Drury, Tom 1956-

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Drury, Tom 1956-

PERSONAL:

Born 1956, in IA; married; children: one daughter. Education: Attended University of Iowa; Brown University, M.F.A.

ADDRESSES:

Home—CA. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Novelist, short story writer, journalist, and educator. St. Petersburg Times, world editor; worked as a journalist at newspapers in New England, including the Providence Journal. Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, visiting lecturer and writing instructor, beginning 2001. Speaker at writer's conferences; has also taught or served as visiting writer at Yale University, Florida State University, LaSalle University, and the University of Southern Mississippi.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Selected by Granta as a Best Young American Novelist (under 40), 1996; Guggenheim fellowship, 2000-01.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

The End of Vandalism, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1994.

The Black Brook, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1998.

Hunts in Dreams, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2000.

The Driftless Area, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor of short stories and essays to periodicals, including the New Yorker, Harper's, Mississippi Review, North American Review, New York Times, Ploughshares, Granta, New York Times Magazine, and George.

Contributor to anthologies, including Best American Short Stories.

SIDELIGHTS:

Selected as one of Granta's best young American authors, Tom Drury has funneled much of his writing talent into penning short stories and essays for periodicals such as the New York Times and Harper's. Drury's first novel, The End of Vandalism, was released in 1994 to critical praise. Roz Kaveney, in a review for the Times Literary Supplement, stated: "The triumph of Tom Drury's first novel is to celebrate small-town Midwestern life … and to do so with a modest good humor that attracts us to what we might otherwise find dreadfully boring." Eric Kraft commented in the New York Times Book Review on the setting of The End of Vandalism as "a place somewhere in the Midwest, in a state something like Iowa," with "a flat, gray landscape brightened … by litter." Kraft commented that Drury tells his story "with stony-faced irony" and that his "style is precise and carefully worked." A reviewer in Publishers Weekly, noting how Drury "has a bemused fondness for his characters' foibles and self-destructive impulses," called The End of Vandalism "a quiet book that grows in emotional resonance." Gilbert Taylor in Booklist insisted that Drury "strikes gold, developing a personality or a scene in simple, unadorned prose," and deemed the novel a "startling, affecting, and funny debut."

According to Donna Seaman in her Booklist review, Drury's second novel, The Black Brook, showcases a "unique voice." Seaman maintained that Drury "displays … a gift for dazzlingly hilarious dialogue and startling juxtapositions of the mundane with the extraordinary." In the New York Times Book Review, Luc Sante commend Drury for "tak[ing] a genre plot … and us[ing] it as a frame on which to hang a novel of deadpan whimsy." Emphasizing that in The Black Brook "detail is piled upon detail, and incident upon incident, in such an even stream that a sense of scale is lost," Sante also commented on the "rhythm" of the narrative, stating that "eccentricity, peculiarity, affectlessness, and brevity of expression are the norm."

Drury returns to small-town life in his 2000 novel, which introduces readers to a Midwestern plumber, his wife Joan—known to readers of The End of Vandalism—and their children Micah and Lyris as the family is transformed by a series of events one weekend. According to a reviewer in Publishers Weekly, Hunts in Dreams is "lyrically bleak but oddly hopeful." The reviewer commented that Drury's "gift for dead-on realism and unfussy dialogue reveals the humorous, edgy pathos of his characters and invests his story with the ambiguity of real life and the poignancy of unrealized dreams." "Drury is in love with the quotidian in a way that's specific to a few writers, painters and filmmakers," explained Salon.com reviewer Craig Seligman. Noting that the novel's detailed description of four days in the lives of its characters presents the reader with a host of seemingly insignificant facts, Seligman added: "as in the real world, you don't know which is which until afterward. Everything is almost funny and at the same time inexplicably sad…. The suspense … doesn't seem quite real either—it's something out of a parallel universe that operates according to its own generally benign laws … peopled by garden-variety [losers] who are easy to love because even at their sleaziest they have large reserves of generosity."

Pierre Hunter, the protagonist of The Driftless Area, has had more than his share of bad luck. His high school girlfriend dumped him while she was in the hospital. His beloved parents die within weeks of each other while Pierre is in college. Now, the twenty-four-year-old has returned to his hometown of Shale, Iowa, where he works as a bartender in a supper club. Pierre keeps in touch with old high school friends who are still in town, and his life is aimless and uneventful. When he falls through the ice in a skating accident, however, he is rescued by Stella Rosmarin, a beautiful young woman who lives alone in a house near the lake where he almost dies. It seems almost as though Stella has been waiting for her chance to get to close to Pierre. The two of them begin a passionate affair, though he does not realize he is being manipulated for unknown purposes by Stella and her associate, an old man with seemingly paranormal abilities. When Pierre decides to hitchhike across the country to visit his cousin's family in California, he has a harrowing encounter with Shane Hall, a criminal and murderer. Besting Shane in a physical scuffle, Pierre discovers the criminal's bankroll and absconds with thousands of dollars. Thereafter, Pierre is the target of the vengeful Shane's search, and Stella's secrets come closer to being revealed as the novel moves toward a supernatural-tinged climax.

The book's title refers to the novel's setting, a rugged geological area in the upper Midwest that was unaffected by the landscape-smoothing effects of ancient glaciers. Library Journal contributor Christine DeZelar-Tiedman called it a "highly enjoyable but hard-to-classify novel." The book is "full of wonderfully ironic characters and cool moments of small wisdom," observed Gilbert Cruz in Entertainment Weekly. Drury displays "a knack for entertainingly weird detail that shines throughout" the story, commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. A Kirkus Reviews critic concluded: "Drury is a master at showing extraordinary things happening to ordinary people—and it's always a fun ride."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 1, 1994, Gilbert Taylor, review of The End of Vandalism, p. 1180; July, 1998, Donna Seaman, review of The Black Brook, p. 1858.

Entertainment Weekly, August 18, 2006, Gilbert Cruz, review of The Driftless Area, p. 142.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2006, review of The Driftless Area, p. 481.

Library Journal, June 1, 2006, Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, review of The Driftless Area, p. 107.

New York Times Book Review, March 20, 1994, Eric Kraft, "Them Stony-faced Prairie Blues," review of The End of Vandalism, p. 19; July 26, 1998, Luc Sante, "On the Lam," review of The Black Brook, p. 11; August 27, 2006, Robert Draper, "Crimes of the Heartland," review of The Driftless Area, p. 25.

Publishers Weekly, February 14, 1994, review of The End of Vandalism, p. 78; February 28, 2000, review of Hunts in Dreams, p. 56; May 8, 2006, review of The Driftless Area, p. 46.

Times Literary Supplement, August 26, 1994, Roz Kaveney, review of The End of Vandalism, p. 21.

ONLINE

University of Florida Department of English Web site,http://web.english.ufl.edu/ (February 6, 2007), biography of Tom Drury.

St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading 2006 Web site,http://www.festivalofreading.com/ (February 6, 2007), biography of Tom Drury.

Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (May 3, 2000), Craig Seligman, review of Hunts in Dreams.