Greasy Lake and Other Stories

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Mythic and realistic, farcical and tragic, The Washington Post Book World says these masterful stories mark T. Coraghessan Boyle's development from "a prodigy's audacity to something that packs even more of a wallop: mature artistry." They cover everything, from a terrifying encounter between a bunch of suburban adolescents and a murderous, drug-dealing biker, to a touching though doomed love affair between Eisenhower and Nina Khruschev.

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Greasy Lake and Other Stories

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Mythic and realistic, farcical and tragic, The Washington Post Book World says these masterful stories mark T. Coraghessan Boyle's development from "a prodigy's audacity to something that packs even more of a wallop: mature artistry." They cover everything, from a terrifying encounter between a bunch of suburban adolescents and a murderous, drug-dealing biker, to a touching though doomed love affair between Eisenhower and Nina Khruschev.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Satirical fables of contemporary life, so funny and acutely observed that they might have been written by Evelyn Waugh as sketches for...'Saturday Night Live.' ...Indeed, the best of his stories not only make the reader see; they make the reader hear and smell and feel." —The New York Times
Michiko Kakutani
Mr. Boyle uses his seemingly limitless capacity for invention and a gift for nimble, hyperventilated prose to delineate his heightened vision of the world....Though the tales share the author's distinctly manic voice, a voice, pitched just this side of hysteria, they remain remarkably eclectic in form, disparate in subject matter - a testament to both Mr. Boyle's range as a storyteller and to the reach of his ambition....Many of Mr. Boyle's stories share a brooding, Pinteresque atmosphere of menace: violence and blood percolate throughout this collection, often surfacing in especially gruesome images...What saves the darkest tales from becoming morbidly grotesque is Mr. Boyle's infectious, farcical humor....Indeed, the best of his stories not only make the reader see; they also make the reader hear and smell and feel. -- New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140077810
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/1986
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,446,351
  • Product dimensions: 7.70 (w) x 7.92 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

T. Coraghessan Boyle

T. C. Boyle is the author of eleven novels, including World's End (winner of the PEN/FaulknerAward), Drop City (a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award), and The Inner Circle. His most recent story collections are Tooth and Claw and The Human Fly and Other Stories.


In the interest of time and space, it might be easier to note the writers that T. C. Boyle isn't compared to. But let's give the reverse a try: Donald Barthelme, John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, Evelyn Waugh, Franz Kafka, James Joyce, Kingsley Amis, Thomas Berger, Robert Coover, Lorrie Moore, Stanley Elkin, Tom Robbins, Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, Don DeLillo, Flannery O'Connor.

Oh, let's not forget F. Lee Bailey. And Dr. Seuss.

Boyle, widely admired for his acrobatic verbal skill, wild narratives and quirky characters (in one short story, he imagines a love affair between Dwight Eisenhower and Nikita Khrushchev's wife), has dazzled critics since his first novel in 1981.

Consider this example, from Larry McCaffery in a 1985 article for The New York Times: "Beneath its surface play, erudition and sheer storytelling power, his fiction also presents a disturbing and convincing critique of an American society so jaded with sensationalized images and plasticized excess that nothing stirs its spirit anymore.... It is into this world that Mr. Boyle projects his heroes, who are typically lusty, exuberant dreamers whose wildly inflated ambitions lead them into a series of hilarious, often disastrous adventures."

But as much as critics will bow at his linguistic gifts, some also knock him for resting on them a bit too heavily, hinting that the impressive showmanship attempts to hide a shortage of depth and substance.

Craig Seligman, writing in The New Republic in 1993, pointed out that "Boyle loves a mess. He loves chaos. He loves marshes and jungles, and he loves the jungle of language: luxuriant sentences overgrown with lianas of lists, sesquipedalian words hanging down like rare fruits. For all its exoticism, though, his prose is lucid to the point of transparency. It doesn't require much deeper concentration than a good newspaper (though it does require a dictionary)."

Reviewing The Tortilla Curtain in 1995, New York Times critic Scott Spencer scratched his head over why Boyle had invited readers along for this particular ride: "Mr. Boyle's fictional strategy is puzzling. Why are we being asked to follow the fates of characters for whom he clearly feels such contempt? Not surprisingly, this is ultimately off-putting. Perhaps Mr. Boyle has received too much praise for his zany sense of humor; in this book, that wit often seems merely a maddening volley of cheap shots. It's like living next door to a gun nut who spends all day and half the night shooting at beer bottles."

Growing up, Boyle had no aspirations to be a writer. It wasn't until his studies at State University of New York, where he as a music student, that he bumped into his muse. "I went there to be a music major but found I really couldn't hack that at the age of 17," he told The Writer in 1999. "I just started to read outside my classes -- literature and history. I wound up being a history and English major; when I wandered into a creative writing class as a junior, I realized that writing was what I could do."

He then started teaching, in part to avoid getting drafted into the Vietnam War, and later applied to the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop.

After a collection of short stories in 1979, he released his first novel, Water Music, called "pitiless and brilliant" by The New Republic, and has shuttled back and forth between novels and short stories, all known for their explosions of character imagination. Mr. Boyle's literary sensibility ... thrives on excess, profusion, pushing past the limits of good taste to comic extremes," McCaffery wrote in his 1985 New York Times piece. "He is a master of rendering the grotesque details of the rot, decay and sleaze of a society up to its ears in K Mart oil cans, Kitty Litter and the rusted skeletons of abandoned cars and refrigerators."

In his review of Drop City, the 2003 novel set in California commune that won Boyle a National Book Award nomination, Dwight Garner joins the chorus of critical acclaim over the years – "Boyle has always been a fiendishly talented writer" – but he also acknowledges some of the criticism that Boyle has faced in these same years.

