T.C. Boyle Stories II: The Collected Stories of T. Coraghessan Boyle, Volume II

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Overview

A second volume of short fiction—featuring fourteen uncollected stories—from the bestselling author and master of the form

Few authors write with such sheer love of story and language as T.C. Boyle, and that is nowhere more evident than in his inventive, wickedly funny, and always entertaining short stories. In 1998, T.C. Boyle Stories brought together the author’s first four collections to critical acclaim. Now, T.C. Boyle Stories II gathers the work from his three most recent ...

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T.C. Boyle Stories II: The Collected Stories of T. Coraghessan Boyle, Volume II

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Overview

A second volume of short fiction—featuring fourteen uncollected stories—from the bestselling author and master of the form

Few authors write with such sheer love of story and language as T.C. Boyle, and that is nowhere more evident than in his inventive, wickedly funny, and always entertaining short stories. In 1998, T.C. Boyle Stories brought together the author’s first four collections to critical acclaim. Now, T.C. Boyle Stories II gathers the work from his three most recent collections along with fourteen new tales previously unpublished in book form as well as a preface in which Boyle looks back on his career as a writer of stories and the art of making them.

By turns mythic and realistic, farcical and tragic, ironic and moving, Boyle’s stories have mapped a wide range of human emotions. The fifty-eight stories in this new volume, written over the last eighteen years, reflect his maturing themes. Along with the satires and tall tales that established his reputation, readers will find stories speaking to contemporary social issues, from air rage to abortion doctors, and character-driven tales of quiet power and passion. Others capture timeless themes, from first love and its consequences to confrontations with mortality, or explore the conflict between civilization and wildness. The new stories find Boyle engagingly testing his characters’ emotional and physical endurance, whether it’s a group of giants being bred as weapons of war in a fictional Latin American country, a Russian woman who ignores dire warnings in returning to her radiation-contaminated home, a hermetic writer who gets more than a break in his routine when he travels to receive a minor award, or a man in a California mountain town who goes a little too far in his concern for a widow.  

Mordant wit, emotional power, exquisite prose: it is all here in abundance. T.C. Boyle Stories II is a grand career statement from a writer whose imagination knows no bounds.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 10/15/2013
This second volume of Boyle's short stories (after Volume 1, 1998) represents his work from the late 1990s to the present and incorporates three story collections—After the Plague (2001), Tooth and Claw (2005), and Wild Child (2010)—and new work not yet published in book form. This is a monumental amount of writing, with the present 900-plus-page volume including 58 stories from the author of 14 highly acclaimed novels. In this case, quantity and quality coexist in good measure, as Boyle's stories are among the best and most memorable of the past three decades. Here, as in Boyle's earlier work, the pieces range from modern-day tall tales such as "Swept Away," which tells of a short-lived romance between an itinerant ornithologist and a shy native from "the northernmost tip of the Isle of Unst" to "torn-from-the-headlines" character-driven pieces featuring, for example, an abortion doctor under siege, a promising young college student in denial about her own pregnancy, and a newly homeless man in his first days of living rough in a Southern California beach town. VERDICT Boyle is a devoted practitioner of the short story with a formidable body of work. This rich title will be of great interest to readers both new and old.—Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-10-01
Picking up where he left off with his first volume of collected stories in 1998, Boyle (San Miguel, 2012, etc.) serves up an overstuffed gathering of goofy premises and serious turns. Boyle turns Raymond Carver on its side with his relentless insistence that ordinary life is populated by people of glorious weirdness and is, for the most part, far from dreary. The sentiment may be a 1960s holdover, for, in a sharp introduction that (unlike a few stories) goes on too short, he observes that when he started out, he was "a hippie's hippie, so blissed-out and outrageously accoutered that people would stop me on the street and ask if I could sell them acid." Some of these stories have an oddly psychotropic effect, and perhaps origin: Who else would dream up a story about a lovelorn immigrant who digs underground labyrinths on the California frontier? Boyle notes that as he gets that much closer to the void, "the long dark road that inescapably ends in an even darker place," he tends to more nonwhimsical turns, but he still engages full-tilt in explorations of the unbeaten path, arguing against the bulk of his fellow professors, "I say write what you don't know and find something out." Amen. Boyle doesn't usually write short, and some of his stories threaten to deflate before he's quite done with them, but most are gems, marked by beautiful language ("Whiteness loomed, the pale ethereality of nothingness, and blackness too, the black of a dreamless sleep"), nicely imagined moments (a young man reads Crime and Punishment and, just in time to be deterred from existential crime, goes on a picnic), and occasionally dashed dreams--yes, à la Carver--as when a once-famed ballplayer returns to Venezuela in disgrace and has to sell his beloved Hummer, "replacing it with a used van of unknown provenance and a color indistinguishable from the dirt of the streets." A fine and welcome summation--till the next volume--by one of the best storytellers at work today.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670026258
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • Publication date: 10/3/2013
  • Pages: 944
  • Sales rank: 114,682
  • Product dimensions: 6.58 (w) x 9.46 (h) x 1.82 (d)

Meet the Author

T. Coraghessan Boyle

T.C. Boyle is the author of fourteen novels, including Drop City, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and World’s End, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award. He has also written nine short story collections. He lives near Santa Barbara, California.

Biography

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:

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