Panama

( 1 )

Overview

Paris, 1892. The American historian Henry Adams, grandson of one President and great-grandson of another, is looking for Miriam Talbott, a young American woman studying in Paris. Miriam is alive in ways Adams can scarcely remember being: bright, beguiling, talented, and attractive. She draws him out of the "posthumous" life he has led since the suicide of his wife, Clover, seven years before. But when he goes looking for Miriam, no one at her given address has seen her. And when another woman's body is fished out...
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Overview

Paris, 1892. The American historian Henry Adams, grandson of one President and great-grandson of another, is looking for Miriam Talbott, a young American woman studying in Paris. Miriam is alive in ways Adams can scarcely remember being: bright, beguiling, talented, and attractive. She draws him out of the "posthumous" life he has led since the suicide of his wife, Clover, seven years before. But when he goes looking for Miriam, no one at her given address has seen her. And when another woman's body is fished out of the Seine and identified as hers, Adams knows she is in trouble and needs his assistance. Adams soon discovers that Miriam's disappearance is somehow involved with the great Panama Affair that threatens to engulf France. Before it went bankrupt, the French Panama Canal Company had bribed nearly half the members of the Chamber of Deputies to gain legislation favorable to its interests. Now one director of the company has been found dead; other directors flee; and for a week, the entire city awaits the revelation of the names of the chequards, the long list of deputies witless enough to have accepted their bribes in the form of checks.

This thrilling, original novel, set in late 19th-century Paris, offers a provocative view of a world teetering on the brink of modernity, as seen through the eyes of one of its most astute observers. In his search for a missing American woman, Henry Adams, grandson of one president and great-grandson of another, is led into the darker reaches of Paris--and into an impenetrable and threatening political world.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Thomas McGuane is the pool shark of our prose. His sentences click with imperious precision.... The words swerve with fatal charm."

— Christian Science Monitor

"This is the first time I've worked without a net." The speaker is Chester Pomeroy, a washed-up rock star turned casualty of illicit substances and kamikaze passion. But we may also read these words as an aesthetic statement from Chester's creator, Thomas McGuane, who has made Panama a high-wire act of extravagant emotion and steel-nerved prose.

As he haunts Key West, pestering family, threatening a potential in-law with a .38, and attempting to crucify himself on his ex's door out of sheer lovesickness, Chester emerges as the pure archetype of the McGuane hero. Out of his struggle to rejoin the human race — and the imminent possibility that he may die trying — McGuane has fashioned a harrowing and hilarious novel of "alligators, macadam, the sea, sticky sex, laughter, and sudden death."

"Whatever risk McGuane may have sensed in attempting [Panama], the feat proves successful. The audience is left dazzled." — The New Yorker

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This is that extremely rare find, a first novel that is not only extremely accomplished but also quite unlike anything else. It daringly places a real person-American historian and philosopher Henry Adams-into a historic situation-the scandal in 1892 Paris over the corrupt collapse of the grand Panama Canal plan-and makes of it a dashing, sometimes touching and, yes, thoughtful thriller. Adams is sketched quickly and deftly: enterprising, sensitive, observant, still mourning the suicide of his wife years earlier, half in love with beautiful Elizabeth Cameron. We see him briefly in Panama, stealing a picture that will come to be significant; at Mont Saint-Michel and Chartres (naturally), where he is much taken with a young American painter, Miriam, who seems like a new breath in his life, and to whom he becomes quickly, quixotically attached; finally in Paris, where Miriam instantly disappears, is perhaps dead. At once, Adams begins to search for her, becoming involved with Parisian police, including a fledgling fingerprint expert and his young nephew; a coroner is killed, a macabre gift arrives for Adams via a pneumatique and the political plot around the Panama scandal, which could bring down a government and create a new one, thickens. At the heart of it all, Adams barges ahead like a gallant detective with the mind of an aesthete; through his eyes Paris, on the brink of the modern age, has never seemed stranger or more alluring, its people more enigmatic. That Zencey can create a headlong read, with a piercing climax and a poignant final note, out of such esoteric material is almost miraculous. A wonderful debut. 100,000 first printing; BOMC and QPB selections. (Sept.)
Library Journal
McGuane writes "like he's engraving each work in stone," said LJ's reviewer of this novel LJ 12/15/78. The plot finds drugged-out and washed-up rock star Chet Pomeroy trying to get his act together in wild and wonderful Key West, Florida.
From Barnes & Noble
Based on the turn-of-the-century Panama scandal that involved the bribing of French officials for a trading company's control of the canal, this Paris-based story places American historian Henry Adams, grandson of the President, embroiled in the Panama affair andsearching for Miriam, a lost love of his life.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679752912
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/1995
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 533,264
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.41 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas McGuane lives in Sweet Grass County, Montana. He is the author of eight previous novels and a collection of stories, as well as two collections of essays.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 14, 2013

    Sadly, the "Overview" above is of Eric Zencey's 2001 n

    Sadly, the "Overview" above is of Eric Zencey's 2001 novel of the same name, quite a different creature than this haunting and hallucinatory early novel by Thomas McGuane.

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