Saturday, April 04, 2009

T.C. Boyle

T. Coraghessan Boyle has been one of my favorite authors for a few years now. I first read his T.C. Boyle Stories, a giant collection of ironic, black-humored short fiction, and then his novel, The Tortilla Curtain, which I just discovered will come out in movie form in 2010, starring Kevin Costner and Meg Ryan.

Boyle is brilliant at exposing human awkwardness and self-consciousness, the absurd clash of our manifested instincts and our rigid civilization. I'm revisiting the stories right now and can't help myself from sharing this hysterical passage from "The Ape Lady in Retirement." An academic observes her audience while waiting backstage before giving a lecture, and then while giving it:
She watched the crowd gather--blank-faced housewives and their paunchy husbands, bearded professors, breast-thumping students, the stringy, fur-swathed women of the Anthropology Club--watched them command their space, choose their seats, pick at themselves, and wriggle in their clothing...She was absorbed in the dynamics of the crowd, listening to their chatter, observing their neck-craning and leg-crossing, watching their furtive plumbing of nostrils and sniffing of armpits, and obsessive fussing with hair and jewelry...

She watched them--fidgeting, certainly, but patient and intelligent, all their primal needs--their sexual urges, the necessity of relieving themselves and eating to exhaustion--sublimated beneath the spell of her words.

1 comment:

Matthew said...

I wish I had that kind of confidence when speaking in front of people. The evocation of those details is very nicely done, though, I agree.