T.C. Boyle Stories II Paperback – 3 Oct 2013
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This vast volume contains some of the best, funniest, bleakest, most unsettling short stories I've ever read ... Incredibly good - a book to savour (The Times)
Complicated characters, like twists, are among the orthodox pleasures on offer here ... You don't feel cheated, reading Boyle - while the head knows there's manipulation and artifice, the heart thumps (Observer)
An important book that contains revelation, tension and beauty (Philip Womack Daily Telegraph)
Boyle has a talent for describing events we may never experience with an arresting matter-of-factness. There is a thrill to this, and to not knowing where he will take us next (Chris Power Guardian)
A sort of Frank Zappa of American letters . Like the Beat writers before him, Boyle documents American life in the underbelly . Boyle is incapable of writing a boring sentence ... he is a master of the short story form (Ian Thomson Financial Times)
The master of edgy short fiction (William Leith, Evening Standard) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The second volume of collected short fiction from American master T.C. Boyle, including his previous three collections and fourteen new stories --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
First off though, some weird omissions/additions to the overall contents. The story Mexico that’s in After the Plague in its singular incarnation is excluded from this bumper book while the wry Orwellian parody Almost Shooting an Elephant is listed under the Tooth and Claw section but doesn’t appear in its separate edition. In his introduction, Boyle mentions that Mexico had appeared in his first giant collection of stories and he didn’t want to double up, which is fine, but there’s no mention of the Elephant story so who knows what happened there.
A Death in Kitchawank (hehe) is easily the worst TC Boyle short story collection I’ve read. Of its 14 stories, only a couple really stood out to me while the others were boring, uninspired and almost instantly forgettable. I liked The Way You Look Tonight, about a young married couple where the husband discovers his wife appeared in a sex tape - now being shared online - from before they were together, which felt like it had real emotional depth to it from the way Boyle wrote both husband and wife characters.
The other story I liked was The Marlbane Manchester Musser Award about a writer going to an obscure town to accept a literary award - and then getting arrested for kidnapping/child abuse! It was unexpected and exciting and had an amusing arc to it.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
But I must acknowledge that while the preface is quite interesting, Boyle's stories are the shining stars, especially since many of the stories included in this massive collection have already won honors and acclaim. It's wonderful to have them all gathered in one collection. Stories II includes stories from Boyle's last three collections plus fourteen new stories not previously found in any collection, so, as it has been noted, it is the equivalent of four smaller books. It also needs to be noted that Boyle is including everything from the last fifteen years, so this is not a best of or a selection of hand-picked award winners.
I. After the Plague: Termination Dust; She Wasn't Soft; Killing Babies; Captured by the Indians; *Achates McNeil; The Love of My Life; *Rust; *Peep Hall; Going Down; Friendly Skies; *The Black and White Sisters; Death of the Cool; *My Widow; The Underground Gardens; *After the Plague.
II. Tooth and Claw: When I Woke Up This Morning, Everything I Had Was Gone;* Swept Away; Dogology; The Kind Assassin; *The Swift Passage of the Animals; *Jubilation; *Rastrow's Island; *Chicxulub; Here Comes; All the Wrecks; I've Crawled Out Of; Blinded by the Light; *Tooth and Claw; Almost Shooting an Elephant; The Doubtfulness of Water: Madam Knight's Journey to New York, 1702; Up Against the Wall;
III. Wild Child: *Balto; La Conchita; *Question 62; *Sin Dolor; Bulletproof; *Hands On; *The Lie; The Unlucky Mother of Aquiles Maldonado; Admiral; Ash Monday; Thirteen Hundred Rats; Anacapa; *Three Quarters of the Way to Hell; *Wild Child;
IV. A Death in Kitchawank: *My Pain Is Worse Than Your Pain; The Silence; A Death in Kitchawank; *What Separates Us from the Animals; *Good Home; *In the Zone; Los Gigantes; *The Way You Look Tonight; *The Night of the Satellite; *Search and Rescue; *Sic Transit; Burning Bright; The Marlbane Manchester Musser Award; Birnam Wood
I've put an asterisk in front of the titles of the stories that I especially enjoyed, although that doesn't mean that the others aren't as good. This is an expansive collection full of stories that warrant reading and re-reading. I have a feeling that I'll be re-visiting this collection simply to slowly savor many of these stories again and again. Admittedly there is one story that I likely won't re-read because I can't get it out of my head. All I'll say is that it has a dog in it and it makes me weepy and angry.
Very Highly Recommended - this is a must have collection.
