Patrick Fitzpatrick, 36, returns from Europe (where he's been an Army tank captain) to his grandfather's farm in Deadrock, Montana. What will he do now? Mostly he'll train cutting horses; he'll also spend time tending to his old Gramps and his mentally-destroyed sister Mary (an eventual suicide). And, overarching all, he'll get mixed up as the third side of a triangle involving a beautiful Oklahoma oil heiress named Claire and her scoundrelly but poor and sick wheeler-dealer husband Tie, who are vacationing thereabouts. This being a McGuane novel, however, most of what Patrick does is noodle. He engages in hip, attitudinal prancing: ""He took a hard look: oil-money weird, no doubt about that. Like Australians, loud with thin lips, hideous Protestant backgrounds, unnatural drive to honky-tonk as a specific against bad early religion and an evil landscape. . . ."" He offers an anxiously anthropological cataloguing of place--of a Montana bar, for example: ""Every time someone entered, 'What d'ya know?' in a hearty voice; and the reply: 'Not much.' The 'o' in the 'know' carrying the drawn-out local dipthong."" He dishes out show-offish dollops of knowledge: ""Through the interstices of a green satiny blanket, the horses' color could be seen: black and a mile deep. Looked to be fifteen hands. Squeezing his butt back till the chain indented a couple inches: a bronco."" And he indulges in a cleverness so airless that it flirts with gabble: ""He could have the time of my life making smart salads by the stone sink. It could be tops in mindless. He could duck the English secretaries like the plague, as each had already been wounded by her own London travel agent. In any case, his crude post-coital bathrobe slopping about was sure to cause no harm to anyone; and the question of smelly imbroglios starring oil-minded Southerners could not happen to him. . . ."" None of this, unfortunately, makes a novel--merely a display; the character of Tio--the only one that could be potentially interesting--is smothered under clipped, sleazo shark-talk; and the sex scenes (""And Patrick stared down at her strong body as he entered her again and again. He wanted to say that sufficiency rather than salvation was at issue"") are simply embarrassing. Totally without center, then, this may be McGuane's most excruciated, unnatural book yet--a farrago of nastinesses and ventriloquisms masking the spiritual pains of the eternal post-adolescent McGuane hero. To really find out something about horses, sex, love (and fiction), read Max Schott instead.