Showing posts with label T.C.Boyle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label T.C.Boyle. Show all posts

Monday, March 2, 2020


a novel by T.C.Boyle
Culture clash is the theme in Tortilla Curtain, and leave it TC Boyle to go beyond the abstract curtain of statistics, policy wonkery and three-hankie tragedy mongering and provide the reader instead with a contradiction that is harshly comic; well off Southern Californians, nominally liberal in their politics, are forced to deal with an illegal couple who are in the most dire situations. California is the Big Blue state of liberal leaning, fat with left-leaning delegates and electoral votes, and with a state legislature that manages the most progressive state laws extant in our union; given that this over populated state is filled with liberals and progressives of a particularly privileged sort, the ones who offer not deeds but coin and bumper sticker cliche, we have a target rich environment for Boyle's satire. Plainly, what would happen if your memorized principles slam up against the very problem you've paid lip service to solving? It works to the degree in that the suburban pair preferred to have their causes at several layers of removal , preferring safe memberships in organizations forever raising money for non controversial progressive causes; a check or a credit card donation was the exercise of their social responsibility, an acceptable penance for what is largely a consumerist lifestyle. Boyle does not sugar coat, euphemise nor glorify the awful trials and fate of the Mexican couple that had stolen over the border looking for a better life. Against a backdrop of a terrain of sunshine, opulence and the saturation of Conspicuous Consumption, Boyle tenders life at the margins, at the edges of glittering downtowns and cascading suburbs.Boyle is stinging and blunt in the way he describes the ordeals economic desperation that drives good people, and he is unsparing at offering up a priceless, painfully recognizable banter of a privileged psychology that inspects the hard facts of injustice and responds by trying to worm their way out of any sense of responsibility for others less well endowed.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer reading 3

The Women
by T.C. Boyle

We enter the world of Frank Lloyd Wright and the cult of personality that surrounded him at his compound Taliesin and find the iconic and inconsistently brilliant architect as the center who spent much of his time managing his reputation, manipulating his followers, student architects and engineers, into doing the grungy and tedious work of preparing his various projects, attempting to borrow money or extend his exhausted credit lines and, as the title suggests, wooing women and then betraying them. 

The upshot is that Wright is less than the Frank Lloyd Wright cult would have us believe, that he was without flaws; T.C.Boyle relishes the chance to exhibit the man as a self-creating blowhard, more persona than center, who was by historical accounts not the most thorough of architects. It wouldn't unfair to say that as an architect he may have been a splendid designer--his buildings have a majesty and grace only the truly touched seem to render with ease--but in technical aspects he was resoundingly incompetent, given to short cuts , half measures, and shoddy workmanship on the smaller , essential things, like safe and certified electrical work. 

To this day his buildings are crumbling, and the novel shows us the grandness that is his home, Taliesen, burning to the ground because the Maestro couldn't be bothered with a thorough inspection of the work that bore his signature. This is a fine comic novel, the latest in Boyle's ongoing series of historical fictions revealing the fun and folly of scorched earth originality. Imperfect humans are the creators of otherwise beautiful and useful things. 

One does wish that Boyle would finesse his sentences and paragraphs a bit more--he is a good prose stylist when he chooses to be, but too often and for too long his writing sounds rushed, which is ironic, really , considering that a main point of this novel, a group portrait of the lovers and sycophants surrounding Wright, is that Wright was a splendid and artful draftsman who didn't see to the smaller details of his designs. So to Boyle does not lift his passages from the mere , pleasurable hum they are and lift them to a richer music.