This story, in my opinion, is the much stronger of the two stories, but in reality they’re the same story. They’re set in closed communities—this one a mountain resort. The narrator this time is a man who behaves badly (he peeps on the widow next door) and gets divorced for his sins. He becomes, at least briefly, something of an outcast in the community, and when he’s beginning to feel better about himself he . . . well, I won’t spoil it for anyone. But I will say that there’s a fistfight at the end, which is exactly how the New Yorker story ends. Is Boyle coming out with a collection of fistfight stories?
I like this story in large measure because of the voice of the narrator, a man who is constantly justifying his actions, even when what he does is inexcusable. The descriptions of what he does are vivid and specific, including this passage about an accident that injured the widow next door:
“The oil melted the skin across half her back down to the panty line and wrapped a big annealed scar around her left shoulder and upper arm and burned what looks like two teardrops into the flesh under her left eye, which the plastic surgeon says he can remove and smooth over just like new once she saves up for the next round of operations, because, of course, Frank, who never even bothered to carry a compass with him out into the doom-haunted woods, didn’t have adequate health coverage from his insurer. Or life insurance, for that matter.”But besides the voice, I also like the structure. The narrator is pushed toward a decision, which he makes, and which changes his life. Not all stories do that, but it’s classic and it works.
So. I finally found a T.C. Boyle story that I like.
January: “My Pain is Worse Than Your Pain” by T.C. Boyle