“Wild Child” – stories by T. Coraghessan Boyle

“Wild Child” by T. Coraghessan Boyle (2010) – 304 pages

Reading T. Coraghessan Boyle is my way of keeping up with California.  Not everything Boyle writes is about California, but he always writes with a California state of mind.  To me,  T. Coraghessan Boyle is just as California as the Beach Boys.  This is especially true of his short fiction.  In his latest collection, “Wild Child”, there are quite a few California stories about such things as mud slides in the suburbs, freeway driving, dating your plastic surgeon, and supposedly spontaneous brush fires. 

I am going to describe in detail the setup for one of the stories, “Admiral”,  because this story is both a quintessential T. Coraghessan Boyle story and a quintessential California story.  I will only describe the setup, so I won’t spoil the story for those who want to read it.  A young woman, Nisha, has graduated from college and is now “living back home after a failed attempt at life”.  She gets a call from her neighbors the Strikers, Gretchen and Cliff, for whom she had worked as a dogsitter for their Afghan dog ‘Admiral’ for four years while she was in high school.  The two Strikers each drive a matching black BMW.  Nisha goes to their house and asks about Admiral.  Gretchen Striker replies that Admiral got run over by a car.  It turns out that after Admiral died, they had him cloned at a cost of $250,000 and now the couple has the cloned baby puppy Admiral II.  The Strikers want to bring up Admiral II exactly like Admiral was brought up, so they want very much to hire Nisha again as dogsitter for Admiral II.  They are willing to pay her $25 an hour as well as provide medical and dental care for her to dogsit.   Only in California…

The opening quote for this story collection is the following :

    “In Wildness is the Preservation of the World.”

                                    Henry David Thoreau, Walking

This is an appropriate quote for this story collection.  Most of these stories are about nature out of control whether it be mudslides, thirteen hundred rats, or an animal-like child.

The above kind of humor is what Boyle is known for, the reason I always want to read his books.  “Wild Child” is a strong story collection where every story is good.  Ocassionally a Boyle novel is disappointing.  He has written twelve novels.   His last novel about Frank Lloyd Wright, “The Women”, got very mediocre reviews.  I read it anyhow, and it was indeed disappointing.   Other of his novels including “Riven Rock”, “Drop City”, “World’s End”, and “The Road to Wellville” have been extremely good.  His story collections are usually excellent. 

Lately the publishers have abbreviated the name of  T. Coraghessan Boyle to T. C. Boyle.  I much prefer T. Coraghessan Boyle, because it better fits his colorful stories.  A T. Coraghessan Boyle story usually does not have any socially redeeming value.  That is one of Boyle’s strong points as an author.

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13 responses to this post.

  1. I’m also a fan of T. C. Boyle. You’re right: the Coraghessan name was nice. I can only conclude he wanted to drop it.

    I did like Drop City, but I agree with you that his short stories are usually stronger. But then I seem to read his short stories and forget about the novels. I must remedy that, since I have a couple of his unread novels around.

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  2. Hi Frisbee,
    I suppose it may have been his own decision to start using the name T.C. Boyle instead of T. Coragressan Boyle. If it were his own decision that’s fine, but if it was a publisher or editoor’s decision, that wouldn’t be fine. Some of his novels have been wonderful; only a couple of them I couldn’t get into. He’s a writer to get excited about when he has a new book coming out.

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  3. I’m a big fan of TC Boyle and look forward to reading this new collection. The Tortilla Curtain is my favorite of his novels (so far). Have you read “Chicxulub”? It is without a doubt the most powerful story I’ve ever read. Here is a link to the New Yorker website:
    http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/03/01/040301fi_fiction

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    • Hi JoAnn,
      I will read Chicxulub tonight. Thanks for providing me with the link. I think you will enjoy the new collection “Wild Child”.

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  4. I’m a fan too. I loved The tortilla curtain, perhaps because I read it when I was living in the LA area (or just after I left – forgotten which now) and it rang pretty true. I also enjoyed Drop City as a good read but probably not as memorable for me. I’ve read one short story, but can’t quite recollect its title, and too lazy to go check! I would like to read Wellville.

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  5. I really didn’t know he was still writing – I read Drop City some years ago and was very impressed. I enjoy short stories so this look just up my street. My book buying budget is way overspend however. Now, who could I persuade to buy it for me?

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  6. Posted by Anokatony on August 7, 2010 at 8:00 PM

    Hi Whisperinggums,
    I think “The Road to Wellville” is a good choice about Kellogg and his wacky health spa, very funny. ‘World’s End’ and ‘Riven Rock’ are two of my other favorites. For some reason I didn’t get into Tortilla Curtain that much, but that could just have been me.

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  7. Posted by Anokatony on August 7, 2010 at 8:03 PM

    Hi Tom,
    I suspect T. Coraghessan Boyle is one of those prolific writers like Joyce Carol Oates who would rather write than anything else. Boyle has 12 novels and at least 5 collections under his belt. He probably doesn’t have nuch else in common with Joyce Carol Oates, except they are both great short story writers.

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  8. I love Boyle’s work, and loved Wild Child. I believe he and Oates have more in common than simply being prolific writers – both have sharp and subtle satiric wits, both write the darker side of human nature without defaulting to genre lit. Thanks for the review – I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a blog post on Wild Child.

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  9. Hi Weekend Reader,
    A comparison between Boyle and Oates, that’s interesting. Boyle more obviously has satiric intent. Some of Oates’ work is extremely dark, thinking of “We Were the Mulvaneys”. They both definitely know their way around a good story, how to make it readable and enjoyable. Both occasionally have a novel that doesn’t quite measure up to their best. Both surely live to write. I soon will be reading Oates latest book of stories, “Sourland”. Also am waiting for a new novel from Boyle.

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  10. Hmmm . . . maybe “ironic” would be a better word choice than “satiric” for Joyce? I was really referring to her sharp eye for human error and foible, which she shares with Boyle although they express them differently. Do you know if Boyle has a new novel coming out? Was not a fan of The Women, although I’ve loved almost everything else he’s written.

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  11. Oh yes, Boyle has a novel coming out in 2011; I found this on Google ;
    http://www.tcboyle.com/forums/lofiversion/index.php?t10913.html
    Sounds like the novel is going to be called “When the Killing’s Done” which sounds like a great title for a Boyle novel.

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