Wednesday, November 23, 2011

read: Drive (4 stars)

DriveDrive by James Sallis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A dark, compelling noir novella (158 pages) that vividly portrays a gritty underworld of crime and criminals, but shortchanges the reader on plot. The prose comes across like an Impressionistic painting, holding back on detail in ways that make your brain fill in what is missing. This works for characters and setting, but not so much on plot, which is a muddle.

We never learn the name of Driver, but we learn more about him in the book than in the film that was based on it. Here, he has a former life and a former family. We learn why he has the survival skills that he does. We still don't learn about his motivations and dreams, other than the need to survive. But the screenplay has the benefit of creating a richer now that includes a compelling through line of plot, cause and effect, in contrast to the book, which consists only of moments.

Like a pointillist painting, those moments eventually add up to a fuller, if still incomplete picture. And like the film, the book is a work of art.

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