by T.C. Boyle
I don’t consider myself a T.C. Boyle fan. Boyle has certainly been successful and I know people who read everything he writes, but I just can’t get that excited. Maybe I started in the wrong place. At this point, I’ve read just one of his novels (Drop City, which was engaging, but populated with caricatures, I thought) and various short stories. It’s only to discover what other people see in his work that I’ll keep trying. Here is an interview with Boyle from a couple of years ago in Identity Theory, and here's a pretty amazing T.C. Boyle Resource that appears, unfortunately, to be out of date. Still there's a lot there that looks interesting.
Now I’ve read Tooth and Claw, his most recent collection of stories, which I consider uneven. Which is absurd of me to say because all 14 of the stories were previously published in the best magazines: The New Yorker (5), Playboy (3), Harper’s (2), McSweeney’s (2), GQ (1) and StoryQuarterly (1). Not to mention an O. Henry Prize (2003) and recognition in BASS (2004).
I think one of my problems with this collection is that I find the narrators who are drowning in booze and drugs get a little old, especially when it happens over and over again in the stories (and this is especially since I’ve just read Mooch, which is all about that), so stories like “All the Wrecks I’ve Crawled Out Of” and “Up Against the Wall” don’t do much for me.
My favorite story here, if I have one, is “Tooth and Claw,” about Junior, who as moved to the Coast to put a little excitement in his life. He’s working in construction, but not steadily, and he looks for a place to hang out. He finds a bar, where he in a game of bar dice he wins a serval cat from Ludwig. Because Daria, a waitress, is excited by the cat, Junior takes it home with him and together he and Daria try to figure out what to do. He’s pretty happy about the situation, but, naturally, it doesn’t last.
That one was in The New Yorker and BASS 2004.