boyle cartoon
It’s been a long time since I’ve added a writer of fiction to my list of authors whose work I search for every time I discover a new bookstore. TC Boyle is The Man. Those of you who know my passion for the writing of Frederick Barthelme know I like my fiction modern, wry, and quirky, and TC fits the bill. Here’s a brief excerpt from his latest short story Chicxulub [the meteorite that hit Earth 65 million years ago]:

The thing that disturbs me about Chicxulub, aside from the fact that it erased the dinosaurs and wrought catastrophic and irreversible change, is the deeper implication that we, and all our works and worries and attachments, are so utterly inconsequential. Death cancels our individuality, we know that, yes, but ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, and the kind goes on, human life and culture succeed us. That, in the absence of God, is what allows us to accept the death of the individual. But when you throw Chicxulub into the mixóor the next Chicxulub, the Chicxulub that could come howling down to obliterate all and everything even as your eyes skim the lines of this pageówhere does that leave us?

This guy is prolific, and I have no idea why I’ve never discovered him before. My fellow Sloggers Rich Pure & Simple and Amy Worms of Endearment Stewart are both TC fans.

And he has something to say about writing, too. Here’s a passage from his wonderful 1999 autobiographical essay This Monkey, My Back:

I can see how my books and stories are tied inextricably, how the themes and obsessionsóthe search for the father, racism, class and community, predetermination versus free will, cultural imperialism, sexual war and sexual truceókeep repeating. I can see this, but only in retrospect. Thatís the beauty of this addictionóyou have to move on, no retirement here, look out ahead, though you canít see where youíre going. First you have nothing, and then, astonishingly, after ripping out your brain and your heart and betraying your friends and ex-lovers and dreaming like a zombie over the page till you canít see or hear or smell or taste, you have something. Something new. Something of value. Something to hold up and admire. And then? Well, youíve got a jones, havenít you? And you start all over again, with nothing.


PS: Here are three wonderful explanations of why we write, starting with TC’s:

Writing is a habit, an addiction, as powerful and overmastering an urge as putting a bottle to your lips or a spike in your arm, the impulse to make something out of nothing, — TC Boyle

We write to give order and structure to a chaotic world. — James Baldwin

I write because I wish to know what I think. — Steve Raker

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  1. says:

    Orwell had things to say about why we write as well. He lists sheet egoism, aesthetic entusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose. More here.

  2. says:

    I guess your comments feature doesn’t like links. There was a “here” after that last “More”, linked to

  3. says:

    Oh, I see.

  4. Amy Stewart says:

    T. Boyle is also the master of the brilliant first line. Read the first paragraph of World’s End. That’s what turned me on to him in the first place.

  5. Dave Pollard says:

    Frank: Thanks. I also covered Orwell and these 4 purposes in this post.Amy: That’s why I’m so surprised that I haven’t discovered him before. Whenever I’m browsing serendipitously in bookstores I read the first and last paragraph of books and decide on that basis whether to read them.

  6. Elderbear says:

    Dave, I like your strategy & will have to start using it. Thank-you for turning me on to TC. I’d never heard of him before. I like his melding of science with fiction. That’s something I’ve tried to do with a few micro-fiction pieces.Chicxulub. Comes on the heels of reading Levy’s book on comets, that after a recent Scientific American article on the worldwide fires that the Chicxulub event may have ignited, all after Mike Davis’ Dead Cities: And Other Tales and Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster.I’m looking forward to reading the story in an hour when I get home from work.

  7. Don Dwiggins says:

    I’m reminded of Stephen King’s take on writing in “Misery”; I suppose the story could be looked at as allegorical, with his captor (forgot her name) as the muse.Speaking of the muse, Norman Mailer spoke of her as the “bitch goddess”, and of writing a successful work as “getting a piece of the bitch”.Another take on Chixhulub: if that rock had missed the earth, there might be saurians instead of primates writing blogs today. Maybe there’s no such thing as an unmitigated disaster…

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