Books I Loathed discussion

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Loathed Authors > TC Boyle

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message 1: by Ann M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:16PM) (new)

Ann M | 39 comments I just remembered that I read two of his books. Tortilla Curtain and Drop City. I don't get why anybody likes this author. He's glib, uses every cliche in the book without quite achieving satire, doesn't say anything you don't already know. Is it just that it's commercial fiction tarted up to pass for literary?


message 2: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:17PM) (new)

David (david_giltinan) | 58 comments I have to stand up for TC Boyle. I admit that longer fiction isn't his strong point ("The Road to Wellville" being his most egregious misstep), but I thought "East is East" and "Talk, Talk" were both good stories, well told.

And his short stories are pure genius. Try any one of his story collections and see if you feel the same way. I really think they are first rate.

Also, what would be the distinction between "commercial" and "literary" fiction? I don't get it.


message 3: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:17PM) (new)

David (david_giltinan) | 58 comments Well, I was being a little disingenuous when I said I didn't get the distinction. What I should have said, to be a little clearer, is that I don't buy in to the distinction, which seems artificial to me. Furthermore it carries with it the strong implied notion that books which sell larger numbers of copies are somehow less worthy of critical admiration, just by virtue of having been successful. The sort of "argument" which allows A.S. Byatt to slam the Harry Potter books. Because, after all, since they are so successful, they can't be any good. This is, I think, a very lazy argument.

Okra = good. Beets = horrendous. Right? Please tell me that this is the way you feel, Sherri. :)


message 4: by Nate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:17PM) (new)

Nate (innatejames) | 11 comments I have to defend one of my favorite authors, just a little. I like Boyle because you can tell he's having fun telling the story. He's not one of those authors who wallows in the hardship of churning a book out. Drop City and The Complete stories of T. C. Boyle are my favorites. I also enjoyed The Inner Circle and Road to Wellville for the fictional and nonfictional characters woven together through the storylines, i.e. Doctorow's Ragtime.

I do agree with your assessment. He is glib and he does use cliche. But, I feel it fits with the types of characters he chooses to focus on.


message 5: by Ann M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:17PM) (new)

Ann M | 39 comments First, by commercial, I didn't mean sells well vs. sells badly. I meant that the writing is secondary. People usually read mysteries, e.g., because of the plot, not because of beautiful prose. Boyle doesn't write in a genre -- mystery, romance, crime, sci fi, westerns, whatever, but his writing seems to be about at that level of insight (there are genre titles that rise above the norm for their genre, some of which I like a lot - Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine is my favorite example).

It may be the fun he's having telling the story that makes me feel like he's too glib, he's shortchanging the story, goofing around with it. The best writers can have fun without taking shortcuts. Denis Johnson writes about a similar group of characters, without being glib or cliche -- okay, so he's tortured. John Irving has fun but is not smirking -- okay, so he can get corny -- I like him and Johnson better than Boyle, who isn't really telling me a convincing story. More like something to make himself look good. Like some guy in a bar who wants to tell you a really good story to get into your pants. No matter how good the story is, the guy is still there with that shit-eating, I-think-too-highly-of-myself grin. I never lose the sense of the author-as-puppeteer when reading Boyle. Annoying.


message 6: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:17PM) (new)

David (david_giltinan) | 58 comments Boyle is one of those authors who does always seem a little too aware of his own cleverness. Not quite up there with Dave Eggers or David Foster Wallace, but it's always right there under the surface, that's for sure.

Hmmm. I wonder if this is a male characteristic, as it strikes me as being more common in male authors I've read than in women. Julian Barnes and Martin Amis would be further cases in point. Whereas I have no doubt that Margaret Drabble is an extremely intelligent woman, but she doesn't beat you over the head with it while telling you the story.

But wait, then there's her sister, A.S. Byatt. Never mind, scratch that theory.... :)


message 7: by ScottK (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:17PM) (new)

ScottK aside on the bets and okra thing , even though I am from the south (alabama) I can not abide Okra in any form , however I Love me some beets !!!!

P.S. Can't stand Grits either. :)


message 8: by Lena (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:18PM) (new)

Lena For you people who have yet to discover the sublime wonder of beets, I would suggest the following: First, avoid those soulless, canned things like the plague. Second, get some fresh beets, slice them, steam them, and drench them in lime juice. Third, sit down and savor this delicacy over a copy of Jitterbug Perfume. You'll never see beets in the same way again.


message 9: by Ann M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:18PM) (new)

Ann M | 39 comments But Eggers really did raise his younger brother -- so if he has an attitude about that, dealing with such loss and such responsibility, I am more than willing to cut him some slack. Boyle just doesn't reach me. Wallace is too neurotically intent on saying everything that can possibly be said, but he isn't personally annoying, just boring at times. Amis is a waste of time, imo. Doesn't care enough about the work to let it take over. In fact, he seems to fear that it will take over, and his ego will be swallowed up. It's all ego -- you're reading the author, not the book. Which is fine if that is what you like, or if you really like the author. I haven't read Barnes, can't get into Drabble, and like Byatt but not everything she writes.


message 10: by Ann M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:18PM) (new)

Ann M | 39 comments I love fresh beets. Okra is okay, too.


message 11: by Ben (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:18PM) (new)

Ben | 3 comments When I hear that people don't like Byatt, I always suggest they read Drabble. I tell them she's very similar, yet not so full of herself. I like Byatt's work--especially the first half of the Frederica quartet--but I think I have a higher tolerance for snobbery than many people. (The line for me falls right between A.S. Byatt and McSweeny's.)


message 12: by Esther (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:16PM) (new)

Esther (eshchory) David I agree some authors definitely wallow in the smug glow of their own intelligence. One book of Byatt's was enough for me.

In The Tortilla Curtain I felt Boyle was just dying to show off his PC sensibilities- 'You see I UNDERSTAND these minorities and SYMPATHIZE with their plight. And although I'm probably a rich Californian I live in an ungated community so that the Mexican immigrants are free to enter my street when they come to clean my house and do the yard work.'


message 13: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:44PM) (new)

Mark I have always thought of T.C. Boyle as a wannabe "great" writer. Obviously he can write, but as many in this thread have pointed out, he apparently suffers from too high self esteem. Maybe there should be self-help books for that malady in addition to the plethora of them about increasing one's self esteem.


message 14: by T.K. (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:44PM) (new)

T.K. Kenyon | 15 comments Annm said: "Boyle, who isn't really telling me a convincing story. More like something to make himself look good. Like some guy in a bar who wants to tell you a really good story to get into your pants. No matter how good the story is, the guy is still there with that shit-eating, I-think-too-highly-of-myself grin. I never lose the sense of the author-as-puppeteer when reading Boyle. Annoying. "

When I was in grad school, one of my profs (Frank Conroy,) said that this flaw is called "pissing on your characters from a great height." It's a problem in lit fic. Pisses me off. I hate it when authors draw characters to mock how stupid the lower classes are, "lower classes" being anyone they feel is lower than themselves.

TK Kenyon, Author of RABID: A Novel
"No pissing on characters."


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