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Descent of Man

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  696 ratings  ·  53 reviews
In seventeen slices of life that defy the expected and launch us into the absurd, T.C. Boyle offers his unique view of the world. A primate-center researcher becomes romantically involved with a chimp; a Norse poet overcomes bard-block; collectors compete to snare the ancient Aztec beer can, Quetzacoatl Lite; and Lassie abandons Timmy for a randy coyote. Dark humor, deliri ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published July 27th 1990 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1979)
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Sep 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
This 1979 collection gathers together early work by Boyle, all of it imaginative. Even in a slim volume, there are SO MANY stories (17, to be precise), and they are all so different from each other. Some I loved; some were meh. I was tempted to leave a few unread, but since that would mean I couldn’t count this towards my year total I forced myself through them all, even though it took me nearly nine months. Standouts include “The Champ,” about all-you-can-eat contestants, “Green Hell,” in which ...more
It was great loved it. Had a great time. I need to write a paper
Aug 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I rate this so highly because reading it was such an experience for me. I stumbled upon it in Morgenstern's Booksellers in Bloomington, IN the summer I stayed in town to take classes between junior and senior year of college. I would take the bus to work at Video World and if it got me there early, I would hang out in the bookstore a few storefronts down before work. One day I picked up this book and started to read a story called "A Women's Restaurant." The story is classic T.C. Boyle, complete ...more
Blaine DeSantis
Nov 03, 2016 rated it liked it
As with so many short story collections there are high points and low points. As a fan on T.C. Boyle I knew that this early collection of stories might be a little different and in that respect I was not disappointed. We had stories of a girl who falls in love with a sign-language speaking primate, a quest for an ancient beer can, as well as a story about survivors of a plane crash in the Amazon. One of my favorite stories was The Girl Restaurant in which a male is obsessed with this concept and ...more
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Funny, haunting, surreal. At times, T. C. Boyle is trying a little too hard to be Kafka in these stories. While that aspiration more often than not comes across as flat and awkward, the majority of these stories depict an exceptionally creative imagination linked to an advanced writing ability. “The Second Swimming,” “A Women’s Restaurant,” and “Green Hell” stuck out for me as favorites.
Jan 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
I can’t honestly say I understood every story but overall I really enjoyed this collection. I’ve decided to read all TC Boyle’s books in chronological order, one per month until I’m done. There are some I’ve already read and I am looking forward to a few especially. Intersperse these with all of Agatha Christie’s mysteries, and it’s gonna be a good reading year.
Paul Thomas
Nov 07, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: shit, short-stories
I’ve read a couple of T.C. Boyle novels and enjoyed them, so I thought I’d try his short stories. How bad could they be? Well, pretty illegible. They are too weird and he seems to strive to show off his esoteric vocabulary.

Stick to novels, Boyle.
Oct 27, 2018 rated it liked it
It’s out there. Not really sure what he his message is. Was an interesting walk down a different path.
Robert Walrod
Highlights: "Bloodfall," "Dada," "A Woman's Restaurant," "The Extinction Tales," "The Big Garage," "Drowning." ...more
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite
T.C. Boyle's two collections of the collections of his stories (Volumes 1 & 2) might be desert island books for me! Somehow Stories One was missing two stories from Descent of Man, so I had to get this book separately to read those two (Earth,Moon and Quetzalcoatl Lite). I think all other stories from Boyle are collected in either volume one or two. I love to read a couple of Boyle's stories whenever I have a Boyle craving! But I could also read his entire oeuvre all in a row and then start read ...more
Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: savourors of letters
Recommended to Josh by: DeSavia
I truly loved every story in this one except the last one, and 16 out of 17 is still an "A" in my book. My second consecutive book of short stories (read, not written - I am not TC Boyle, nor JD Salinger, neither are these 2 men in fact the same man, who is secretly disguised as me), and I really tore through it/devoured it/soaked it up like the summer reading sponge I can sometimes be. This is great, and I highly recommend it. The stories are all loosely themed (the title sums that theme up pre ...more
Dec 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor, fantasy
A collection of stories -- some darkly humorous, some just dark, and some just humorous, by a very clever writer I recognized as the author of the book made into the movie "The road to Wellville."

The stand outs for me were: "We are Norsemen!" (a Viking overcomes bard's block in a raid on a monastery), "Bloodfall" (a college party is interrupted by several days of blood falling like rain), and "Heart of a champion" (Lassie abandons Timmy to run off with a mangy coyote). "Green hell" (a hilarious
Norb Aikin
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm not really a short story reader, but I enjoyed some of these. And I'm not a big TC Boyle fan, but I've enjoyed a couple of his titles. His language usage is at times sublime and baffling, which can make dull subjects appear far more interesting and relevant...or it can sink a plot entirely. More often than not though, it works.

