Corey Murray's Reviews > If the River Was Whiskey

If the River Was Whiskey by T.C. Boyle
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Jun 30, 2009

it was amazing
Read in June, 2009

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. When you finish each story, you'll sit in open-mouthed wonder, book in your lap, wondering to yourself what kind of imagination thinks up these scenarios. Boyle certainly has a hyperactive imagination, and a penchant for bombastic language. But he also has a keen awareness of what's going on in the world around him. The stories range from the touching to the absurd, and sometimes a combination of the two, but they're all plausible, and Boyle has a knack for making them all seem perfectly normal.

Strunk and White are probably howling in their graves over this man's love of synonyms and his exaggeration-laced writing, but Boyle is a gifted storyteller, who understands probably better than anyone since Shakespeare that comedy and tragedy are not that dissimilar.
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