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madbkwm

madbkwm

Driving on the Rim - Thomas McGuane I debated between a 3 star and a 4 star rating on this one, but ultimately decided to be generous. The tipping point is probably this quip near the middle of the book: "Nowadays, experiences came at me like bugs hitting the windshield. I wasn't sure I could keep up. Of all the mysteries of life, nothing was more mysterious than the return of happiness. I was willing to wait."

As we follow Pickett in this not always chronological episodic novel that holds together only a bit tighter than a series of short stories, the question of happiness and guilt and the meaning of life are always bubbling just below the surface. I found Pickett to be reminiscent of a John Irving character (if just a touch too over the top..Irving would have been more subtle about the character's obtuseness, rather than emphasizing at each opportune moment). He was funny, loveable, and quirky, if slightly autistic in his inability to gauge other's potential reactions.

There weren't any surprises here; Jinx's affection for him and Jocelyn's betrayal were understood by the reader early in the book, but it amazed me that I was not annoyed by Pickett's inability to grasp this situation in much the same way that he was unable to disentangle his guilt (potentially deserved) over Cody's suicide with his innocence in Tessa's death. Overall there were a lot of very well paired contradictions that Pickett works to cohere in his own life.

I was not pleased with his ultimate turn toward religion about 2/3rds of the way through the book. Understandably, the death of his parents (mother especially) and the subsequent accusation of negligent homicide cause Pickett to re-examine his beliefs, BUT I did not expect him to convert. Dr. Olsson as a surrogate father and atheist would ultimately (in my opinion) carry more weight than the guilt over having committed his mother to a few stints in the mental hospital. I was displeased that he was arguing for religion in the last chapter; Jinx should not be calling him a momma's boy as this does not cohere with the rest of the novel.

Overall it was a good read; at times a bit stark with short sentences and harsh language, but I thought that was in keeping with Pickett's character.