21st Century Dickens
T(homas) (John) Coraghessan Boyle is currently the author of some twenty novels and scores of short stories. He was born and grew up in Peekskill, New York and now lives near Santa Barbara, California with his wife and three children. Boyle specializes in darkly comic novels and historical set pieces; he alternates these genres along with short story collections in a satisfyingly faithful cycle of work. He is likely most known for The Road to Wellville, a historical romp featuring Dr John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek Michigan; corn flake hawker, spa maven and health tonic nut. This book was made into a feature film of the same name starring Anthony Hopkins, Bridget Fonda , and Matthew Broderick.
Boyle is no stranger to literary accolades. His third novel, World's End, an epic history of the author’s native Hudson Valley in New York State, won the 1987 Pen/Faulkner award. He is considered one of the best living short story writers of our time. His stories regularly appear in the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, and Playboy to name a few.
My first foray into Boyle was Budding Prospects; A Pastoral, an early effort about a couple of northern California screw-ups who decide, in an effort to get rich quick, to grow ganja out back in their rural farmyard. It’s not long before the redneck neighbors catch on leading to a hilarious and thought provoking climax. I was hooked. I’ve gone on to read just about everything by Boyle. He is a meticulous wordsmith with a penchant for the turn of a phrase. His characters are deftly molded whether they are real or imagined, usually thrown into inauspicious circumstances, and in most cases are memorable. He has been compared to everyone from Charles Dickens to Saki; and like Dickens, he tends write his social conscience. He's written about many oddball figures in history from African Explorer Mungo Park to Alfred Kinsey, chronicler of American sexual habits to Victor of Aveyron, the feral child of France.
Boyle appears often at bookstores or small auditoriums to read from his latest works or present short lectures. I’ve attended a couple of these personal appearances and it has been an enjoyable experience, culminating in a meet-and-greet book signing.His latest released work is a short story collection titled Wild Child (which I haven’t read yet, though I’ve probably read many of its stories in the NYer). Boyle’s upcoming novel is called When the Killing’s Done which is due out in May of 2011. This one is due to be of the contemporary-and-usually-socially-conscious-black-comedy genre.
Check out TC Boyle's Blog at tcboyle.com
TC Boyle Bibliography:
- Water Music (The Penguin Contemporary American Fiction Series)
- Budding Prospects: (1984)
- World's End (1987)
- East Is East (1990)
- The Road to Wellville (1993)
- The Tortilla Curtain (1995)
- Riven Rock (1998)
- A Friend of the Earth (2000)
- Drop City (2003)
- The Inner Circle (2004)
- Talk Talk (2006)
- The Women (2009)
- When the Killing's Done (novel) (2011)
Short story collections
- Descent of Man (1979)
- Greasy Lake & Other Stories (1985)
- If the River Was Whiskey (1989)
- Without a Hero (1994)
- T.C. Boyle Stories (1998) – collects the four earlier volumes of short fiction, as well as seven previously uncollected stories.
- After the Plague (2001)
- Tooth and Claw (2005)
- The Human Fly (2005) (young adult literature)
- Wild Child & Other Stories (2010)