If the River Was Whiskey: 2stories
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If the River Was Whiskey: 2stories

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  805 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Magical, surprising, and very funny stories about eccentrics, charlatans, misfits, and lost souls by the winner of 1987's PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published May 24th 1989 by Viking Books (first published 1989)
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I try, I really do, but I just find it so hard to enjoy T.C. Boyle's writing. Most of his stories seem really strained and the prose is just bland to me. Plus, he looks like that old guy who goes to shows alone.
I don’t read a lot of short stories but this collection by Boyle was really great. His stories are some of the best I think I have ever read, comparable to Ray Bradbury and O. Henry. Many were almost Hitchcockian in atmosphere and theme such as “King Bee” about a very disturbed young man obsessed with bees and “Sinking House” about an elderly woman who turns on all the water in her house after her husband dies. Others were very comical such as “Modern Love” about a germ-obsessed woman who insist...more
Corey Murray
One of the rules from Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, that indispensible little writing guide, is "Omit needless words." A rule from the humorous list "How to Write Gooder" is "Understatement is always best. And exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement." If all these dictums are essential to good writing - and they are - it is also a truly great writer who knows how to break the rules properly. And T.C. Boyle knows.

The fifteen stories in this book are unbelievably good...more
I've been somewhat ambivalent about T.C. Boyle's novels, but the man can write a short story. This collection includes surprisingly touching stories ("The Human Fly," "Sinking House"), funny tales ("Hard Sell," "Zapatos"), and extremely disturbing scenarios ("Peace of Mind," "King Bee"--the latter being the most disturbing story I've read in a while). Boyle is good at nothing if not keeping you on your toes from story to story, never knowing what to expect.
May 21, 2007 John rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: short-stories
This was my first experience with TC Boyle. These were some truly fantastic stories that make me want to read a whole lot more of him. Boyle has truly mastered the art of the fascinating first sentence. Some examples:

"When Monty's last breath caught somewhere in the back of his throat with a sound like the tired wheeze of an old screen door, the first thing she did was turn on the water."

"There was no exchange of body fluids on the first date, and that suited both of them just fine."

"First she t...more
TC Boyle has become one of my new favorite authors with this one collection. His characters are haunting, even when his writing is less than inspired. But about half of his collection are true stand-out stories, especially the piquant "Sorry Fugu", the poignant "The Ape Lady in Retirement", and the hilarious "Modern Love."

In a short story, you don't expect to encounter characters with pasts as complicated and varied as in Boyle's writing. Marked by remorse, each of Boyle's protagonists take on...more
Jun 23, 2009 Maurean rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Maurean by: bookring
Shelves: short-stories
A fabulous collection of shorts, and a good introduction into TC Boyle's writing. Having read one novel of his ("A Friend of the Earth") previous to this and enjoying it quite a bit, I was happy to find this collection via a bookring, and I enjoyed all 16 tales included here but my favorites were:

"Hard Sell" (ad ad exec and his 'difficult' clientele)
"The Hat" (Winter in the mountians - killin' time and killin' bears)
"The Devil and Irv Chemiske" (A deal is a deal)
"The Miracle at Ballinspittle" (...more
May 20, 2014 Robynn marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Ruth Reichl says Sorry Fugu best story about a food critic.
Mar 07, 2013 Martha rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Martha by: Patti A.
Shelves: on-the-shelf
Four stars for a book that could easily be one of those from my dad's huge collection (before he gave them away, that is). This is the kind of prose I grew up reading. Books that were published in the 80's or well before I was born. I liked most of the stories. I think the only one I didn't appreciate much is the Miracle at Ballinspittle. But everything else was nice. Okay, not nice as in nice because some are depressing but kinda nice -- in a depressing way. You know what I mean. Lol.
Nicholas Watson
The first story, about a cook with a new restaurant who is stressing out against a weirdo restaurant reveiwer and the relationship they develop is wild, fun and interesting.

