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Driving on the Rim

3.5  ·  Rating details ·  633 Ratings  ·  115 Reviews
From one of America's most acclaimed literary figures ("an important as well as brilliant novelist"--"The New York Times Book Review") a major new novel that hilariously takes the pulse of our times.
The unforgettable voyager of this dark comic journey is I. B. "Berl" Pickett, M.D., the die of whose uncharmed life was probably cast as soon as his mother got the bright idea
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published October 19th 2010 by Knopf Publishing Group (first published 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Rating details
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Sep 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: u-s-lit
Self-reflective novels tend to make me, well, self-reflective. I'm prone to see myself in the first-person narratives. Well-turned thoughts become Ah-Ha moments of clarity. Such as:

The story was always the same: someone would find a reason to be interested in me; then they would hit that little wall which consisted in their detecting my scrutiny of them.

And here I thought I was just socially awkward.

But, no, I was not, I decided after all, like Dr. Irving Berlin Pickett. There were similarities
Nancy Freund
Mar 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
There's so much more going on with this novel than at first appears. The story arc is skeletal, even anecdotal, at first, but each subsequent vignette reveals a deeper understanding of the complexity of the protagonist -- a small-town Montana doctor who would be reluctant to allow such personal revelation. The reader almost has to wrestle the undercurrents from the first-person narrator. His neglectful parenting by a mother obsessed with fundamentalist Christianity and a father obsessed with his ...more
Oct 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fic-western
Dark, funny but also very true to life. An intimate view into the life of a man who crosses the class barrier in a small town in Montana. Dr Berl Pickett is a quirky character who despite his indiscretions and lapses of judgment is quite engaging. The reader can relate to what he says about his life and the paths taken or not taken. We see a man taken to introspection as he walks through the West of his past and the present. He succumbs to his urges and is unrepentant. He can not see the love of ...more
Andy Miller
Nov 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The novel takes place in thinly disguised Livingston Montana and features a doctor who was born in the town to poor parents who lived on the edges of society and came back to the town after finishing medical school. The novel includes flashbacks to his childhood with his current life which appears to revolve around alcohol, womanizing, fishing and attempts at old fashioned country doctoring that conflicts with the other doctors and owners of the medical clinic that employs him. The flashbacks to ...more
Alex V.
I heard that in years past, pigs were drawn into the slaughterhouses of the Chicago stockyards by hooks attached to their noses. A pig is a smart animal, but this placed the decision elsewhere. It was in this spirit I headed once more to White Sulfur Springs to pay a call on Jocelyn Boyce. (Ch. 14)


Napoleon said that if it weren't for religion the poor would kill the rich. (Ch. 15)

The library's Overdrive system up and deleted Driving on the Rim right out from under me upon the due date, or ra
Oct 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
McGuane is such an awesome writer! I love how his randomness just pulls things together: it is, after all, the way we interact with the world, and the culmination of detail makes up a more robust reality than the usual contrived literary strings of articulation. I was saving this for a trip we are starting tomorrow, but couldn't resist starting it, and now am already sucked into the character and craft. Hope I can put it down long enough to day to pack.
...Later: finished it, reluctantly. Such a
Jan 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
I think that Thomas McGuane is an indisputably talented writer. He has a unique authorial voice and can write crisp sentences that seem to possess fundamental truths. Having said that, I simply didn’t enjoy “Driving on the Rim.” The Dickensian catalogue of characters and narrative wordplay were fun to juggle for a while; however, the novel felt heavy and overstuffed. Now, let me say, I don’t mind working through a novel; however, I don’t want a novel to feel like work.

“Driving” will definitely a
Michael Williams
May 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
Not my kind of book. Here we have a flawed character, a doctor who is sidelined by a malpractice sort of thing, This gives him much time on his hands to think about his multitude of problems. As a doctor he is very compassionate, professional, and caring. As a human he doesn't know how to deal with people. I found his stupid behavior exasperating and this definitely colored my thoughts about the book. I finished it, but it was a struggle.

High points? I enjoyed the lovingly composed descriptions
Nov 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
I debated between a 3 star and a 4 star rating on this one, but ultimately decided to be generous. The tipping point is probably this quip near the middle of the book: "Nowadays, experiences came at me like bugs hitting the windshield. I wasn't sure I could keep up. Of all the mysteries of life, nothing was more mysterious than the return of happiness. I was willing to wait."

