This is the last non-comics book I have finished since SPX. Since then I have been swimming in comics, Internet comics, podcasts and internet hoo ha. Friday night of SPX, ensconced in the guest room of Holy Prepuce!, I devoured The Driver’s Seat in about an hour.
I got this tiny New Directions edition of the 1970 novella at the Brooklyn Book Fest. It seemed to be an afterthought on a table of leftovers; no surprise, as I think this is an older printing of the book.
We are introduced to Lise, the main character, with this:
“‘And the material doesn’t stain,’ the salesgirl says.
‘It’s the new fabric,” the salesgirl says. ‘Specially treated. Won’t mark. If you spill like a bit of ice cream or a drop of coffee, like, down the front of this dress it won’t hold the stain.’
The customer, a young woman, is suddenly tearing at the fastener at the neck, pulling at the zip of the dress. She is saying, ‘ Get this thing off me. Off me at once.’”
The young woman goes on the rest of her peculiar shopping trip, then to work, then on a holiday to Italy, acting very special the whole way. She meets another Brit, an old woman, on her journey and talks of meeting “the one,” a man who will fulfill her fantasies like no one else can. During the hunt, she says things like this:
“‘One should always be kind,’ Lise says, ‘in case it might be the last chance. One might be killed crossing the street, or even on the pavement, any time, you never know. So we should always be kind.’”
Oh, she’s a special gal. In fact, Lise was my least favorite thing about the story. She seemed floppy and bland, even at her most possessed. She only aroused curiosity with her strange, bitchy behavior and the fact that we know, in a certain way, how her story ends. Perhaps I just reacted poorly to her neuroticism. Even so, it was satisfying to know she gets her man in the end, restraints and all.
Italy stands out as its own character, which I quite enjoyed and the minor characters really delighted, including Lise’s seat partner on the airplane, a macrobiotic wannabe guru who spilled brown rice all over his attempts to get with Lise, which captures the late sixties perfectly. When it comes down to it though, Lise bugged me and it kept me from totally enjoying the book.