Thomas McGuane: “I wanted to be a writer before I wanted to do any writing.”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of novelist Thomas McGuane, born in Wyandotte, Michigan in 1939. He came from a family of Irish Catholics. He said: “When they immigrated to the East Coast, they saw themselves as an enclave of outsiders in a Yankee, Protestant world. My parents moved to the Midwest, and I can assure you that we did not consider ourselves to be Midwesterners. When I moved to Montana in my twenties, I felt myself to be an outsider in still another world. The only thing that seems reassuring is that most Montanans feel the same way—they’re mostly from somewhere else and their history is so recent that to be one of the migrants is really to be one of the boys.”

McGuane said: “I associated a life of action and a life of thought as being the writer’s life. But I didn’t do much writing when I was a kid. I wanted to be a writer before I wanted to do any writing.” He went to college at Michigan State University, where one of his classmates was another aspiring writer named Jim Harrison — the two became lifelong friends and ended up both living in Montana.

McGuane spent the summer of 1968 in Livingston, Montana, and he loved it so much that he moved there a year later. His first novel, The Sporting Club, was published in 1969, and when he sold the film rights a year later, he bought a ranch with the profits. But it took him a while to settle down in Montana. He spent most of the ’70s in Hollywood—writing screenplays, dating actresses, drinking too much, and doing too many drugs. His screenplays included Rancho Deluxe (1973) and The Missouri Breaks (1976), but he never wanted to be a screenwriter — he said, “Aspiring to be a screenwriter is like aspiring to be a co-pilot.”

McGuane spends his days writing, fly fishing, and riding horses. He and his wife Laurie raise cutting horses and Angus cattle on their 2,000-acre ranch.

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