As we follow Pickett in this not always chronological episodic novel that holds together only a bit tighter than a series
Ali Murphy
Jan 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
I loooved this book. It was thoroughly entertaining. It was in turns darkly hilarious, insightful, cringe-inducing, profound and utterly real. I say the last especially as McGuane makes a note in his foreword of saying that this is a work of fiction and as such it should be taken with a grain of salt. Truth, it has been said, is stranger than fiction and McGuane comes so very close to the truth that it is a little unnerving. He has drawn a character in Berl Pickett that is full of people I know. ...more
Nov 14, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'd read a couple of Mcguane short stories and absolutely loved them before deciding to try one of his novels. I was pretty disappointed. Driving on the Rim takes place in a small Montana town. Like Richard Russo's Empire Falls, the town is full of a cast of intriguing small town characters: simple folk, lawyers, cowboys, doctors. And like Russo, I found that Mcguane was just a little too impressed all the details of the world he created. Sure he is a phenomenal writer, but I don't need full par ...more
Joel Brown
Dec 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Just read this latest by a guy who was one of my favorite authors when he was young and crazed. I think he's been more hit and miss for the last twenty years or so, now that he's settled and sober. It's kind of a rock and roll career arc more than a novelist's.

Driving on the Rim is my favorite since Nothing But Blue Skies. Another Montanan lead character who's having a hard time keeping it together, this time a doctor whose nutso family - Christian itinerant carpet shampooers - and hardscrabble
Nov 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Thomas McGuane's novel will make you laugh, tear-up, and nod with the, "Oh, I know someone like that character" feeling. Driving on the Rim is the story of Irving Berlin Pickett, M.D. who has his practice in a small town in Montana. He grew up with colorful characters surrounding him including his rug cleaning parents, with his holly roller, patriotic mother, to his over-sexed aunt, to women along the way that seduce him...until....something happens in his practice. The event forces Berl to revi ...more
ron swegman
Oct 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
Driving on the Rim is a character-driven novel that encompasses a full life: the life of Montana doctor, Irving Berlin Pickett. McGuane has artfully crafted a collage of a plot, rendered along an unpaved road, complete with a set of unique characters who are viewed through the eyes and mind of a narrator as he matures, albeit very, very slowly. We are introduced to him as the son of Christian fundamentalist traveling salespeople; he meets a doctor who teaches him how to fish, track, and hunt and ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Dec 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jan-feb-2011
Incisive and droll, this picaresque comedy delighted the critics with its exceptional prose, quirky, well-developed characters, and sharp insights into modern-day life. McGuane may infuse this serious exploration of contemporary moral questions with witty observations and deadpan one-liners, but as a mature and confident novelist, he is careful not to dull the edges of his inquiries. A few critics had reservations, including a meandering plot and some discontinuities in characters and timelines. ...more
 Barb Bailey
Jan 18, 2014 rated it did not like it
After 9 chapters of this book , I have given up on it. This story is about Irvin Berlin Pickett, who is a physician in a small community in Wyoming. He is emotionally immature , has no morals, and makes poor choices. He goes from one chosen misfortune to another. Occasionally the author writes a line or two that give pause and says to me...this author can write. But for me, this story needs to be more interesting and better organized. This author introduces too many characters and their story go ...more
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'd been meaning to get my hands on a Thomas McGuane novel ever since I'd read 'Motherlode' his country noir story in the New Yorker you can also find it in his short story collection Crow Fair.

Driving the Rim is written like a memoir (in the 1st person of Maonatana Doctor Berl Picket reflecting on his life), but is novelistic in it's chronology. By that I mean he'll jump back and forth in his protagonist's timeline for dramatic effect, ending a chapter on a cliffhanger and starting the next in
Paul Jellinek
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved some of McGuane's earlier novels set in Florida, especially "92 in the Shade" and "Panama," but his Montana novels--which he's been writing since he moved there 40 years ago--haven't grabbed me in the same way. But then I was in Bozeman a couple of weeks ago and picked up this one in the airport, and slowly but surely found myself getting into it. He still has that same off-beat sensibility, with the same kinds of off-kilter villains and heroines, that he had back in his Key West books, ...more
Steven Davis
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Pretty good for the first 200 pages but then loses focus.

