REVIEW by Alan Bilton

NWR Issue 102

The Drive

by Tyler Keevil

The backstory to Tyler Keevil’s comic road novel opens with our hero, Trevor, haphazardly employed as a cameraman on a low-budget independent movie. When he asks the director about the script, the pretentious auteur tells him that it’s a road movie ‘like Easy Rider crossed with David Lynch. It’ll be about one character’s journey. A personal odyssey. But with all these trippy and surreal elements thrown in.’ Trevor is unimpressed, though he realises ‘it would have been fairly awkward if I’d told him how uninspired it sounded.’ The trouble with road movies, he believes, lies in their episodic nature. ‘The jock and the junkie would pull over at a random location. They would get involved in some kind of incident, and then they would hop back in the car and keep going.’ Such scenes don’t really stack up into a coherent narrative, he argues, and besides – haven’t we all been here before? Even Trevor’s dad lambastes the idea of a road trip as the lamest of clichés, berating his son for his unoriginality, his self-indulgence, his failure to have even thumbed Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance. When Trevor finally exits the film and undertakes a cinematic journey suspiciously similar to the ‘lame’ film script he’d earlier mocked, he’s painfully aware that the screenplay he’s following is one written and pre-performed by somebody else – ‘lines I’d heard in films, or read in books. I had none of my own.’ Given that Keevil’s The Drive uses The Wizard of Oz as a structuring device – as does David Lynch’s 1990 road movie, Wild at Heart – it’s probably a fair bet to suggest that such anxieties are also shared by the book’s author. But who wants to hit the highway constantly glancing over one’s shoulder at all those back-seat drivers...?

Alan Bilton teaches literature, film, and creative writing at Swansea University. His first novel, The Sleepwalkers’ Ball, was published by Alcemi in 2009, and his second, The Known and Unknown Sea, will be published by Cillian Press in early 2014. He is also the author of Silent Film Comedy and American Culture (2013), An Introduction to Contemporary American Fiction (2002) and is co-editor of America in the 1920s (2004).

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