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A Friend of the Earth Paperback – 8 Oct 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (8 Oct. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747553467
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747553465
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 577,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

If, as we are frequently cautioned, ecological collapse is imminent, the future might someday resemble TC Boyle's vision of Southern California, circa 2025: strafing wind, extortionate heat, vast species extinction, and a ramshackle, dispirited populace. A more bleak backdrop--part Blade Runner, part Silent Spring--for his eighth novel is difficult to imagine. But the ever-mischievous, ever-inventive Boyle is all too willing to disoblige; and so, in extended homage to early Vonnegut, his Sierra Club nightmare is rendered, well, comically. Toss in streaks of unabashed sentimentality, a scattershot satire, and several signature narrative ambushes, and A Friend of the Earth only further embellishes the already prodigious Boyle reputation.

During the 1980s and '90s, Ty Tierwater had exchanged a sedately acquisitive existence--"the slow-rolling glacier of my old life, my criminal life, the life I led before I became a friend of the earth"--for a fairly ambivalent position on the front lines of an ecoterrorist posse called Earth Forever! The only complication is his dual penchant for empathy and ineptitude, exacerbated by a frustration that swells with accumulating incitements. After his daughter is taken from him, and his second wife, Andrea, becomes more committed to the cause than to their marriage, Ty finds solace in blind destruction. He serves his almost predictable terms in jail; he endures the eventual death--and martyrdom--of his activist daughter, Sierra. At 75, and a quarter of the way into the dismal and decayed 21st century, he unaccountably finds himself tending an eccentric rock star's private mini-zoo of ragged animals and wryly lamenting the collapse of his race. And then Andrea resurfaces--along with his long-fallow faith in love.

Old Testament digression stalks Ty throughout A Friend of the Earth, from a publicity-stunt-cum-Edenic-retreat during his heady Earth Forever! days to a chaotic menagerie roundup amidst flooding rainfall. Boyle's future, however, is less apocalyptic than resigned, more drearily pragmatic than angst-ridden. It's a world Ty ultimately finds untenable: a constricted diversity, ecological or ideological, proves stultifying, a fact he only dimly recognised while awash in his earlier radicalism. "To be a friend of the earth," he avers in retrospect, "you have to be an enemy of the people". Boyle's spirited tale sustains the brashness of Ty's convictions. --Ben Guterson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

'A comedy with teeth from one of America's most consistently inventive novelists' -- The Times

'Bursting with imagination and humour' -- Daily Telegraph

'Superb ... if Boyle was from this side of the pond, this is the book they'd all have to beat for the booker prize' -- Sunday Tribune

'Surreal, daring and compassionate. Easily one of the best books of this year' -- Daily Mail

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By GRBD on 1 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
Ty Tierwater is 75 and in charge of a rock star's private menagerie of endangered species. How he came to this, he's not quite sure, but with the Earth's fragile ecological balance finally upset, he looks back on his life, and his time in Eco terrorist group `Earth Forever!' with a wry and resigned humour at odds with the current state of his affairs. Lost - and regained - loves, the martyrdom of his only daughter to the eco cause, and his own enthusiastic but clumsily ineffectual environmental efforts provide fuel for the fire of reminiscence, all delivered in Boyle's own inimitable style.

A moral message? Yup, I guess so. But once again, Boyle manages to expertly tell his tale, and yet deliver characters that are resolutely and defiantly imoprobable, or rather, undeserving of sympathy or empathy. Good story, well told, bt somewhat unengaging.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Man Raised By Penguins on 29 Mar. 2004
Format: Paperback
T.C. Boyle is a proven master story teller, and this tale of eco-destruction is no exception. His characters have depth and are believable. The plot flips tantalisingly from future to past, each tense's events revealing significance in the other. If you're looking for a detailed break-down of the post-disaster eco-scape, then read Lovelock, or some other eco-guru. Here, Boyle wisely skirts the minutiae in favour of the bigger picture (i.e. humans are not at the centre of the ecosystem, and nature just keeps on rolling). The result is a spikey moral fable, shot through with irony, and lightly frosted with hope.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lee Farley on 26 Mar. 2002
Format: Hardcover
...I found this book well-observed and generous. The characters are truthful and extremely human - there is no soapboxing here which would be easy in a novel with an environmental theme. Simply a Pelecanos-like world-weariness which accepts our destructiveness and tries to make something liveable from the ruins. An excellent, intelligent and thoroughly enjoyable read. Can't wait to go and order some more of his books.
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Format: Paperback
I rather liked this. The central character is more or less an eco-fascist; 'to be a friend of the earth you have to be an enemy of the people', he says. Still, it does rather clarify the issue; personally I don't think the planet needs saving, but human civilisation does.

His daughter dies in a tree protest (sorry if that's a plot spoiler, though you'd have to be pretty dumb not to see it coming); I couldn't help thinking of the Simpsons episode where Lisa camps up in a tree to stop it being chopped down, which rather spoilt the pathos of this episode.

Still, it doesn't pull any punches. The reviewers who seem to think that the eco-disaster it portrays doesn't seem disastrous enough must have pretty thick skins - there's nothing much to eat, for starters.
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3 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Luke Warm on 20 Nov. 2001
Format: Paperback
My opinion of this book is obvious from the rating.
But why?

I'd like to concentrate on what you might actually be expecting from a book about a near-future post-ecodisaster Earth.

An ecodisaster? Sorry; we're led to believe it's out there, but not much in the way of description from Mr Boyle (err, it's wet and windy). This does little to conjure an image of a credible future world.
OK, so the ecodisaster bit is just a frame for the hilarious, sometimes moving, always dynamic plot and subplots?
No, sorry again. To describe this book as 'comic', perhaps only pertains to its category in my home library.
Moving? Somehow emotive? Well, I had a few motions whilst reading this book, but none of them were complimentary.
Satirical then? Asking questions about our current perspective on climate change?
Well, maybe. Although the declaration "..to be a friend of the Earth you have to be an enemy of the people..." is about as deep as it gets. Boyle makes no attempt to broaden this argument amongst his protagonists, and as such betrays perhaps ignorance of the subject matter, or a desire to avoid further contention. Unfortunate, because this could have been the most interesting aspect of this novel.
T C Boyle has written much, much better books. And no doubt will do so again. Read it if you're desperate to complete all of the author's work, otherwise look elsewhere for your entertainment, provocation, immersion or whatever else you get out of a good book, because this isn't one.
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