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Drop City
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Kristel (kristelh) | 4116 comments Mod
Drop City by T. Corahessan Boyle, no discussion leader at this time. So I will probably be leading this discussion. I haven't read it yet.


message 2: by Kristel (last edited Apr 01, 2019 07:23AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristel (kristelh) | 4116 comments Mod
1. Drop City was written in 2003 and is a look back at the 60s. What do you know about the 60s. Were you alive, did you experience the 60s? Knowing this book is about the sixties, what are your expectations going into this book?


Here is the book summary found on line; Book Summary
Infused with the lyricism and take-no-prisoners storytelling for which T.C. Boyle is justly famous, this is a surprisingly rich, allusive, and non-sentimental look at the ideals of the 60's generation and their impact on today's radically transformed world.

A brilliant and vividly rendered tale of ordinary people in the throes of idealism, passion, and sub-Arctic temperatures at a moment when our world changed forever.

T.C. Boyle has proven himself to be a master storyteller who can do just about anything. But even his most ardent admirers may be caught off guard by his ninth novel, for Boyle has delivered something completely unexpected: a serious and richly rewarding character study that is his most accomplished and deeply satisfying work to date.

It is 1970, and a down-at-the-heels California commune has decided to relocate to the last frontier—the unforgiving landscape of interior Alaska—in the ultimate expression of going back to the land. The novel opposes two groups of characters: Sess Harder, his wife Pamela, and other young Alaskans who are already homesteading in the wilderness and the brothers and sisters of Drop City, who, despite their devotion to peace, free love, and the simple life, find their commune riven by tensions. As these two communities collide, their alliances shift and unexpected friendships and dangerous enmities are born as everyone struggles with the bare essentials of life: love, nourishment, and a roof over one's head.

Drop City is not a satire or a nostalgic look at the sixties, though its evocation of the period is presented with a truth and clarity that no book on that era has achieved. This is a surprising book, a rich, allusive, and nonsentimental look at the ideals of a generation and their impact on today's radically transformed world. Above all, it is a novel infused with the lyricism and take-no-prisoners storytelling for which T.C. Boyle is justly famous."


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments 1. Yes, I was born in 1962, and remember the late 60s well. We had a house that was painted bright pink and purple not far from us and I was enthralled with it. My parents liked neither the colors nor the hippies who lived inside.


Tracy (tstan) | 558 comments I was born in 1968, so I have a good excuse for not remembering the 60s!
I expected this to be a look at the end of the hippie culture of the 60s, and, because it’s Boyle, for some hypocrisies to be exposed.


message 5: by Amanda (last edited Apr 08, 2019 02:12PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amanda Dawn | 1096 comments I finished this book on audio a few days ago. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it- especially the way it contrasted the spoken ideals versus the reality of Drop City- and think it deserves its place on the list.

I was born in 1993, so zero memory of the 60s over here lol. My mom was born in '61, and much of my extended family remembers the 60s well. She remembers many of her older cousins getting into the hippie scene-being passed out after trips and all of that (she was also taught by a French Canadian hippie priest at Catholic school, apparently). Despite the fact that I wasn't alive yet, I was really drawn to the music, fashion, and idea of the 60s as a kid. I still harbour dreams of buying and renovating a hippie van and living like a nomad someday.

A lot of the scenes in this book made me laugh: like the cheese thief scene, and the part where one of the hippie girls swats a mosquito as she as says "you can't take another thing's life" about bear hunting. But, I found it quite disturbing overall.

Particularly, what disturbed me most was the way many of the male Drop City "Cats" used the veneer of their subversive love culture to perpetuate the same oppressive patriarchal standards of the "straight" world (gender divided chores that favored the men contributing less, the pressure into having sex with them, the outright rape). And the reason it disturbed me so much was that it rang too true: I know women who've worked in places like GreenPeace who've encountered boatloads of these guys, they're in Universities trying to appeal to you as a "woke feminist" and speak over you and act like they're entitled to your time of day by virtue of declaring themselves better men. It was gross reading all of this, but so important to portray that hypocrisy as well.

I also liked the contrast between the hippies idealist vision of homesteading versus the attitudes and skills of actual homesteaders (who are far from perfect and prejudiced themselves). I belong to a University Outdoors club and grew up in rural Nova Scotia- I know both of these people too well.

