McX by Todd McEwen


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Having made scurrilous sport of Boston/Cambridge in Fisher's Hornpipe (1983), McEwen now sends up Scotland while continuing his stylistic homage to J.P. Don-leavy and James Joyce. In contemporary Scotland, dreary men sodden with drink and rain ""gulp and sweat either to blind themselves to the sorry vestiges of what this place was"" or to indulge in distorted nostalgia of bagpipes and tartans. People refuse to meet others' eyes, and even the small gray shops are ""so terrified of custom their display windows are of wintry frosted glass, cold as their souls."" Humble, ill-clothed McX, the Every-Scot of the title, visits malodorous pubs as an inspector of Weights & Measures and crosses paths with such compatriots as the raging bus-driver McOcalypse and the beautiful Highlands woman Siobhan, who--thanks to her tenderness toward odd, bereft objects--becomes his lover. The lecherous McPint (""Wouldnae ye like tae get yet Muckle Flugga intae her Sma'Glen?. . .yet Cairnapple between her Beattocks. Eh?"") is at least as central a character as McX: while McX tries to bring a restored vision of Scotland and life into being through his love for Siobhan, prurient McPint risks Calvinist hell and discovers his own experience and desires put on canvas by New Scottish artist Totemic Smith. A savage, savvy depiction. Expatriate McEwen has an excellent eye and ear, but most Americans are perhaps not on intimate enough terms with this world for the satire, short on plot, to engage.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Grove Weidenfeld