Topanga Canyon is home to two couples on a collision course. Los Angeles liberals Delaney and Kyra Mossbacker lead an ordered, sushi-and-recycling existence in a newly gated hilltop community: He is a sensitive nature writer, she an obsessive realtor. Mexican illegals Candido and America Rincon desperately cling to their vision of the American Dream as they fight off starvation in a makeshift camp deep in the ravine.
Few authors write with such sheer love of story and language as T. C. Boyle, and that is nowhere more evident than in his inventive, wickedly funny, and always entertaining short stories. Here are 14 new tales previously unpublished in book form. By turns mythic and realistic, farcical and tragic, ironic and moving, Boyle's stories have mapped a wide range of human emotions. The stories here reflect his maturing themes.
"Nobody does it better."
In the title story of this rich new collection, T.C. Boyle has created so vivid and original a retelling of the story of Victor, the feral boy who was captured running naked through the forests of Napoleonic France, that it becomes not just new, but definitive: yes, this is how it must have been. The tale is by turns magical and moving, a powerful investigation of what it means to be human. There is perhaps no one better than T. C. Boyle at engaging, shocking, and ultimately gratifying his readers.
"Not sure which way to tip the scale..."
The first time Bridger saw Dana she was dancing barefoot, her hair aflame in the red glow of the club, her body throbbing with rhythms and cross-rhythms that only she could hear. He was mesmerized. That night they were both deaf, mouthing to each other over the booming bass. And it was not until their first date, after he had agonized over what CD to play in the car, that Bridger learned that her deafness was profound and permanent. By then, he was falling in love.
"Too Much Talk"
Smithstown is a divided community, and Cal is right in the middle. He believes, like his best friend Dave, that evolution is scientific fact. But he's drawn to Lynnese, a devout Christian who believes in intelligent design and whose daughter, Mary-Louise, has only widened the chasm forming in the town. As Smithstown is split between science and religion and their place in the local high school, Cal doesn't know which way to turn or which side of the road to walk on.
Angelle's father is a drunk, and Angelle and her little sister, Lisette, know it. Their mother has told them as much. But their mother has abandoned them and gone back to France, leaving only the empty promise to return behind. Now Angelle is the key witness in a case that may decide whether she and Lisette are taken away from their father. Angelle must choose between the truth that could hurt them all and the "necessary truth" her father's lawyer wants her to tell.
It is at the end of the eighteenth century, in the new French Republic, when the savage is first seen outside the village of Lacaune. The boy quickly becomes a legend among the townsfolk. Is he truly a human child or a wild beast? "Wild Child" is based on the story of Victor of Aveyron, the feral child brought from the French wilderness to Paris in an attempt to civilize him. It is the story of a boy who, at the tender age of five, had his throat slit in the forest and was left for dead.
When Gerald Loomis loses his wife, friends and neighbors try to rally him with food and suggestions for pets to keep him company. But Gerald has already picked a pet, a Burmese Python he's named Siddhartha. During a cold snap, Gerald ventures out to the pet store to pick up a rat to feed Siddhartha but finds he can't follow through with letting the rat die.
Lonnie is tired. He's tired of his job, the monotony of it, and tired of the predictability ofhis home life now that he's a father. It's a day like every other day, and hecan't face the inevitability of it all. So he lies. It's a small lie, but heknows small lies become big ones. He knows it as soon as he says his daughteris in the hospital. But he can't stop himself, and he can't stop the lie fromtaking on a life of its own.
In high school Nisha worked as a dog-sitter for the Strikers, eccentric millionaires, taking care of their prized Afghan, Admiral. When she returns after college to tend to her ill mother, the Strikers call on her once again. But this time they want her to take care of Admiral II, the clone of their deceased dog. The original Admiral's experiences must, of course, be replicated as closely as possible.
This short story from Wild Child was originally published in A Public Space. Reeling from his second divorce, Hunter is taken out on a party boat by his old college roommate, Damian. Looking forward to the promise of distraction, and maybe even the chance to meet a woman, Hunter acquiesces to the fishing adventure, despite his tendency toward seasickness. But outings with Damian are just as uncertain as the sea.
Marita Vallalba is revered in her Venezuelan village, and not just because her son, Aquiles Maldonado, is a big league baseball player in the United States. In fact, it is because of her son and his multimillion-dollar contract that has been splashed across the Venezuelan newspapers that she is kidnapped and held for ransom. Upon returning home, Aquiles is advised against paying the ransom, but he is prepared to go to any lengths to get his motherback.
Gordon is a delivery driver with a predilection toward road rage, and he's on the most important delivery of his life. In Santa Barbara there's a mother of three on life support waiting for Gordon, waiting for the liver he's transporting from Los Angeles. But there's a mudslide, and cars are being swept away, people being buried in the sludge. And Gordon, who's as far from a hero as they come, has to find a way to get the liver to Santa Barbara.
This short story from the collection Wild Child was originally published in the New Yorker. Dámaso Funes is a medical miracle. He didn't make a sound when he was born, and as the years go by it's found that he doesn't feel pain. Not when he picks up hot coals with his bare hands or when he breaks his leg. To his father he is a sideshow freak, a spectacle from which he can make money, but to the village doctor who delivered him he is much more. He is a marvel, a wonder of genetics - the next step of human evolution.
Mae is in her Southern California garden early one morning when a tiger shows up at the edge of her yard. Meanwhile Mae's sister, Anita, is in Wisconsin grieving her dead husband, dealing with a pack of feral cats under her trailer, and trying to start a relationship with Todd, a man who's lobbying for a ballot measure that will allow people to kill strays. Mae and Anita have been vegetarians since high school, but they're still learning what it means to care about animals, both wild and human.
This short story from the collection Wild Child was originally published in Playboy. It's the middle of a snow storm, and Johnny Bandon, a washed up crooner in the style of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, is getting ready to record a Christmas single. The session musicians are there, and so is his backup singer. Darlene Delmar is a down and out soul singer ravaged by cheating boyfriends and STDs. But for this one moment in time, maybe music can reach out and soothe both Johnny and Darlene's souls just one more time.
Thirteen-year-old Dill has a tendency to get in trouble, to act out, and perhaps it is due to his mother's latest boyfriend, Grady, leaving them behind. Meanwhile Sanjuro Ichyguro and his wife have moved from Japan to the United States and are having trouble adjusting. Between the cultural divide, the swelling emotions of their respective losses, and budding pyromania, Dill and Sanjuro are waging a silent war between their neighboring houses.
A divorcée disturbed by her upcoming thirty-fifth birthday decides to get a Botox treatment. But then she develops a crush on the plastic surgeon, whose secretary looks like a walking advertisement for the whole industry. When he spurns her advances, she's thrown further into a crisis of self-image, wanting only to see herself in a new light, as something better.