Also: did this book remind anyone else of Blithedale Romance by Hawthorne? (for whoever has read it). It seems Utopian colonies being doomed by the inability to break out of conventional socialization has been an issue for a long time.


Gail (gailifer) | 1389 comments Great review Amanda. I read Drop City a long time ago and knew I would not reread for the BOTM because it still haunts me.


Jessica Haider (jessicahaider) | 124 comments I read this book almost exactly 10 years ago (wow!). So I am going by distant memories and the review I wrote way back when. :)

I was not alive in the 60s. I was born in the mid-70s. My parents were in college during prime-hippie years. Neither of them were really into that scene as far as I can tell.


Amanda Dawn | 1096 comments Gail wrote: "Great review Amanda. I read Drop City a long time ago and knew I would not reread for the BOTM because it still haunts me."

Thanks, Gail! I totally see where you are coming from too: while I'm glad I read this book, I'm not sure I would ever read it again either.


message 9: by Kristel (last edited Apr 13, 2019 04:44AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristel (kristelh) | 4116 comments Mod
I was born in the early fifties and was a teen in the sixties, graduated from high school in 71 but I lived in the midwest and much of the hippy culture was something you just heard about through the music, The Momas and the Papas California Dreamin.

I haven't really gotten in the book yet as trying to catch up with Pilgrimage. You're making me curious.


message 10: by Book (new) - rated it 3 stars

Book Wormy | 1989 comments Mod
I was not born until the late 70s so never experienced the 60s and by the time I was into music it was the 80s sound rocking my world.

I feel that I am way too "Square" to appreciate the hippie sub culture I find the idea of driving while doped up dangerous, irresponsible and life threatening to law abiding citizens. The commune living doesn't appeal and free love frankly turns my stomach.

I agree with Amanda the strongest point of the book is when it highlights the hypocrisy of the characters. I liked Star's observations that free love probably came about so unattractive men could get laid and the whole undertone of the community is keeping women in their places, the kitchen and the bed, this is not a progressive society instead it is a society that doesn't want to take responsibility for their own actions preferring to blame things on others not understanding them.

I found it amusing that "Norm" drops out of dropping out when the going gets tough and when his latest woman wants out.

What Boyle does well is to highlight how under all the peace and love façade the characters are still human and still subjecting to jealousy, anger, hatred and possessiveness.

For me this was a 3 star read there are some great one liners, so great observations about humanity and then there are the sections where I felt like the only sober person at the party and the time just dragged.

Reading this reminded me of The Electrik Cool Aid Test which is set in the same free love hippie culture.


message 11: by Kristel (last edited Apr 19, 2019 04:54AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristel (kristelh) | 4116 comments Mod
Book wrote: "I was not born until the late 70s so never experienced the 60s and by the time I was into music it was the 80s sound rocking my world.

I feel that I am way too "Square" to appreciate the hippie su..."


You must be about the age of my daughter who was born in 77. Our home was flooded with 80s music.


message 12: by Book (new) - rated it 3 stars

Book Wormy | 1989 comments Mod
Kristel wrote: "Book wrote: "I was not born until the late 70s so never experienced the 60s and by the time I was into music it was the 80s sound rocking my world.

I feel that I am way too "Square" to appreciate ..."


IMO you can't beat the 80s for music but I may be slightly biased.


Tracy (tstan) | 558 comments Book wrote: "Kristel wrote: "Book wrote: "I was not born until the late 70s so never experienced the 60s and by the time I was into music it was the 80s sound rocking my world.

I feel that I am way too "Square..."


70s all the way! Except disco.


Kristel (kristelh) | 4116 comments Mod
I am only getting started and my first impressions is this book is definitely pointing out the errors in "free love" and the use of male domination existed even in this environment and women either were able to be strong and set their boundaries or not. I can say, I never had a desire to runaway to a commune. I would have hated it.


message 15: by Dree (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dree | 243 comments I have this book but haven't started yet! I am looking forward to it. I was born in 1969 so have no memory of the 60s. My parents hated (and still hate lol) hippies--when I was a kid I wasn't allowed to go to the creek because "the hippies will get you", I kid you not. I was born and raised in the Bay Area too, my dad in SF. My grandparents lived there until 1974, so maybe they had to deal with something hippie/Summer of Love related to make him so vehement? I'll have to ask him, but I know it will make him mad to discuss--I can actually hear the noise he'll make if I say the word "hippies".

