Saturday, February 6, 2010

Talk Talk

No reviews for eight days and the run of foreign authors comes to an end. My focus has been off a bit as of late as some personal issues and scholastic issues served to distract me. I'm sure this played a part in my inability to finish a trio of books.

I started a collection of essays by Umberto Eco called How to Travel with a Salmon and Other Essays. They were all parody and satire. The funny ones seemed to last about three pages. The unfunny ones dragged on and on and just abused the same humor points until what was only moderately funny to begin with, became completely void of entertainment. Think the "Banana/Orange" knock-knock joke taken way too far. So I stopped in the midst of some 20-30 page essay that was going nowhere except where it had already been.

I then turned to Nick Harkaway's novel, The Gone-Away World which takes place in post-apocalyptic Australia. Had read good reviews of it but I have trouble getting into futuristic novels and so I quit after a little while.

Thinking maybe I needed a change of pace, I went with American Robert Hellenga's book, The Sixteen Pleasures. This book adds credence to the theory that men cannot write decent books from a first person female perspective. Jay McInerney still is the only author I have found who can pull it off. One of my co-workers and I like to talk books and she reads a lot of female authors and thinks the reverse is true, too. Women can't write as men. Seems reasonable to me.

What to do, what to do? I decided I had to go with someone I knew I would enjoy. So I went with T.C. Boyle's novel, Talk Talk. I read two books by Boyle last year; his novel The Women and his short story collection The Human Fly and Other Stories. These were my first experiences with Boyle but were plenty enough to make me enjoy his writing style.

Talk Talk is just as exquisite from a writing standpoint. Awesome, descriptive prose. In fact, it is so much so I have to complain. More than the other two books (at least that I recall), Boyle goes into smells a lot in this book. I just don't know that I need to know what everything smells like. Worse, he goes into armpit smell way, way too much. After awhile it felt almost fetishist.

Way, way too much is the other complaint. Like The Women, the book seemed overly long. Unlike The Women, I think it could have been edited down without losing something.

Talk Talk begins with a deaf woman, Dana Halter, running late to a dentist appointment. She runs a stop sign and a cop pulls her over. Next thing you know, she's arrested and put in jail as there are warrants her for her arrest all over the country.

It turns out that her identity has been stolen. Dana and her boyfriend Bridger, a computer graphics specialist in the movie business, are able to get some information on the thief who stole her identity and begin to track him down.

The story goes from coast to coast and jumps back and forth from Dana and Bridger to the thief. It is a very stressful story not only from the standpoint of the identity theft but also the treatment of Dana in a world of those who can hear. The police in this story are unhelpful and often cruel which is why Dana and Bridger go after the criminal themselves.

The bad guy is made human but is never likable. He has a fiancee and he cares for her child. He has a daughter of his own but has not seen her since he was put in prison. He wants to have a good life but goes about it the wrong way.

Boyle's level of detail is really good. I've not been around the deaf much but it seems Boyle's depiction of life and the difficulties in communicating are on target. He certainly did his research on identity theft.

A very good book and certainly worthy of a star. The high levels of stress, the unsatisfying ending, and the obsession with smells (and it has nothing to do with Dana having acute olfactory abilities to compensate for her lack of hearing. Everyone in the story smells stuff) prevents if from being a two-star book for me.

The writing is good enough that I certainly feel comfortable putting Boyle in the top echelon of my favorite writers.

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