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 &