I am such an 80s music kid my first real concert was Duran Duran.


message 16: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Librarian (ellenlibrarian) | 3 comments I just started the book but I live in Taos, NM, home to the late Dennis Hopper and a center of hippie activity if ever there was one. I had to laugh at the opening of the book which has a brief scene in Taos. It's very clear to me that Boyle knows nothing about our geography because he referred to the landscape as dotted with cactus. There are some small cacti here but the landscape is dominated by trees and sagebrush. https://www.flickr.com/photos/teschwa...


Kristel (kristelh) | 4116 comments Mod
Ellen wrote: "I just started the book but I live in Taos, NM, home to the late Dennis Hopper and a center of hippie activity if ever there was one. I had to laugh at the opening of the book which has a brief sce..."

Oh, I am sorry to hear that he didn't do good research. I find that disappointing.


message 18: by Pip (last edited Apr 26, 2019 12:55AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 1410 comments 1. I had never heard of T. Coraghessan Boyle and did not know that Drop City referred to a hippie commune until I started reading it. I certainly experienced the 60's. I was 16 in 1960 and by 1970 I was trying to live self-sufficiently, had my whole family meditating, dressed my children in flares and headbands and was busy protesting the Vietnam War. I was frankly amazed to find that some of you had bad connotations about hippies. I have seen Easy Rider, after all, but naively thought that anti-hippie attitudes were relegated to a few isolated communities in the Deep South. The idea of living off the land in communities other than nuclear families probably tapped into the pioneering ideals in New Zealand. I had my mother and grandmother living with us and we grew all our own fruit and veggies and raised calves, pigs, turkeys and chickens on 10 intensively farmed acres. What we didn't do was use drugs other than alcohol and tobacco and we taught in high school simultaneously. I expected a nostalgic look at the idealism of the 60's. What I got instead was a very funny story.

What I relished most was a plot driven novel. When we meet Sess living off-grid in Alaska his story didn't seem to have much in common with Norm and Pan and the goat-milking Star in the Red River area of California. But as soon as I realised that self sufficiency was the ideal in both places I began to visualise how the stories might intersect and that anticipation was delicious. I just really enjoyed reading this book. The foibles of idealists were on display but the book was neither satire nor hagiography, it was just a wonderful story told with some delicious descriptions.


Kristel (kristelh) | 4116 comments Mod
Because of the comment that Boyle's description of New Mexico was not accurate I started looking more closely at the book and questioning the accuracy.

I am not very far along but I have to say the book reads more contemporary than what a book of the sixties would have read, IMO.
Ranch dressing: the guy in Alaska orders a burger with a salad and ranch dressing. I don't remember any restaurant having ranch dressing as an option. You would get a tri-serving of dressings; I think they were French, Italian and Blue Cheese. But Ranch dressing packets were created in 1954 for the home and proabably this worked better in Alaska. So I think that fit okay. But the term Wanna be, is not a 60's term but the term townie is old (1937).

Did anyone else make any notes on accuracy of reflecting the era.

I am not very far along. I really have to push if I am going to finish. Not been a very good moderator.

Here's some general questions.
1. According to this novel, what kind of behavior makes for human worth or for human waste? Is there a heroic idea in this book? Describe it if you think there is one.

2. What specific social problems does the author regard as unsolved? What causes seem to be mainly responsible and why?

3. What importance does physical nature, biological make-up, intimate relationships, and society have on outcome.

4. What were the circumstances that led the novelist to write this book. What persons, events or other autobiographical materials does this novel reflect?

5. What did you learn from the story? What did you think of the characters? Did you like them or was it hard to connect with them. What did the title have to do with the book?

6. How does the current time compare to the time/setting of this book?


message 20: by Diane (last edited Apr 28, 2019 12:28PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 2042 comments 1. Drop City was written in 2003 and is a look back at the 60s. What do you know about the 60s. Were you alive, did you experience the 60s? Knowing this book is about the sixties, what are your expectations going into this book?

I am Dree's age, so I was barely alive in the 60s and have no recollection of them. As a child and niece of hippies, I can say that there are various stops on the continuum of hippie-dom. The hippies featured in this book were the extreme kind. My uncle fell close to this category. My parents were more nomadic and of the "Jesus-freak" category. They picked and chose what aspects of this lifestyle to embrace, which were mostly positive. Drugs and free love were not part of that. I even have a hippie name, "Sunshine", although my parents are the only ones who still call me that. My uncle, well that's a different matter. He was a folk singer who was very much part of the drug culture and ended up in jail a few times for protests. His lifestyle resulted in a premature death.

