World's End

( 8 )


Haunted by the burden of his family's traitorous past, woozy with pot, cheap wine and sex, and disturbed by a frighteningly real encounter with some family ghosts, Walter van Brunt is about to have a collision with history.

It will lead Walter to search for his lost father. And it will send the story into the past of the Hudson River Valley, from the late 1960's back to the anticommunist riots of the 1940's to the late seventeenth century, where the long-hidden secrets of three ...

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World's End

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Haunted by the burden of his family's traitorous past, woozy with pot, cheap wine and sex, and disturbed by a frighteningly real encounter with some family ghosts, Walter van Brunt is about to have a collision with history.

It will lead Walter to search for his lost father. And it will send the story into the past of the Hudson River Valley, from the late 1960's back to the anticommunist riots of the 1940's to the late seventeenth century, where the long-hidden secrets of three families—the aristocratic van Warts, the Native-American Mohonks, and Walter's own ancestors, the van Brunts—will be revealed.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Boyle has been developing a growing reputation among lovers of rich comic writing for his handful of previous stories and novels. But World's End is one of those dramatic leaps forward that show an accomplished writer ambitiously and successfully lengthening his stride. It could easily be called a multigenerational saga, but that would give no idea of the depth of social and historical perspective Boyle brings to his tale. Set in the spectacular Hudson Valley country, an hour north of New York, World's End has all the elements of magic, fable, legend, and a sense of weather and landscape one more often finds in Southern writers. But it also shows a remarkable grasp of the continuity of culture over more than 300 years, effortlessly linking the stories of early Dutch settlers in the valley, the Indians they displaced and their descendants in the McCarthyite late 1940s and wild 1960s. The story, which moves with exceptional and convincing ease across the generations, is of the linked fates of the Van Brunt and Van Wart families. These have come down in modern times to Walter Van Brunt, a dreamer addled by drink and dope who loses both feet in motorbike accidents and who is haunted by figures and voices from the past, and Depeyster Van Wart, deeply conservative manufacturer and landowner, hanging on desperately to ancestral memories in a world he despises. Boyle is totally attuned to changing mores over the centuries, and broad enough in his sympathies to identify with the best in both conservative and rebel. Many of the book's central issues of loyalties and betrayal come to a head in a e riveting passage built on the Peekskill riots of 1949, in which leftists trying to attend a concert at which Paul Robeson was to sing were attacked by embittered locals inflamed by the presence of ``niggers and kikes.'' Boyle, a native of the area, is so deeply steeped in its history that he can absorb a real incident and transform it organically into a horrifying episode in a novel. World's End is a triumph; resonant, richly imagined and written with unfailing eloquence. BOMC Alternate. (October 8)
Library Journal
Encompassing 300 years of Hudson River Valley history, Boyle's new novel revolves around young Walter Van Brunt's search for his long-lost father, Truman, who betrayed friends and family alike in the Peterskill Riots of 1949. World's End is a wild, overarching saga of class warfare and duplicity, a vision of the present ``impaled on the past.'' But it's a vision more engaging in outline than in detail. Boyle treats these burghers and yeomen with such disdain that we know exactly how poor Walter feels to find himself abandoned at a party ``full of drunken, grinning, suspicious, long-toothed, dog-faced, silly-ass strangers.'' A queasy complement to Boyle's first historical novel, Water Music ( LJ 11/15/81), recommended for larger collections. Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140299939
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/28/1990
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 186,750
  • Product dimensions: 5.11 (w) x 7.73 (h) x 0.82 (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
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2001

    Don't Forget Washington Irving

    One really great, monster book! Boyle pulls out all the stops in approaching the Hudson Valley. There are shades and whiffs of Bryant, Cole, and Irving on every page. Against this phantasmic backdrop, the author gives us a flea-bitten tale of colonial and modern mud, blood, and beer, a tale which both excoriates and exults that which is American, that which is its history: Indians, patroons, Dutch 'squareheads', 'Commies', finks, draft resisters, draft dodgers, not to mention the idle rich. At points, everyone appears the fool or the pawn. That it the book's truth and its tragedy.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2007

    Worth it, but check out his others first

    I was impressed with Boyle's ability to keep so many storylines straight, not to mention keeping ahold of how the characters from different time periods are connected, however, I was not impressed with my own ability to do so. Having read Sometimes a Great Notion and similar books that juggle characters like a circus performer on speed and having understood and enjoyed them heartily, I felt Boyle could've worked with a few less characters and composed a more sound book. If your mind can easily flit from scene to scene, personality to personality, or storyline..., then this is the book for you. A bit of a challenge for me which brought the interest down at times. Not exactly a 'sit back and relax' kind of read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2003

    a clever masterpiece

    Two story lines centuries apart, but they fold before you as one. The first TC Boyle I've read, and I will now read more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2013

    The Fall of The Celtic Warrior (Scathach) part 2

    See part one at 'sinking isle')) Scatty nodded to Snowy. "Yes. Nicholas and the Twins will want to see that we are both o.k., though I see no reason we wouldnt be." She said, quietly. Snowy had her aura- a pure bronze- flash around her in reply, and she walked down a narrow alleyway. "Come on! We're going to get Hekate's ghost on us if we dont get there soon!" She yelled. Scatty squeaked and ran to keep up, her aunt, Hekate, had been killed by the sword Excalibur only a week ago. Snowy knew it had happened in Hekate's own Shadowrealm and used that devestating event to lure the Shadow into going faster. Snowy was better at blending in, unlike Scatty. Yea, Snowy had fangs and wings. She called them cosplay. Scatty, she had fangs, and she stood out from every group. Snowy was the mentor of Scathach, and the last Dyre in existence. Scathach was one of many Vampires, and nearly impossible to kill. Snowy often joked around with commoners, and rarely took alleyways around. This time was much different. Evil creatures that existed only on humani's darkest myths were on their trails.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2008

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