A superb new collection from "a writer who can take you anywhere" (The New York Times)
In the title story of this rich new collection, T.C. Boyle has created so vivid and original a retelling of the story of Victor, the feral boy who was captured running naked through the forests of Napoleonic France, that it becomes not just new but definitive: yes, this is how it must have been. The tale is by turns magical and moving, a powerful investigation of what it means to be human.
There is perhaps no one better than T.C. Boyle at engaging, shocking, and ultimately gratifying his readers while at the same time testing his characters' emotional and physical endurance. The fourteen stories gathered here display both Boyle's astonishing range and his imaginative muscle. Nature is the dominant player in many of these stories, whether in the form of the catastrophic mudslide that allows a cynic to reclaim his own humanity ("La Conchita") or the wind-driven fires that howl through a high California canyon ("Ash Monday"). Other tales range from the drama of a man who spins Homeric lies in order to stop going to work, to that of a young woman who must babysit for a $250,000 cloned Afghan and the sad comedy of a child born to Mexican street vendors who is unable to feel pain.
Brilliant, incisive, and always entertaining, Boyle's short stories showcase the mischievous humor and socially conscious sensibility that have made him one of the most acclaimed writers of our time.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
The title novella in Boyles's ninth collection is as good as anything the prolific author of The Women has written. Basing his story on the historical Victor of Aveyron, the feral child discovered in the wilds of France in 1797 and slowly brought to heel indoors under the patient but understandably frustrated doctor Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard, Boyle interrogates history with an experienced reader's wariness of sentimental revisionism and a great writer's attention to precisely what defines the child's wildness. The 13 other stories are a grab bag of Boyles's signature modes and are, therefore, mixed. There's "Question 62," a by-the-numbers suburban comedy concerning an escaped tiger; "La Concita," a dutiful requiem for baby boomer ordinary guyism; and "Sin Dolor," a bona fide Borgesian legend about a child whose inability to feel pain fails to protect him from more subtle wounds. Stronger material is found in "The Lie," about a man who lies about his newborn baby's death to get out of work, comprising one of the book's few surprises. What's largely missing is experimentation, intimacy and deviation from a catalogue throughout which Boyle has proven himself doggedly reliable; one wonders when this wild child got housebroken.
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January 20, 2010
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