Thomas M. Sullivan's book, Life in the Slow Lane, is part daily goings on of a driving instructor written in the first person and in the present tense, and part screed to showcase his political ideas. The result is a nonfiction book that too often reads like a lecture.
The beginning of the book is promising, and this Broad had a few chuckles from it. Sullivan's pursuit of a part time career in driver's ed is amusing at first. I have to admit that the present tense format was unappealing to me from the very beginning, but as a writer myself, I allow for the creative choices of others. However, the problems begin before the first half of the book is finished. Just as Moira had issues with his political stance seeping into the narrative, so did I. Lines such as this on page 64 when Sullivan is discussing seeing a homeless man on the off ramp can be found throughout the book: "The money for one botched nose job could house and feed this guy for a month." While this may be true, I immediately ask, "What did you do to help this poor, lost soul, Mr. Sullivan?" Or the one on page 76, which alludes to his belief that parents are incapable of teaching their children to drive: "This is one reason why I avoid driving in rural areas. I don't feel safe when a kid speeding towards me is clueless because Dad diverted his educational funds into a new fishing boat." Wow. How supercilious can one get?
Mr. Sullivan's use of logical fallacies is rampant. He particularly likes the red herring. When he's discussing how the neighboring state of Washington doesn't require driver's education training and then introduces their spending money on combating West Nile virus to show how his pet issue is being neglected, he commits this fallacy. This may work in comedy routines, but in this book, it comes off as whiny.
But very possibly the worst of his personal credos is found on page 121 in a chapter entitled, "Schlock and Awe". "Being a good teacher is easy. I know, from kids' comments and my past experience, that I'm decent at the job. It's simple. You follow one basic rule: Never ever make a kid feel bad for making a mistake. Never. Teaching is the ultimate "do unto others" experience. If teenagers become dejected while learning, they'll want to stop." Teenagers can't feel bad or they'll cease to be interested in learning? This is the mantra of the permissive parent and ask any teacher who has to deal with the darlings people like Sullivan produce just how easy teaching is. Schlock indeed.
In between political comments and logical fallacies, Sullivan details his daily appointments to teach young Oregonians the fine art of driving. And his dental appointments, strangely enough. They interrupt his work narrative and create a dead stop each time, bringing what is often quite dry description of teaching people to drive into the even drier personal diary realm.
I'm sure Sullivan has many humorous tales about his time as a driver's ed instructor. Unfortunately, they aren't in this book. What could have been quite an amusing ride through what is arguably one of the most fertile grounds for humor in education devolves into the author's chance to pontificate on the social ills he sees around him as he drives by during his lessons teaching those who can afford to pay him for a luxury similar to those he so soundly rails against time and again in the pages of Life in the Slow Lane.
This book is perfect for anyone who is sure they know it all. However, this Broad, even with her definite liberal leanings, finds the smug level of Life in the Slow Lane just too high.