A Review of Driven

Max Barnet's crackling novel DRIVEN is damn near Shakespearean in its drama, psychology, and insight. From paragons to parasites, from gifted people to those as flaky as a barrel of dandruff, Barnet's characters forge a convincing impression that running a business can be frivolous to some, yet an almost religious experience to others. And there are times when one should just throw a tent over the enterprise and charge admission.

The novel resonates in its telescopic view of the pursuit of power and the influence of influence in business; it also underscores one man's search for the meaning of life. Though not a quest for the Holy Grail, it reveals an epic theme of deep consequences, a symbol of twentieth century man's diminished capacity in spirit and love.

The diary form, covering the years 1966-1984, documents the crisis and triumphs of Magicolor, a manufacturer of plastics color concentrate, owned by Harry Simon, a cross between a feudal lord and a successful twentieth century businessman, who has the mistress, the anxiety, and the psychiatrist to prove it. With the courage of a lion and the heart of a shepherd he protects his workers, nurturing and vitalizing them through good and bad economic times.

Harry does business with those who know "the price of everything and the value of nothing," while demonstrating that behind every successful man is a woman and behind her his wife. Harry's business associates appall him by their guile; he appalls himself by betraying his wife Janet while deceiving his mistress Cathy. Torn by these two women, he, in turn, tears them. This dichotomous upheaval in Harry's life inevitably generates a guilty, unquiet mind.

DRIVEN reveals the odyssey of a decent man, obsessed with "omnipotent" power, who learns that power can destroy something vital in a man. Relinquishing it, however, he finds the solace he has been desperately seeking.

No longer concerned with "What I am" but rather "Who I am," Harry journeys from his early dominating years to his repose in his garden in his middle years, spanning an eternity in a lifetime.
Ramon De Rosas
English Dept. Chair and reviewer for Maine Writers & Publishers

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