I do love music from the 60s.

I agree that this book reminded me of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. I enjoyed it although I did feel it had some examples of language and object references that were from a later time.


Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount) (ravenmount) | 474 comments I read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test this month as well, as my TBR Takedown book, and I found it interesting comparing the 2 books. Drop City is a lot more centered around sex, and the idea that women's bodies are available for male use at will, a rather disgusting interpretation of 'free love', while the Merry Pranksters of Ken Kesey's group were focused more on LSD and marijuana, with sex as a nice aside but not the driving force of the group. I spent quite a while hanging out with a modern pot-oriented group of musicians a few years ago, so the hippie lifestyle and attitudes were very familiar to me. But where the group I was friends with was just 'doing their thing', the folks in Drop City and the Merry Pranksters seemed to be performing their lifestyle, knowing that outsiders would be watching and that they could make dramatic statements through their less conventional behavior. As a result neither group was set up with the expectation that it could be more than a temporary experiment or performance.
I liked that Boyle's book focused more on the female perspective, so that his book highlighted the ways that the 'free love' lifestyle in Drop City did not respect the female participants as equal members of the group. I loved the comments when the treehouse guy was digging a latrine pit and chatting with Alfonso, about how similar groups fell apart when the women stopped doing dishes and cooking. Surely hippie men can cook their own stew and clean their own stewpots, but they still fall back on gender roles from their conventional upbringing.


Kristel (kristelh) | 4116 comments Mod
I am not done yet but I can say that it took over half the book for me to get into it. I did not like these druggy hippies at all. I did like the book much better once they went to Alaska. I liked Pamela of the characters the best (maybe). Like I said, I am not done yet and maybe she will fall from my favorite list as well. I most relate to Pamela. I was like her in many ways except I never used drugs and have no desire to use drugs. I hated the way these people abused the environment and disregarded the rights of other people.


message 23: by Ellen (last edited May 12, 2019 01:00AM) (new)

Ellen Librarian (ellenlibrarian) | 3 comments I put the book down in the middle of Chapter 6. I didn't care about the author getting Taos wrong but I didn't like any of the characters. The author has such a cynical attitude that I found it off-putting.

I was a bit young to fully partake in the 60s but there are a lot of people here that lived in nearby communes and they have a sincerity and honest desire to effect social change whether through activism, organic farming, herbalism, lawyering, some combination thereof or whatever. And they're still at it.

Maybe I missed something but Boyle made me feel like all the Drop City residents were either scammers or hopelessly naive and unrealistically idealistic. I have no idea what happened to disband the New Buffalo Commune (the famous one that was near me) and I'm sure the residents did a lot of wild and crazy things in their day. But the sense I get from the people I've met who were there is that they found a lot of positivity in the experience. I don't sense any positivity in Drop City. In fact, even just reading about it gave me the creeps.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments Ellen wrote: "I put the book down in the middle of Chapter 6. I didn't care about the author getting Taos wrong but I didn't like any of the characters. The author has such a cynical attitude that I found it off..."

Have you read World's End or The Tortilla Curtain? I loved both -- and they are very different from this one. The author doesn't seem at all cynical in tone in those books.


Kristel (kristelh) | 4116 comments Mod
Ellen wrote: "I put the book down in the middle of Chapter 6. I didn't care about the author getting Taos wrong but I didn't like any of the characters. The author has such a cynical attitude that I found it off..."

I think that the book ended well even with the shaky start. I would imagine that no matter the commune or group of people there will always be all kinds. Ronnie or Pan is one. Star was the ideal commune member. She worked hard for the good of the community and Pan worked hard for the good of himself.


message 26: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Librarian (ellenlibrarian) | 3 comments Kelly wrote: "Ellen wrote: "I put the book down in the middle of Chapter 6. I didn't care about the author getting Taos wrong but I didn't like any of the characters. The author has such a cynical attitude that ..."

No, this was my first Boyle book. I sort of want to finish this book at some point since I was somewhat invested in the story. But maybe I should just check out one of his others. He seems promising.


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