Sunday, February 21, 2010

Wild Child

For most of this book, I thought this might be the most perfectly written book I've ever read. This, despite the fact that it is a collection of short stories and despite the fact that I just finished reading a book of his, breaking my policy of not reading two books by the same author in a short period of time.

Sadly, if you look at the ratings on Amazon, this book is getting hammered because five morons have given it a low rating because of the cost of the Kindle version.

So what do I mean by the most perfectly written book? The first thirteen stories are crisp, detailed, have evolved characters, interesting plots and conclude in a satisfactory manner - you're not really left wanting more or feeling like there is a gaping void (see Alice Munro's short stories). Typical beautiful Boyle writing. Mostly third person omniscient perspective with a couple written in first person.

What are the stories about? People. Some of the plots are unorthodox. There's one story about a couple who spend a quarter of a million dollars to clone their dead dog. In an effort to try to replicate the original dog, they hire the woman who dogsat the original dog years before. Another story involves a man who buys a python to keep himself company after his wife passes away but finds himself drawn more to the rats that he is supposed to feed the python.

Not all pet stories by any means. A tale of a Venezuelan pitcher whose mother gets kidnapped. Another about a professional driver who gets caught in an LA mudslide while trying to deliver an organ to a hospital and becomes involved in trying to rescue a woman's husband. There's the woman who falls for her plastic surgeon. The man who unexpectedly gets involved in his town's debate over creationism being taught in schools.

All of the stories involve relationships of some kind or another and what they will do to have or maintain those relationships.

Why is this not perfect? The 14th story which also happens to be the title of the book. Wild Child is an anomaly in the book. It is much longer than the rest (65 pages. None of the others top 25 pages). A little cruder. A tad repetitive. Interestingly, in Talk Talk, the main character is writing a book about the same topic as Wild Child and the book is entitled Wild Child. The story is about a young boy whose throat is slit and is left abandoned in the woods of France in the late 1700's. He survives and grows up in the wild. Eventually, he is captured and attempts are made to "civilize" him. This story is the only one, too, that I felt ended in an empty fashion. Boyle suddenly fast forwards the story, a story that has largely plodded, to an ending that is probably the only part of the book that lacks detail.

I was struck again by how I remained ignorant of T.C. Boyle for so long. Every one of these stories has been printed elsewhere before but I have never seen them. Unreal.

If you haven't already gone out and read T.C. Boyle on my recommendation already, what the heck are you waiting for? Even if you aren't a big reader, this is a great book for you to read because of the length of the stories. Definitely get a copy and enjoy.

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