North Coast by Thomas McGuane, 2006
The magic trick:
Introducing the main characters’ drug use without drama or judgment
This is a story about drugs. I didn’t know it was a story about drugs. The story starts innocently enough with a couple hiking in the woods. We get some backstory about their lives. It’s all presented by a monotone, third-person narrator. He grew up here. She grew up there. They’re in their late-twenties. They use heroin. Oh. Just another fact in the mix. I like the way it sneaks up on you and is presented with no judgment. And that’s quite a trick on McGuane’s part.
Austin heard a story about ravens meeting in the spring to discuss the tricks they’d play that year. He liked his stay with the natives, Christmas lights on the houses year-round. Perhaps they trusted him too much, but that was life. He saw ravens perform a kind of funeral on his lawn at Kamloops, when his cat was afraid to leave the house, the same lawn where they taught their young to fly after they’d been shoved from the nest. Though the neighbors compared about all these noisy birds, he loved them.
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