A new TC Boyle short story book is a literary event and Boyle's latest short story collection is like his other collections - that is, it is nothing short of brilliant. He is the best short story writer alive at the moment and "Wild Child" cements his reputation for crafting well written stories that draw you into the characters' strange worlds and have you wanting more.
The best story here is a short novella called "Wild Child" about a young boy found hiding in the woods in 18th century France, apparently animal-like due to years of living in the wild. He is taken in and, like the real life case of Caspar Hauser, is taken to the city where he is taught and educated. Unlike Hauser though, the wild child is never tamed. Boyle's characterisation of the child is a perfect rendering of what you would imagine to be a feral child, part human, part animal. You feel the frustrated attempts by doctors to make him speak as well as the surroundings of 18th century Paris and Languedoc. If all the other stories in this book were bad (and they're not) the book would be worth reading for this novella alone.
"The Lie" is about a man who, unable to face work, crafts a lie that his baby has died and thus gains a few more days off. However he's unable to backtrack and then his wife finds out...
"La Conchita" is about an organ courier in California who sees a mudslide happen on the motorway and gets caught up in rescuing trapped people from their cars, imaging an alternate life where one woman's husband dies and he takes his place.
"Bulletproof" is about the battle between secular education and religious views with stickers on biology textbooks that read "Darwin's theory of evolution is just a theory" dividing parents and teachers alike. The narrator, a single man, is torn between loyalty to his secular friend and a Christian woman.
"The Unlucky Mother of Aquiles Maldonado" is about a Venezuelan baseball star whose mother is taken hostage.
"Admiral" is about a rich couple who clone their dead dog and try to recreate conditions as they were years ago.
Those are the stories that stood out for me but none were terrible and all drew me into the story despite being only a dozen pages long. The characters and settings are so vivid that you become instantly interested in the stories. It's the mark of a great writer and a master storyteller who can do that so well. I would heartily recommend this book to any fans of fiction or fans of TC Boyle, who is sure to go down in literary history as the American Chekhov. A must read, fantastic book.
on 9 November 2013
(Review relates to audio cd edition, read by T.C.Boyle)
My first read of anything by T.C.Boyle and I liked it. Unfortunately my library copy only had the title novella and there were no other accompanying short stories. It would have been good to have other stories to balance the feel of this particular story.
I was put in mind a little of the story of - The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser - in that the reader is introduced to a feral child with no language, no education, no self-awareness, no shame, no family, and so on. The story - based on the early 19th century true story of Victor of Aveyron - tells of how one man of inexhaustible patience attempts to 'civilise' a 'savage' child.
Abandoned by a parent who bungled their attempt to slit the child's throat, Victor had grown up alone in woodlands, living in nature, eating uncooked vegetables, fruits, and occasional tastes of raw meat. Eventually, as rumours of occasional sightings grew in number, the boy is captured and taken in to post-revolutionary French life. What follows is a catalogue of incidents, some progressive, some regressive, which retell how he is passed from one institution to the next until he eventually arrives into the care of a young and ambitious academic at the National Institute for the Deaf in Paris. Efforts to impart some form of belated education on Victor are largely unsuccessful, although there are momentary breakthroughs. It is an interesting and ultimately tragic tale.
The writer narrated my audiobook and that was a big plus. I'd certainly like to read other stories by T. C. Boyle.