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Driving on the Rim Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 19, 2010

3.9 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

McGuane (Gallatin Canyon) adds another rueful portrait to his gallery of flawed masculine types, set, again, in Big Sky Country. Berl Pickett is a smalltown doctor whose ill-advised decision to try to cover up an old friend's suicide attempt leads to dire consequences when she later dies from her injuries: his clinic privileges are suspended and he faces a possible criminal negligence charge. With plenty of time on his hands, Berl reverts to his former profession of house painter. Between jobs, he contemplates his past--seduced at 14 by his aunt, professionally inspired by a kindly doctor who alone saw the potential in him--and contends with a couple of women: Jocelyn, a pilot with a shady acquaintance, and colleague Jinx Mayhall, a quiet beauty who discomfits him with her pointed inquiries into his character. The novel is more contemplative than dramatic, ending, as it does, on a decidedly anticlimactic note, but readers who relish McGuane's signature descriptions of hunting, fishing, birding, and cruising (in a rattletrap Olds Starfire 88) will once again be satisfied with the bard of the Absaroka Mountains' laid-back take on contemporary American manhood.
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Narrator Berl Pickett is a housepainter turned doctor who lives most of his life in Livingston, Montana, struggling to overcome a “gruesome immaturity” that causes him to relate poorly to his fellow citizens. His behavior is the source of both comedy (lust leads him to lend his car to a conniving teenager and take her place at the counter of a hot-dog stand) and tragedy (his response when confronted by a suicidal wife-beater casts a long shadow over his life). Much of this—an eccentric character trying to figure life out amidst a powerful landscape—will be familiar from McGuane’s previous novels, such as Keep the Change (1989) and Nothing but Blue Skies (1992). But here the big questions have grown even bigger. For Pickett, the son of a foxhole atheist and a born-again Christian, bafflement infects his behavior; at root, this is a novel about science and faith, and life and death. The endlessly quotable McGuane (“I came from an era when breasts just happened, were not built to suit”) explores all this in a deadpan vernacular that is all the more profound for its matter-of-factness. And Pickett, an outsider in his own small town, is a fascinating character who calls to mind some of the great literary iconoclasts. But his perceived shortcoming, an inability to do as others do, represents his greatest strength: he doesn’t understand life, but he refuses to pretend that he does. A marvelous book, funny, elegiac, and profound, from a clear-eyed observer of modern life. --Keir Graff

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (October 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400041554
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400041558
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,144,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Immer on February 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
After reading Tom McGuane's Driving on the Rim I'm left with mixed feelings. It can't be denied that McGuane is wonderful with his use of the English language. Often I would reread a sentence or paragraph to appreciate his gift with words. This is a finely crafted novel.

That being said, it was one of the more difficult McGuane books to read. Did it meander, certainly. I like a well crafted story, but what McGuane seems to have done is joined the club of bigger is better. I can't read John Irvine anymore because of this. His early works were also finely crafted but somewhat streamlined. Like Jim Harrison, he writes pictures with words. Unlike Jim Harrison, McGuane's Driving on the Rim seems to lose focus at times. There are so many "side" characters at times, the book stalls. I understand that each of the "side" characters help one understand the way the mind of Rim's central character worked, but were they all necessary?

I'm left with the impression that McGuane loves the West, but is largely not impressed with the people of the West. Without going into the politics of the area too much, the drift I get is Mr. McGuane is a very liberal man, but is living in one of the more conservative areas of our country. If one is more liberal minded, as I am, you will enjoy some of his "nuggets". If not, you will not appreciate some of his humor. Speaking of humor, there are many laugh out loud moments in Driving on the Rim.

Bottom line. It's tough to critique a book created by someone who on his worst day is better than I could ever hope to be in creating and weaving together literature the in way in which McGuane writes. Did I enjoy reading Driving on the Rim? Yes. However, unlike many books I have truly enjoyed, I was happy when I reached this novel's end.
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Format: Hardcover
"Driving On The Rim" is an understated masterpiece of modern American literature, an unnervingly knowing portrait of America as it is in our time. All of McGuane's earlier incandescent power is evident here, restrained by maturity yet implicit in his remarkable, ever surprising use of language. His backdrops are gorgeously painted, his characters superbly developed, his narrator as human as he is humane. McGuane's life -- the fishing, horsemanship, screenwriting and directing, his cherished friendships and family affections, and his picaresque Montana life can distract admirers from the central truth that here we have a master of literature who takes his craft more seriously than any other in a life distinguished by a peculiar affinity for doing many things well. I've read his work since the 1970s, yet this time around I sensed in the first several pages that he has moved to the next level of his writing, and is at the peak of his powers. I believe that what we have here is an American master, a Chekhov blessed with preternatural vitality and a sanguine compassion for human folly and frailty, vanity and misguided romanticism. McGuane is a man in full who understands love. It has been a long time since a novel awed me. This one does. You just have to shake your head.
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Format: Hardcover
Long-standing Thomas McGuane readers will relish his newest work Driving on the Rim because it has all the ingredients of a vintage McGuane cocktail: a dysfunctional protagonist whose unusual family history and own perambulations leave him high and dry, a late middle-aged man functioning once again as his own worst enemy, a character who faces disgrace and a potential murder rap with a kind of hapless insouciance. There is the alluring vixen and accomplice who take advantage of our said narrator, the familiar vistas of Montana's wondrous landscape- beautifully conveyed, the snowballing collective force of negative small town judgement and its accompanying enmity, and as always, beautiful evocation prose, strong verbal wit. The restorative capacity of nature to heal one's wounds in the face of trying human interaction, as in all of McGuane's books, is again a powerful and compelling force in this book.

McGuane's writing has never been stronger. In his earliest works, his testosterone fuelled writing came at you like 110 mph fastballs, one zany supercharged moment after another. Years ago, I read once in Time magazine where Saul Bellow even described him as a "language star." But now and really for a long time, McGuane has been a finesse pitcher, one whose writing moves beautifully through description and dialogue, through humour to moments of startling clarity, deprecation, even sadness . McGuane's characters always have lots of insight into themselves, and the author spares no precious pixels in presenting them here.

For that very reason, though, I could see someone not liking this book. There really isn't a lot for the reader to do except sit back and be entertained, stimulated. All of Dr.
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Format: Hardcover
Irving Berlin Pickett is one of the one most indelible characters of recent American fiction. The tenuous nature of his hilarious life, his bewilderment about his place in it, and how this feeling shapes the narrative, shows the essence of American life now, when even a medical degree is no guarantee of your place in society. The greatness of America, where any individual can become anything, also has a flipside: anything can happen to anyone. Fortunately, we'll always have the consolations of nature and of the few real friends we possess, despite thousands we claim on Facebook. This is what Tom McGuane has captured with such sly wit. It's beautifully told, each line a gem. This story will eventually be called a classic, I believe.
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