A few days ago I spotted Sherri Gallentine, our book buyer, holding a book I just love: The End of Vandalism by Tom Drury. I read this book years ago and thought it was wonderful, so it made me happy to know Sherri was about to embark on a great read; what made me even happier was that this book has been out of print for years and it’s delightful to know that people once again have access to this fine novel. Sherri loved the book, too, and agreed to share some of her thoughts on it with you:
What a unique novel The End of Vandalism is! Small-town Iowa is the setting for an interesting group of average people going about their daily lives. What makes this book so great is the talent of the author, Tom Drury. The dialogue is so expertly written that it doesn’t seem fabricated, as though the author was recording actual conversation. The situations are recognizable from experiences you may have had in your own life. The opening paragraph in chapter two seemed especially real to me:
“Louise divorced Tiny that spring and found herself unable to watch television in a satisfying way. She could not settle into a show but had to keep drifting from station to station. On Jeopardy, as soon as there was a question that she could not answer, she would guess blindly – “Fiji? What is the island of Fiji?” – and change the channel to one of those phony crime shows, which she wouldn’t watch for long either.”
Although I wouldn’t say The End of Vandalism is an action-driven novel — it’s more of a character-driven story — I found it to be one of the best books I’ve read in a really long time. Drury’s strength is in character and narrative, and there are several sections of the book I thought were genius. Here’s one passage which both fellow Vroman’s employee Anne Edkins and I thought was great:
“When Albert was five or six years old, he got mad at Claude and Marietta and decided to move out to the woods behind the Robeshaw farm. He took a can of beans, a can opener, a fork, and The Five Chinese Brothers. Well, he sat down under an evergreen to read, and he wondered if he hadn’t brought the wrong book, because it always gave him a chill to see the picture of the first brother’s huge face as he held in the sea. But he read the whole thing and then he was hungry, and he managed to open the can and begin eating the beans. But when he came upon the little cube of pork in the beans, he didn’t know what it was, and it scared him, and he went crying for home.”
An abandoned baby, vandalism, and farm equipment theft are a few of the sub-plots of the book, but are best as vehicles for Drury to interweave the lives of his subjects.
Drury has a new book coming out in August called Driftless Area which I can’t wait to read; in the meantime, I hope to get as many people I can to read The End of Vandalism.