After a wait of twenty years since Lee Durkee’s Rides of the Midway (Norton, 2002), we might expect The Last Taxi Driver (Tin House, 2020) to be overworked, joyless. No. The readers are right; the reviewers are right. Bukowski and Hunter Thompson meet Chaucer. Durkee’s day in the life of taxi driver, Lou, whose passengers’ ribald stories weave through his hallucinatory day, carries the reader beyond amusement to illumination as brilliant as the beam of light from the flying saucer that haunts our driver. Aspiring Buddist, hopeless novelist, and darkly humorous taxi driver, Lou careens through the roads in northern Mississippi directed by sadistic dispatchers to ferry drug addicts, hospital patients, old ladies, and drunken senators. Each pickup is a tale that adds to the overall journey Lou is on in his decaying black Town Car and his deteriorating life. This book is worth it for the driving advice. “Whenever you see a cop immediately start picking your nose.” (102) As Lou’s Town Car and his life unravel, our affection for him increases. We hope that Chekhov’s gun does not destroy our antihero. But a tale must have a climax, and noir only works if there is hope. Durkee is a pure joy to read and reread in order to catch literary tricks performed by an expert magician.
For those of you near Jackson, MS, this was a Lemuria Bookstore recommendation.