April 29, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

The End of Vandalism

Current Status
In Season
Tom Drury

Every so often a debut novel appears—Donna Tartt’s The Secret History is one that comes to mind-that simply stuns you with the elegance and beauty of its writing. In The End of Vandalism, Tom Drury reflects on the rather ordinary lives of a few residents of the fictional Midwestern town of Grafton: Dan Norman, the sheriff, whose biggest challenge on a given day might be to chaperon a high school dance; Tiny Darling, a two-bit crook who lectures on the dangers of drug abuse but otherwise can’t seem to contribute a thing to society; and Tiny’s wife, Louise, who leaves him to marry Dan, only to move into a trailer when Dan suffers from insomnia. While Vandalism is remarkable for its lack of action or plot—there’s only one part of the book that could be considered truly dramatic—Drury’s prose is gorgeously descriptive of the plainest of things, and quietly humorous about the quirky particulars of day-to-day conversation. Eleven chapters were serialized in the pages of The New Yorker last year, a reminder of the days when that magazine used to publish this kind of fiction on a regular basis.

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