Under the Radar: Tom Drury

[Originally posted at Robbins Library Blog]


Remember when Tom Drury’s stories for the New Yorker were finally published as the 1994 novel The End of Vandalism? Neither do I! I’d never even heard of Drury until last week, when the cover for The Driftless Area caught my eye. I needed a book chosen for its cover for the Robbins Library Reading Challenge, so I grabbed it. And I have not loved a book like this in way too long.

The Driftless Area follows 24-year-old Pierre Hunter, who has recently lost both his parents and dropped out of college. Back in his small hometown, he’s working as a bartender without much of a plan. When beautiful, mysterious Stella suddenly appears – just in time to save him from a near-fatal ice-skating accident – Pierre is pulled into a crime drama that moves relentlessly toward its violent conclusion. It’s not just what happens in this book, but how things feel in the moody, immersive world that Drury creates.

Who is Tom Drury, and how did I miss him? The Guardian calls him an “overlooked giant” and The Independent calls him “the greatest writer you’ve never heard of“, comparing him to Jonathon Franzen, David Eggers, and David Foster Wallace. There’s even a movie – the film version of The Driftless Area, starring Zooey Deschanel (and the divine Aubrey Plaza!), premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last April. I saw the trailer though, and they lost me when they swapped out Pierre’s fall through the ice for a fall into a well. What? I’ll skip the movie and start on Drury’s weighty triology: The End of Vandalism, Hunts in Dreams, and Pacific.

for fans of: David Lynch, the Coen Brothers, Cormac McCarthy, Neo-noir, American Realism, small-town American Gothic


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