cover image Driving on the Rim

Driving on the Rim

Thomas McGuane, Knopf, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4155-8

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. (Oct.)