Originally there's a lot to like here-- but unfortunately the flow of the story becomes rather turgid, nearly absurdly so as the protagonist's frequent digressions go from being charming to becoming irksome. The "drama" of the main plot development is obvious to anyone who's read any Victorian novels or watched any Hollywood movie, yet McGuane, in some coy nod to postmodernism, keeps the plot on minimal life support while treating readers
Kim Zinkowski
Dec 05, 2017 rated it liked it
B. Mr McGuane write pretty well. The story is well told and has a plausible ending.
Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At just over 300 pages, "Driving on the Rim" is McGuane's longest book by a pretty wide margin. But in terms of scope, the story is more or less vintage McGuane--the difference is the principal "story" doesn't kick in until the last half. What fills the additional pages are little vignettes from I.(Irving) B.(Berl) Pickett's life as a smalltown Montana doctor. Eventually, McGuane languorously connects a few plot points, but the exceptional aspects are mainly isolated riffs. A few:

-Chapter 8 is j
May 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I haven’t read McGuane probably since the 1980s. For awhile in the 70s and 80s, I was quite taken with his prose, his associations with Hemingway (Michigan, fishing, Key West), his lyrically precise natural descriptions and his sly, deft dialogue, but then grew inured to its charms. It grew predictable and the wit turned, it seemed to me, not sour but glib; so I kept buying new McGuane novels but stopped reading them. But I’d picked up this 2010 novel a few years ago and on impulse (maybe it was ...more
Gregg Sapp
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Reading Thomas McGuane’s “Driving on the Rim,” I found myself wondering if and in what ways his original manuscript of this work was edited. I can imagine any editor committed to the maxim that it is essential to eliminate all unnecessary verbiage would be severely challenged by McGuane, who meanders gleefully from one fleeting observation to the next, such that some of this book’s most memorable passages are found in digressions. Among the unnecessary characters are the first-person, physician ...more
Dec 25, 2010 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
I am always in a hurry to get my hands on a new McGuane book.
I started reading "Driving on the Rim" as soon as I got it home, but after 50 pages, I found myself thinking that this was a misfire and that the old McGuane magic would not work this time. However, little by little that feeling shifted and morphed into my usual fascination, and of course the novel turned out to be fun, fun, fun... like always.
Mc Guane's novels are formulaic, there is no doubt about that; no matter how old, how educate
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Had me laughing aloud any number of times ... a tour de force through a mostly unhinged life ... successful, to some extent, as a physician, Dr. Berl Pickett, surrounded by a host of characters, including his holy roller mother and a father who toddled after her, yet had his own stories driven by the war and his ultimate desertion ... and his aunt who taught him everything she wanted to about sex.

Loves come and go ... unable to really love anyone, he loves for the moment, for the pleasure, for t
Mar 25, 2015 rated it liked it
There's a wonderful moment in McGuane's novel where the narrator, a still lustful, aging doctor, describes his evolution in literature and life.

"I read a comic book version of Don Quixote when I was a boy and then an abridged one as a young man, and finally I read it entirely in later years, and more than once. It was now part of my general memory, and some of its ideas emerged unexpectedly, especially when I was oppressed by the feeling that I was living my life under an evil star and that eve
Nov 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Reading a book by Thomas Mcguane is often a time consuming a affair. His writing style is not for situations where there are stimulus or distractions around you as there are usually enough of these in his stories. I do like his books but I need to insert them in between about 100 other books, before I have the fortitude to get through one.
Tho,as McGuane books are NOT for people who:
1. Are looking for a quick read
2. People you want to get from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time.
Sep 19, 2013 rated it did not like it
Oh my, oh my. This one sadly goes on the "return" shelf of our library, wherein books we read but didn't think were all that great go back for resale at our local Half Price. There were moments in this that held my interest; but the main protaganist is nearly on the verge of a nervous breakdown the entire novel. The scenes are very disjointed, going back and forth between present and future and parts of it are just mounds of dung to be waded through in order to get to the next teensiest weensies ...more
Michael Pronko
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'd probably give this five stars for sheer writing impact, but I can see how even serious literary fiction lovers might get bogged down at points in this novel, which is one of McGuane's longest. Perhaps McGuane's an acquired taste in some ways, but this novel delivers on character and description fully. Nothing much happens plot-wise. It's more of a catalogue of events in the life of a doctor in a small town. However, its insight into character and place is fantastically well done. Line for li ...more
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“But it was as if a tiny animal living in the corner of my mind, smaller than a mouse, smaller than an ant, and unobtrusive even considering its size, was saying, 'Bullshit.” 3 likes
“Napoleon said that if it weren't for religion the poor would kill the rich. This may be all you needed to know about any human community. The churches were the real police stations, the real keepers of law and order.” 2 likes
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