Book Review: “The End Of Vandalism”

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This book has been on my to-read list for a few years now. I picked it off a “Top 50 Books Men Should Read” site. Can’t say that I’m sure why this book would make it into such a group which also included “Paris Trout,” “The Sun Also Rises” and “Master and Margarita.” I don’t think I reviewed any of those books here so obviously my reading headway through said list is turtle-slow. But life is like that. There’s just other stuff to do. Author Tom Drury knows this all too well.

“The End Of Vandalism” may just as well had been called anything, so random is this novel in its slow-burn approach. If there’s some deep meaning to small town folk meandering through life for 300+ pages, I blinked and missed it. That said, let’s assume the handle comes from a dance the two main characters chaperoned, named so in support of – you guessed it: a one-night anti-vandalism demonstration through partying. It goes on for about a chapter.

It could’ve been called “Riding Through Town,” “Doin’ Stuff In The Midwest,” or “Dan and Louise and Mary and Tiny and The Folks They Know.” We catch them during Tiny and Louise’s marriage problems and groove on into her eventual nuptials with Sheriff Dan. It goes on like that for a few years of their lives, chronicling everything and nothing. Then it ends just as it began, with a “life goes on” moral to its story. Everything and nothing will happen again, just differently. Same existence, different “book.”

The beauty of this piece is that it truly is about nothing special. When we think about the last few years of our lives, we consider the ups and downs; the people we loved, lost or met along the way. We got new jobs, we kicked the bottle, we had some kids, seasons changed and the book stops with no real ending because our lives kept going. Author Tom Drury takes us into those times with characters right out of his head, in towns that he invented like a fantasy book writer creating medieval-themed settings. You learn about these people and what they did and do; and what they want and get.

On page 308, one character is watching a television program and Drury describes it as “funny and pointless with a lot of driving.” Not sure if he was in on the joke when he wrote that, but he very aptly summed up his own novel in those eight words. Funny how, in a great many cases, it’s even a workable summarization of life in general. Think about that the next time you feel like taking it so seriously.

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