festations of things are accompanied bynan intrinsic sacredness without whichnwe could not even deal with them.nThe point is attractive, although itnreduces the dimension of the sacred tona kind of cultural flavor, very popularnthese days. But it seems that neithernKolakowski nor McKnight speak actuallynof the sacred when they use thenword. Not everything that is culture ornWhile you might think that the author ofna handful of short, loosely existentialistnnovels set in the vicinity of Key Westnwould find the state of Montana to havenlittle to contribute to his talents, and vicenversa, in the case of Thomas McGuanenyou would be wrong. For McGuane,ntruly a man of parts as few novelists aren(although, like Hemingway and Faulkner,nthey may pretend to be), is asnsuccessful training cutting horses as henis at writing the well-turned sentencesnthat are as good as any being written innAmerica today, and much better thannmost. By translating himself from Floridanand his hipster existence there to thenwide open spaces of Paradise, Montana,nand its environs, McGuane seems, inneffect, to have saved his own life. Thenirony lies in his subsequent discoverynthat his Montana neighbors are apparentlynlosing theirs.nHis new novel. Keep the Changen(Boston: Houghton MifBin/SeymournLawrence; 230 pp., $18.95), is thensecond of his to have as its setting hisnadopted state; thematically it followsnclosely from its predecessor, Nobody’snAngel (1982), about a NATO tankncultural, or that expresses a humannneed to ritualize the secular and thenprofane, is sacred or sacralized. Itnwould be better to understand thensacred as a divine intervention, not anmanipulation of things in the name ofnhalf-understood mysteries.nMcKnight’s unquestioned merit isnto pursue the Voegelinian theme andnto discover chapters of modernitynREVISIONSnBACK AT THE RANCH: DOWN, OUT, AND OVERncommander who has come home to theni Rocky Mountains. In Keep the ChangenJoe Starling, a native son of the town ofnDeadwood, Montana, returns from anthwarted career as a painter in the Eastnwith the idea of rediscovering for himselfnthe mythic existence of the Westernnrancher, only to find that nobody believesnin it any longer except as a sourcenof self-serving cliches. (“Joe had comento believe from reading books that innmany landholding families, there existednperfect communication between thengenerations about the land itself Hennoticed how many Southerners believednthis. . . . Where had peoplengone wrong in the West? In the latestnjoke, leaving a ranch to one’s childrennwas called child abuse.”) ContemporarynMontana is a place where even thennatives have never become used to thenwinters but live in fear of slipping on thenice, and where a successful cattle sale atnseason’s end is regarded as a one-waynticket to the beaches of Hawaii. Determinednto ignore all of this, Joe buys anbunch of yearlings and a horse, andnruns cattle all summer on the ranch thatnhis father (a local banker and s.o.b. whonnnwhere none was suspected. To do so,nhowever, we ought to possess workablendefinitions of the sacred and the secular,nand of modernity itself Muchnremains to be done.nThomas Molnar’s most recent book isnTwin Powers: Politics and the Sacred.nleft Montana for Minnesota to drinknand play golf) ought to have left him,nbut didn’t. At the end of the summer hengets a good price for his animals, but hisnUncle Smitty grabs the check for himselfnand flies to Hawaii; while Joe,nthough holding the deed his aunt hasnmade over to him, in the watershed ofnpersonal crisis decides to sell out to anformer friend and rival.nAs a novelist, Thomas McGuanenwrites from the center of a decenterednworid, but one that he himself perceivesnto be decentered. While from one pointnof view, therefore, he might be thoughtnguilty of poisoning his pristine newnenvironment with the angst that is partnof the sophisticated modern temperament,nin reality he is simply registeringnthat angst where he finds it, whether innFlorida, New York, or Deadwood,nMontana, (so aptly named). From Eastnto West, North to South, as far as thenLand of the Big Sky — counti”y ofnLewis and Glark, home of A.B. Guthrie,nJr. — we are all cosmopolites now.n(CW)nNOVEMBER 1989/45n