Of this collection, I recommend: Descent Of Man, The Champ, Bloodfall, A Women's Restaurant, The Big Garage, Quetzacoatl Lite, De Rerum Natura, and Drowning.
Sep 14, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Misanthropists
Recommended to Dj by: Kurt
Pessimistic, Cynical. The title is Descent of Man, and it means Humankind are dicks. Some stories in this collection are funny, whether witty, slapstick, or both.
There is an almost perfect bell curve for the ratings of the stories within: from 1 star to 5 stars.
Very entertaining, even though the message is very clear: Humans suck.
Nov 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who has a short attention span + litteray hounds
Recommended to Jason by: Mrs. Kristen Kaiser Nelson
This one the first TC book that I read...I love how this collection of short stories starts out..."I was living with a woman who suddenly began to stink!" TC grips you with humor, intelligence, and an unbelievable vocabulary that will have you reaching for a dictionary from time to time. Check him out, his is absolutely worth the read! ...more
Michael Evans
Sep 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Boyle certainly has a unique style. He portrays things as they are, perhaps even a bit darker, a bit nastier. And he explores aspects of people that may make us uncomfortable simply because they hit so close to home. Taken together, these stories offer up a view of what exactly makes us human, as opposed to something else.
EB Fitzsimons
Why are books that are so absurd, hilarious, and intelligent often break my heart with racism, sexism and deep cruelty? Think Roald Dahl's writing for adults. I'm sure the stories in Descent of Man were a lot funnier when comparing people of color to monkeys and making rape jokes were socially acceptable, but now they just seem dated and sort of pathetic. ...more
Jan 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
this was the first short story collection I read by Boyle, and it's the one that got me hooked. It does contain his most outlandish stories, and my favorite is the one where some rich stoner kids in the 70's are having a party in their basement and the sky starts raining blood. Fun and weird. ...more
Melissa Milazzo
As always, Boyle is amazing. Each story is a nugget of black humor, creeping fear and a certain giddy joy at seeing a cliche destroyed. This is a book where Lassie leaves little Timmy to die and intelligent chimps conduct experiments on men. Clever and imaginative.
Apr 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this collection of short stories. They are very short, but all engaging. Each relates another facet of Boyle's general theme of clashing cultures or opposites coming to relate in some intimate way. ...more
Apr 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I had the misfortune of taking this book along with me to a lunch of sushi; although I did manage to finish my meal.

There are shades of Borges, but one way may be to describe the author as a Neil Gaiman, with the fantasy replaced by dark madness.
May 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Had this on my shelf for a good few years and finally read it. Enjoyed it. It's dark and fun and worth reading if only for 'Big Garage', 'Second Swimming', and 'Extinction Tales'. Definitely want to read more of his stuff in the future. ...more
Nancy Day
Aug 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
T.C. Boyle penned these as a young man, but it's full of his characteristic sardonic wit. He brings comic and original viewpoints to this mixed bag of characters, themes, settings, and centuries. Most like Vonnegut's "Welcome to the Monkey House" of any short story collection I've read. ...more
Jun 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Many of Boyle's themes are nascent in this fascinating first collection. Rereading it makes its influence clear. Some stories are laugh out loud funny, some ineffably sad, some just odd. But it's a great place to start thie journey with this prolific and unique American voice. ...more
Mar 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Reading this book I kept deciding I didn't like it, only to reach a story that won me back. The stories I liked most were Bloodfall, The Second Swimming, The Big Garage, and Green Hell. A few of The Extinction Tales were compact and poignant. ...more
Chloe Glynn
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Personality in abundance, T.C. Boyle's short stories roil with laughter just below the surface. They are dark absurdism and human insight. They are memorable and new and full of sparkling language. Not for the tepid at heart. ...more
May 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: absurd
First thing I ever read of TC Boyle, totally fell in love. Such absurd stories told so well. One of my favorite authors.
Shannon McCue
Jun 01, 2007 rated it liked it
i got this book for free from an english prof who was retiring... the stories are graphic, funny, but... very very strange. still not sure what to make of them, but i did like them. i think.
Lena Webb
Aug 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Heart of a Champion-- Lassie makes it with a wolf.
Sep 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
"Bloodfall." Best story in this, or any other, collection of short stories. Except for maybe Steinbeck's "Junius Maltby." ...more
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T. Coraghessan Boyle (also known as T.C. Boyle, is a U.S. novelist and short story writer. Since the late 1970s, he has published seventeen novels and eleven collections of 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 Distinguished Professor of English at the ...more

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