That's the one that I remember most, I read this several months ago and forgot to review it. It was a good train read because the stories were short. He really gets to the point quickly so it's easy to dip in and out of without feeeling like you're missing the feel of the stories.
Modern Love
Hard Sell
Sinking House
The Human Fly
The Ape Lady in Retirement
If the River Was Whiskey

The Hat
Me Cago en la Leche
The Little Chill
Thawing Out
The Miracle at Balinspittle

Thawing Out and The Hat just felt like the same damn story, and The Little Chill didn't feel much like a story at all. They aren't bad enough to take away from the collection as a whole though. I feel satisfied.
I'm holding the book up to insanely high standards since I already swoon big time for T.C. Boyle. That said, it didn't quite live up to The Descent of Man for me. The stories didn't seem as involved and developed.

Despite the criticism, I still think everyone should read his books. He's an author you don't want to miss out on, especially if you love your disturbing plot twists.
Jordan Kramer
Had to cut bait. I just wasn't feeling this one.
Nathan James
If you only read one T.C. Boyle short story, read King of Bees! It is haunting, magical, upsetting and sums up his writing style quite well. I'm still thinking about that story and I read 6 other short stories after it. I only gave this collection 3 stars because about half of the stories were weaker in my opinion than the other half that stood out.
Joan Colby
These early stories by Boyle (c. 1989) indicate his burgeoning talent, yet they in no way compare to his later books. Some are mere exercises;Me Cago en la Leche which is a parody of For Whom the Bell Tolls, and which seems a bit sophomoric. My favorites are Peace of Mind, King Bee and the title story.
This is my favorite collection by Boyle. His language and dry wit, the bizarre circumstances of his stories, and the range of his subject matter are all phenomenal. He also is a master of endings, which is very hard to do in short stories, without being all O Henry with them.
Quite dark, but well written and interesting, short stories. Actually, they seemed to get more cynical and sad as the book progressed. I read most of them...one I just couldn't get into. This was the first book that my husband recommended that I actually liked.
Ben Rameaka
A terrific collection of short stories. Ranging from a damaged foster child with an affinity for bees to a doomed plane ride with a chimpanzee this book is so imaginative in content. It also has the greatest love story ever written about a polar bear club.
After Dissing the Boyle collection I read a few months ago I was surprised to realize that I had read this collection earlier. (Yes, those who know me know that my memory is absolute S*&t.) And strangely enough, I liked this one a good bit more.
Matt McNabb
My first T.C. Boyle experience, and I look forward to others. I would have ended with a different story, as it was kind of a weak way to conclude the collection. But I had more good to say than bad, on individual stories and overall.
This book of short stories by TC Boyle was uneven, with some stories really showcasing his writing talent, and others falling short. Overall, I enjoyed it, but it was not up to his usual standard of excellent writing.
Again, his writing is very good but these stories are mostly a display of the dark side or the stupidity of humans. I must say I agree. I probably ought to be reading something more optimistic.
John E
This is why I read short stories. Great imagination and skill. His characters are drawn from the familiar to the very exotic and always interesting. Don't make deals with the devil!
I liked this well enough to finish it on a plane but it was rather hit and miss for me...some of the stories I liked quite a bit and others never quite hit their stride.
Ben Brackett
Boyle is such a great writer that even when the stories arent that interesting they are good. Best at their most violent language.
an odd short story collection that was strangely addicting! for some reason, i was reminded of james joyce's short stories.
Jennifer Holland
This and Without a Hero are my favorite T.C. Boyle books. Satirical, compassionate, and relentless, his stories hurt so good.
Boyle's short stories are amazing, and he's written a ton of them. Pick up any of his collections and start reading.
I find the scope of this guy's imagination to be amazing. I'll be reading many more of his books. He's a natural.
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T. Coraghessan Boyle (also known as T.C. Boyle, born Thomas John Boyle on December 2, 1948) is a U.S. novelist and short story writer. Since the late 1970s, he has published eleven novels and more than 60 short stories. He won the PEN/Faulkner award in 1988 for his third novel, World's End, which recounts 300 years in upstate New York. He is married with three children. Boyle has been a Distinguis...more
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