"The rap against Boyle's work has long been that he's a sort of madcap predator drone, raining down hard nuggets of contempt, sarcasm and bitter humor on the poor men and women in his books while rarely giving us characters we're actually persuaded to feel anything about," he wrote. "This is partly a bum rap -- and I'd hate to knock contempt, sarcasm and bitter humor -- but there's enough truth in it that it's a joy to find, in Drop City that Boyle gives us a lot more than simply a line of bong-addled innocents led to slaughter."

But perhaps the neatest summary of Boyle's work would be from Lorrie Moore, one of the novelists to which he has been compared. In a 1994 New York Times review of Boyle's short story collection Without a Hero, she praised Boyle's "astonishing and characteristic verve, his unaverted gaze, his fascination with everything lunatic and queasy."

"God knows, Mr. Boyle can write like an angel," she continues later, "if at times a caustic, gum-chewing one. And in this strong, varied collection maybe we have what we'd hope to find in heaven itself (by the time we begged our way there): no lessening of brilliance, plus a couple of laughs to mitigate all that high and distant sighing over what goes on below."

Good To Know

Boyle changed his middle name from John to Coraghessan (pronounced "kuh-RAGG-issun") when he was 17.

He is known almost as much for his ego as his writing. "Each book I put out, I think, 'Goodbye, Updike and Mailer, forget it," The New Republic quoted him as saying. "I joke at Viking that I'm going to make them forget the name of Stephen King forever, I'm going to sell so many copies.

Boyle's philosophy on reading and writing, as told to The Writer: "Good literature is a living, brilliant, great thing that speaks to you on an individual and personal level. You're the reader. I think the essence of it is telling a story. It's entertainment. It's not something to be taught in a classroom, necessarily. To be alive and be good, it has to be a good story that grabs you by the nose and doesn't let you go till The End."

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    1. Also Known As:
      T.C. Boyle
    2. Hometown:
      Santa Barbara California
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 2, 1948
    2. Place of Birth:
      Peekskill, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A. in music, State University of New York at Potsdam, 1970; Ph.D. in literature, Iowa University, 1977
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2013


    I agree with Jaysoar. Dont let her die!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2013


    Blossomfall, please don't let her die! I was beginning to like her just like Honeyfern then she dies!!!!!!! -Jaysoar

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2013

    Warriors: After the War


    Hollyspark jerked awake, and her green eyes widened in alarm as she saw a dark figure slip past her, and reached out a paw to swipe at Grasspelt...
    The black shecat blinked, breathing a quick sigh of relief. Not an enemy intruder, just Foxleap, his russet fur nearly black in the moonlight as he prodded the brown tom awake.
    Moonlight patrol, Hollyspark thought, resting her head on her paws. I don't envy Grasspelt!
    However, as she strained her ears to hear what the deputy was saying, the small shecat was startled by his hushed and anxious words.
    "Blossomfall's kits are coming," Foxleap hissed in an undertone to Grasspelt, gesturing out towards the bramble nursery. Hollyspark felt a flash of anger dart through her as the RiverClan tom's green eyes lit up with worry, and his mottled brown fur bushed out in alarm. She, too, got to her paws and padded after Grasspelt, ignoring Foxleap's confused glance as she brushed past him.
    Starlight shone down upon the camp, and everything was silent. Cherryfrost stood on guard, her thick ginger pelt bushed out against the early leaf-fall winds. Fatepaw was rushing towards the nursery, a bundle of herbs in his jaws. Outside the bramble thicket was Bumblestripe, his light gray fur pricked up in worry, while Grasspelt sat beside him, looking just as anxious as Blossomfall's brother.
    Hollyspark padded over to the two toms, as quiet and dark as a shadow. She sat down beside Grasspelt, peering into the nursery as the light brown tom started to pace.
    The black-furred warrior saw Blossomfall lying in a nest, her torrtoiseshell-and-white flank heaving. Jayfeather was beside her, one paw placed on the queen's side, while Seedflower watched from nearby. The pale ginger shecat's kits were sleeping peacefully, as were Squirrelflight's four kits, except for Hawkkit. The dark brown tabby was peering at Blossomfall, a curious expression on his face.
    Hollyspark turned back to Grasspelt, who's tail was lashing back and forth in aggitation. Trying to comfort the light brown tom, she rested her tail on his shoulder, offering a faint smile to the warrior.
    "She'll be okay," the black shecat promised.
    Grasspelt looked at her, and Hollyspark felt her fur tingle again, as if lightning has passed through her pelt.
    Fatepaw ducked out of the nursery, brushing past Bumblestripe. The young gray tom nodded to the three warriors, and his blue eyes narrowed as he saw Hollyspark. The shecat wondered what he was thinking as her brother trotted off back towards the medicine cat den.
    Foxleap had woken several cats for a moonlight patrol, and Hollyspark watched as, yawning, four of het Clanmates padded off towards the tunnel. Toadstep was in the lead, followed by Lilypatch, Moletooth, and Swiftfang. The dark tabby shecat flicked her ear in greeting to Hollyspark as she padded past, and the patrol brushed past Cherryfrost, heading into the forest.
    A muffled yowl came from within the nursery, and Grasspelt froze. Hollyspark peered past Bumblestripe, and saw Seedflower rapidly licking a light brown newborn, nearly the exact copy of Grasspelt.
    "Blossomfall?" Grasspelt called into the nursery, shoving past the brambles and peering inside.
    "One healthy tom, several more to go," Jayfeather mewed, flicking his tail and not looking up.
    Seeing Grasspelt's happiness at the sight of his firtsborn son, Hollyspark felt another pang of heart-wrenching grief.

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