Jack to cartoony/gross elite Washington shindigs; and weary, downbeat Jean Tooley, an almost-divorcee who has two adorable little daughters . . . and who shares Jack's love of old, pretty things. Aside from some vague rumors about the Smithsonian collections being sold, then, there's hardly a flicker of drama as the leisurely narrative pokes along: Jack bounces back and forth between his two ladies; he also lusts after Boog's wife Boss (who prefers her tiny live-in Jewish poet) and dawdles with "two fat wet girls on a rubber mattress in a fairly low-grade pussy parlor"; he gets car-phone calls from ex-wife Coffee (who "thought World War II had occurred in the nineteenth century"). And finally, to clear his head, he drives out west--gathering famous pairs of boots (so Cindy can exhibit them), acquiring a forlorn traveling companion (a bored wife). . . but returning to find that he still can't commit himself to one woman or the other. McMurtry does a dandy job with Jack's business doings here: his highway world of garage-sale finds, auction fever, and obsessive acquisition is captured in rich, economic detail. And the quieter comedy (those cute daughters, the hooker conversations, poor Coffee) often scores. But the supposed center of this novel, Jack's romantic quandary, is uninvolving throughout, thanks to the thin characterizations--while the broader D.C. farce clashes badly with the tough-guy sentimentality. An idle mix of charm, noise, and hoke, then: far too long (unlike Dan Jenkins' comparable, modest Baja Oklahoma), fitfully endearing, and especially disappointing after the textured comedy/drama control of Somebody Darling.
Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 1982
ISBN: 0684853833
Page count: 405pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1982


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