Monday, January 30, 2012

The New Yorker: "Los Gigantes" by T. Coraghessan Boyle

February 6, 2012: “Los Gigantes” by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Q&A with T.C. Boyle (As of 9:20 pm on 1/30, the Q&A isn't available, so if it says anything useful about the story, I don't know what it is. I'll check back and edit this post if necessary.)

Allegory? Here’s the story: In some unnamed Latin American country, at some point in time (the President’s limo is a Duesenberg, the police van is a Black Mariah, there are radios and electric fans, but no TV and no Airconditioning), the President’s people have rounded up a lot of very large men (the narrator is a giant—nearly 7 ft. tall, weighs 420 pounds) to breed them with very large women, hoping to develop a race of giants for the military. (The narrator is told they’re also breeding little people) But despite the fine food he receives from his keepers, the narrator rebels, making two half-hearted escape attempts before finally, tumultuously freeing himself from the chains that hold him.

The only way this story does anything for me is if I give it a political spin. The narrator and his fellow breeders represent the enslaved lower class in America, and the President’s men stand for the ruling corporate class who need them to breed and obey in order to sustain those in power. But our narrator rebels, and his ambition is simply to love his small wife and to have normal-sized children—the middle class that doesn’t do the powerful any good.

Okay, that’s a stretch, I realize. But if not that, what’s the point of this odd story?


Marc Gerstein said...

I can't quite see the enslavement angle. The narrator and others did, after all, sign up for this gig. It seems to me that there is something of an anti-utopia angle here (when the narrator and his pal griped, the bosses did try to make things better for them by giving them everything they asked for). Perhaps Boyle is trying to suggest that dictators can't buy their way into the hears of those under them; that freedom, however messy and imperfect it may be, is preferable to compelled paradise.

The Maids of Wall New Jersey said...

Not Boyle’s best work, but as an author, he’s got this ability to write convincingly and fluidly about so many different topics that it hardly matters. It’s a passable story that’s either being Swiftian in its seriousness (toward the idea of eugenics) or — and I lean more on this possibility — a tale about a too-tall man and a too-small woman finding happiness for the future in between extremes.

Surprised at Archiving Medical Records said...

I don’t doubt that Boyle means to mock eugenics on some level, but I’ve always found him more character-driven than satirical, and that extends to his humanized giant here, who starts out depressed and gradually seizes the first chance he gets for actual happiness. I also think that Boyle didn’t flesh out much of the supporting incidents, so hasty was he to get to the last part (which I suspect is the seed for this story, but hey, I don’t read the Book Bench stuff before I jot down my thoughts.