Invisible Driving Reviewed by Pristine

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Bombastic, Hilarious, Jazzy, Courageous, Soulful

When I read a book, watch a movie, or listen to a recording, I usually bypass the description, preface, foreword, and audience reviews. I guess you can say I like to embark on an adventure completely unprepared. That’s the way I like all my journeys: destinations are cliché, the originality is getting there.

A friend recommended Invisible Driving as an intro to the works of Alistair McHarg. I dove right in without a clue as to what it was about, and I started laughing. The humour, for me, comes from that self-assured tone of grandeur, a careful tightrope balancing act that teeters on self-mockery. The easiest way I can describe Invisible Driving is to imagine being in a carpool with John Waters, David Helfgott, and Mickey Spillane. The owner and driver of the car is Glenn Gould. Where are we going in the middle of an early morning?

Free association words pour out in an unexpected deluge like Coltrane free jazz Impressions improvisations that lasts for hours, part jazz scatting, part beat poetry; but fear not, there is a prudent narrator that steps in on the intervention before the car goes over the cliff. That voice is brave, honest, and generous in it’s willingness to share what is, in essence, the metaphor for which Invisible Driving represents.

What sometimes comes off as humor and jokey asides turns out to be illustrations of thought patterns that go through the author’s head during his episodes. Reading Invisible Driving is probably as close to manic depression as many of us will get. The images are rich, even as desperation mounts in Mr. McHarg’s tiny oyster of brotherly love. Unexpected beatific passages get squeezed out between one liners as dime store romances are roundhoused with the sultriness and muscle of Mike Hammer. Kaleidoscopic ideas let fly like Eric Dolphy in Europe, scat like King Pleasure.

I’m not sure it is at all possible to review an autobiography charting the course of mania. The format of this work IS the message. Alternating between chapters of confessional dead seriousness with those of grandiloquent whimsy, the reference point of reality is blurred into a terror fondue of Cretans and paradoxes. Invisible Driving is a wonderful work of originality, and to say it could have been written any other way would be to ask someone who has shared an original recipe to change its ingredients and preparatory steps.

Pristine S

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Washed Up Reviewed by K. Eby

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Axis of Brilliance

Washed Up is another great ride. Again, Alistair shows his talent for introducing us to characters who span an entire axis. Wealthy/Not, Healthy/Not, on their way out/on their way back…in a mathematic axis, these people are dots who live (or will live) in the x AND y planes AND in the positive AND the negative planes. Through wonderful dialogue and narrative talent, he carefully describes them just enough for us to get to know them – and apply our own experience to flesh out who they really are. He then tells us their story and sets up the crashes. You see these collisions from above – at least what you think they will be. But, as great storytellers do, they are not what you assume – which is what leaves the lasting impact.

Running through this novel, like a Booker T keyboard (it knows when to lead and when to lay back and when to duck out), is his observation of alcoholism and its impact on this world. This is the catalyst to many of the events in the book and it is through this vehicle that we experience a lot of the emotion of the novel. Joy, pain. Victory, loss. Second chances and the careless disposal of second (and maybe last) chances.

I found myself not entirely comfortable putting the book down until I was satisfied that I had finished the journey and found adequate resolution to the plight of these characters. And could make my own hypothesis as to their future. Like all of Alistair’s work, in my experience, this one rents a little space in your brain for a few weeks after you finish it. I like that.

Kent Eby