Macauley's Thumb
by Lex Williford
University of Iowa Press, 1994
eISBN: 978-1-58729-251-4 | Cloth: 978-0-87745-443-4
Library of Congress Classification PS3573.I45634M3 1994
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.54


Lex Williford's seriously eccentric characters find that traveling down life's highway leads to the breakdown lane as quickly as it leads to the fast lane. Their quirky philosophy can best be summed up by Bucklin Rudd, who just lost his business and his wife after losing the last bit of his good sense: “Nothing like working half your life for something just to find out you think you're pretty damn sure you don't want it.” The ten stories in Macauley's Thumb—set variously in Texas, Old and New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, and Illinois—explore the complicated lives of disenchanted characters who find ways to express their grief at the losses they face under impossible circumstances, losses so large and so small that no one—not even Smiling Joe's insurance—can cover them.

A husband and wife, unable to speak to each other without arguing, face the dissolution of their marriage when they smuggle his mother's body out of Mexico. Two boys, confronting abandonment by their father, go to the Texas State Fair and stumble upon a way to get their mother out of bed. Thomas “Hoot” Ponder and his nephew find common ground in whiskey and storytelling amid the comedy surrounding death and dying. A chiropractor who loves science fiction movies struggles with his sexual fantasies about one of his patients, a Wal-Mart cashier who can't stop talking about her pain. In the powerful title story, Cal Macauley—driven mad by his wife's horrible death—faces mourning, regret, and the inevitability of forgetting by striking out against himself and the rattlesnakes on his mountain.

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