... after the plague - it was some sort of Ebola mutation passed from hand to hand and nose to nose like the common cold - "life was different. More relaxed and expansive, more natural. The rat race was over, the freeways were clear all the way to Sacramento, and the poor dwindling ravaged planet was suddenly big and mysterious again. It was a kind of miracle really, what the environmentalists had been hoping for all along, though of course even the most strident of them wouldn'(tm)t have wished for his own personal extinction, but there it was. Location 3916-3920
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Viking via Netgalley for review purposes.
Until I bought this short story “encyclopedia”… containing over nine-hundred-pages… I never thought of giving the following example… to explain to unknown readers… why T.C. Boyle is an even better short story writer… than full length author. Falling back on my lifelong love of baseball… I can only try to analogize the following… though Sandy Koufax is the greatest pitcher I ever had the pleasure of seeing pitch in my lifetime… Mariano Rivera… is the greatest short-relief-closer in history. Boyle… is the Mariano Duncan of short stories. But unlike Rivera… T.C. doesn’t need a setup man. Each of his tantalizingly different stories “grabs” the reader from the get go. The subjects are of such varying and wide ranging topics… that you almost have to shake your just completed thoughts and adventures out of your head… like a dog shaking off the cold… after escaping from an icy blizzard… into a fireplace heated abode… before you start the next beckoning story.
After you whimsically complete a number of stories… and are enjoying the wide ranging touching of innumerable emotions… one extra… not often experienced… reading sensation… seems to be twinkling by itself… not only enjoyably… but if it had a life of its own… it would also be… enthusiastically… shaking off dust… and literally stretching… and reaching for a not too often seen… ray of light. It’s hard to configure… what that feeling is… and then if finally hits you… Boyle’s stories do not have the slightest constraint of political correctness!!
What a wonderful sensation… in viewpoints… in characters… in plots… in climaxes… in prejudice… in love… oh… what a feeling. The rapid-fire stories are so gratifying… to a true lover… of the written word… that with a treasure trove of this magnitude… I found myself constantly battling within… “Come on keep reading the next story”… or… these are so good… and hard to come by… perhaps… I should put the book aside… and know I have more short stories… for a rainy day… a sunny day… or for that matter any day… where I want to lose myself temporarily… in a delightful diversion… of literary bliss.
The roughly chronological collection represents stories from the mid-1990s to the present and are divided into four sections: After the Plague, Tooth and Claw, Wild Child, and A Death in Kitchawank. As Boyle acknowledges, his defining moment as a would-be writer came when he read A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND and realized he could start in one mode --- familiar comedy, say --- and end wickedly in another. The 50-plus stories have only a few things in common. Many are told in first person, and the narrators may be isolated, divorced, alcoholic, lonely or misguided. These storytellers, however, are keenly aware of their circumstances and foibles, and their imminent propulsion into disaster. They are not necessarily likable, but they hold our attention.
Each story’s opening holds rich promise: “I like my wife fine and we had a pretty smooth run of it over the years but there was a sort of --- oh, what do I want to say here? --- expectedness to the days that sometimes bore down on me till I felt like a piece of furniture that hasn’t been moved in a lifetime” (“My Pain is Worse Than Your Pain”). Expectations vary for where the narrator may go, but the plot moves into territory quite unexpected and he ends with “when you talk about pain, it comes in varieties and dominions nobody can even begin to imagine.” By the end of the story, the completely unsympathetic storyteller learns only that his loneliness and misery are unequaled.
In “The Night of the Satellite,” a decommissioned 20-year-old NASA climate satellite scientists had been tracking strikes Paul. He is stunned. Later, after a hot spell, too much drinking and an argument, his wife throws it in a dumpster and he gets in the car and leaves. He has no words to say, but wants to tell her she should pay the rent, and “if she went out at night --- if she went out at all --- she should remember to look up, look up high, way up there where the stars bur and space junk roams, because you never can tell what’s going to come down next.” His rage is understandable, and there is something equally understandable about his desire to show her what she does not know.
Another common thread is isolation. Boyle sets many of these stories in uncompromising, solitary places: A glass booth for Boomer as he tries for the world record of sleeplessness (“The Kind Assassin”). A secret pregnancy and her own apartment (“Captured by the Indians”) hold Melanie captive for a terrifying night as she anticipates a killer on the loose who rides the trains. In “What Separates Us from the Animals,” a sad busybody tries to welcome the new doctor to an island community and discovers her own loneliness.
The epigraph for STORIES II is the fifth stanza of Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” The question raised is whether to prefer the beauty of “the blackbird whistling/Or just after.” It seems that Boyle’s storytelling asks the same of his readers. Is there wonder in the galloping, headlong stories that make us realize how well Boyle observes human nature? Or is there wonder in the reflections and afterwards when we consider how beautifully each piece holds together?
You decide as you settle in and travel the twisty roads of T.C. Boyle’s fiction.
Joseph Richardson, MD
Author, Visions of Mary