What About T. C. Boyle?

Breakfast Club Fiction
T. C. Boyle has a new book out, Tooth and Claw. I read the title story in an anthology edited by Lorrie Moore, but I just couldn't share Lorrie Moore's excitement (in fact, I'd rather read Lorrie Moore). The story is about a lonely guy who adopts a large cat, not exactly tamed, with all the metaphors that implies. It was an amusing piece -- but one of the best of the year? I don't know.

Because he's a generally well-respected writer, I've given T. Coraghassen Boyle a few chances over the years. I read Road To Wellville, about some wacky cereal-makers in turn-of-the-century Battle Creek. I liked the setting of the book, but the plot was wooden and artifical, and the story finally clip-clopped to a stop without an epiphany.

I also caught Boyle at a Central Park Summerstage reading a long while ago, in the late 80's or early 90's. He read his Springsteen-inspired story "Greasy Lake", which was pretty much the story that made him famous. I thought it was okay, but Springsteen told it better.

Are there any T. C. Boyle advocates out there, and is anybody reading his new book? I'm curious what others think of this author.
7 Responses to "What About T. C. Boyle?"

by warrenweappa on

I'd read more of himI also read the short story Tooth and Claw. I thought the guy was given the cat or won it in a bar. The story didn't make a big effect on me but it did capture 1970s zeitgeist to a degree.As for Wellville, I skipped ahead to the ending and traded the book back for another title. T.C. Boyle's a competent writer, i.e., good sentences, but I haven't read a tale of his that I wanted to find out what would happen which is the critical element of any story.

by Stokey on

I liked the movieall those wonderful actors and great scenery, maybe it was better than the book.

by brooklyn on

Are you talking about the movie of Road To Wellville? I'd really like to catch it -- never have. I guess the story was good enough that I would watch the film, just for the period setting and the historical interest. Boyle's subject matters always intrigue me (Drop City is another example) -- I just wish he'd deliver better on the promises.

by brooklyn on

Yeah, I agree with that analysis. He's certainly talented -- but there is definitely something lacking in terms of suspense, conviction, sense of importance.

by Stokey on

Yeah, there's Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Kellogg, young Bridget Fonda, John Cusack, Rosie O'Donnell... Matthew Broderick (is that his name? anyway Ferris Bueller) It's very funny, drop dead funny. You'll like it. I asked my Dad about it; he said Kellogg actually did have the first holistic rehab center up there in Michigan.

by theangler on

mostly harmlessMy wife is a huge fan. She's read everything he's written. I was tempted by Riven Rock and found my effort of reading was not rewarded with commensurate pleasure. However, I'm not sure that Boyle was out to show me a good time. I did appreciate his detailed portrait of mental illness (not that I have any knowledge of how accurate his portrait was). The characters in Riven Rock do stand out a being real and multidimensional. What impressed me the most was Boyle's confident avoidance of providing me (the reader) with any sense of closure or accomplishment when I reached the end of the book. I've not picked up any more of his novels; however, I do plan on reading some of his short fiction since my wife says many of his stories are maximally inventive. I'll have to see what she's talking about.

by peggy on

Great HumoristHi everyone, had to comment on one of my previously favorite authors. I read Road to Wellville when I was working as a medical editor, and thought TCB wrote some of the best-paced humorous descriptions and characterizations I had read ("Scavengers. Of. The. Sea."). After that I read almost everything I could of his, my other favorite being Budding Prospects, about some inept California pot growers, which I read while living in SF and thought was one of the funniest books I had ever read, still think so. In terms of his short stories, my favorite is Top of the Food Chain, a Bob Newhart-like one-sided conversation about someone appearing in front of a Congressional Committee about DDT in Southeast Asia. I know, doesn't sound funny, but it was! I haven't heard him speak, but my guess would be that he sees his work overall as trying to mix poignancy and humor, which is an ambitious goal; some of his books get closer than others: RtW I would say is one, Tortilla Curtain, Friend of the Earth and Drop City are others. He tends to repeat his main character, a nerd that loses his temper, in many of his pieces. I feel his less successful works are when he allows the nerd to go Paul Auster-ish and lose everything; for me, those works feel out of balance. My favorites of that type were Riven Rock and East is East. Personally I don't feel particularly urgent about his new work, but I will probably check it out in paperback.