T.C Boyle is one of the greatest short story writers of his time. He has written numerous stories that tackle different topics and phases of life, in what is perhaps his dream life told through various characters within his masterpieces. Boyles is not only enthusiastic but his is also extremely creative. This can explain why his work has won so many awards. This also explains why so many have taken the trouble to read through the entire 900 pages of his latest short stories.
One aspect that Boyle has effectively preserved is his ability to maintain a momentum. Although every story is different, he manages to maintain the attention of the readers by ensuring smooth transitions between stories. Thus, the readers are encouraged to read all the stories progressively to ensure they do not miss an episode thereabout. However, this does not mean that the stories are not independent but it is a strength used by Boyle to encourage his audience to read all the stories.
His latest collection has 61 short stories, which comprises 14 new ones and another 47 published over a period of three decades. The short stories showcase the ability of an enthusiastic individual who is able to entertain and educate his audience using a mastery that he has perfected over the years. Throughout his writing, he consistently shows themes such as the line between humanity and animals, man’s isolation and fragility, excessive violence, the obsessive love of a man for a woman and several others.
His short stories are characterized by drowning and dying youth, alcoholism and its effects on individuals and agonies of the old age, as demonstrated by suffering old people.
Despite the numerous similarities between his short stories, there are comparable features in some of the pieces found in this publication. For instance, Tooth and Claw, Jubilation, The Swift Passage of Animals, Dogology and Chicxulub have various similar characteristics that will be covered in this essay. In these short stories Boyle uses fictitious effects to bridge his arguments. For instance a dragonfly is used to justify a separation between a man and wife for a period of three years during which the man does not communicate to his wife, and as a consequence of the same, the wife dies.
Boyle pursues an argument that light separates men from animals; “Let me tell you, everything in that room and the room beyond it shone as if we were seeing it for the first time, both of us, and when the sun broke free and poured through those spotless windows to pool on the shining floor, the glare was almost too much for us.” He uses timeless stillness to protect his protagonists from any harm.
Despite his insightfulness, Boyle exhibits non-engagement in several instances within the short stories that can be explained by his lack of real world experience, as was highlighted by the introduction where he admits to relying more on information found in books instead of following real world experiences. This means that even though his technique is unmatched, most of his narrations are imaginary. However, his ability to enhance his prose is demonstrated by how effectively he uses previous experiences within his short stories. For instance, in The Swift Passage of Animals, Boyle takes his audience on a long tour that happens during a weekend. This romantic tour is undertaken by two individuals that love nature; Zach and Ontario, who is divorced. The sole intention of Zach was to impress Ontario and try to win her over. Here Boyle insists that Zach took advantage of nature to achieve his motives, even though nature cannot be manipulated by humans.
In The Kind Assassin Boyle emphasizes two main themes that run throughout his narrations; the determination to live on and the temptation to give up, the urge to sleep and the temptation to continue sleeping. The indecisiveness does not help, but instead worsens the situation. The characters seem to continue living even after they die from drinking. The characters seem to be only held up and would reincarnate and may ultimately live again.
In Dogology Boyle, pursues two parallel stories, one on East Indian wolf-children and a wife running with a pack of dogs. Both of the stories seem to agree on the disadvantages of human socialization processes, as the woman loses her humanness as a result of over interacting with dogs.
Based on the meteor even that is attributed erasing of dinosaurs from the face of the earth, Chicxulub, tells of a story of Ted and Maureen Biehn’s daughter that was hit by a speeding car as she was walking along the road. This changes the live of Biehn forever; just live the meteor changed the course of life after it struck.
The short story Tooth and Claw, introduces four different characters that disguises themselves as different characters. The title Tooth and Claw befits the story because the characters intentionally cause harm to the other. A good example is displayed by James Turner Jr. who moved to California “So that I could inject a little excitement into my life and mingle with all the college students in the bars…” He then lives in an apartment rented for his behave by his aunt.
Although the six short stories pursue different themes, they have striking similarities. To start with, they show suffering and distress that is perpetuated by individuals. In some cases, ambitious persons may decide to walk different paths but end up in different destinations as was evidenced in Dogology.
However, both Tooth and Claw, and Chicxulub, suffering is by other individuals, who may accidentally or maliciously cause harm.
Most of his pieces are wistfully weaved, where some individuals enjoy live at the expense of others. But in other stories, untold suffering is brought to the protagonist though the death or suffering of others.