Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle In Person

By Jay Hardwig

NOVEMBER 24, 1997: 

Patrick McManus, Book People, Oct. 17

"I wanna thank you for some of the best laughs of my life," warbled a large and burly-backed man as he reached out to grasp Patrick McManus' hand. "My wife always knows I'm reading you when she hears me wheezing in the living room." McManus nodded and smiled graciously as a man accustomed to such compliments. As America's foremost outdoor humorist, he's been hearing them for 30 years.

McManus was in town promoting his tenth and latest book, Into the Twilight, Endlessly Grousing. Compiled from his monthly column in Outdoor Life, Grousing relates the further exploits of the hearty denizens of Blight, Idaho, including such McManus institutions as Retch Sweeney, Rancid Crabtree, and Crazy Eddie Muldoon. He's used this dubious cast to comic effect in such bestsellers as The Grasshopper Trap and The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw; subjects pondered this time include motorized huckleberry picking, the dangers of light tackle, and, as always, the fish that got away. Although McManus is a particular favorite of the buckshot and fly-tying set, it doesn't take a mountain man to realize he's a damn funny writer. He's been compared to such American icons as Mark Twain and Garrison Keillor, and a diverse crowd at Book People reflected his broad appeal.

McManus announced by way of introduction that he didn't have anything prepared, but the prospect of silence was never a serious one, as the writer took the first question from the audience and extemporized for close to 15 minutes in grand storyteller's style, telling jokes, dispensing advice, and spinning a few of his famous yarns the sort of which just might be true. He reflected a bit on the art of humor (which he confessed lies mainly in exaggeration) and urged would-be writers to send out everything they hack up ("Many writers fail because they don't know how to lick a stamp").He then read a selection from Grousing and entertained a briefer second question before inviting the eager crowd up to get their books signed.

McManus proved to be a master of book-signing chat, and he seemed quite content exchanging pleasantries and accepting heartfelt testimonials from the assembled crowd, although it took him a good half-hour to inscribe and chuckle his way through the queue. At one point a sincere reader asked McManus to come up with something encouraging for a young friend faced with an extended hospital stay. McManus' solution? Easy."Keep laughing. Always." -- Jay Hardwig


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