life and destiny

T.C. Boyle has always been a timely writer. His story “Modern Love,” written during the height of the AIDS pandemic, features a bacterial phobia that insists on “full condoms” before any intimate relationship. “There was no exchange of bodily fluids on the first day,” he says. “The Hard Sale,” published in 1987, was narrated by the PR man who was hired to smooth the image of Ayatollah Khomeini. Urges to “dig the picture”. “Yes. From yesterday The New York Times. See the button there…? OK, maybe it’s a little vague, AP is digging, but that’s “Go Yankees!” Button I gave myself.”

If you think these efforts are dated, you may want to think again. Just look at the time and place we found ourselves, as a different pandemic has overwhelmed us for the past two and a half years, and just a few weeks ago, the novelist Salman Rushdie was attacked and nearly killed a fanatic who might have been seeking to implement the fatwa announced by the ayatollah himself, who is now dead Long ago, in February 1989.

What Boyle understands—and has always understood—is that the more specific a piece of writing is, the more universal that piece of writing becomes.

I walk among the raindropsBoyle’s twelfth collection of short novels—he is also the author of 18 novels—provides an example of this, as it brings together stories dealing with, among other themes, cores, self-driving vehicles, and electronic surveillance. The intent is not so much to comment as to deal with the world. These were his aesthetics all along, from The road to WellvilleAnd the torn rockAnd the inner circlewhich reimagines the lives of historical figures, has been attributed to many salutations and ceremonies, including “Heart of a Hero”, “Me Cago en la Leche (Robert Jordan in Nicaragua)”, and “Second Coat”, which do something similar to literature.

“She occupied her cabin and we occupied her cabin, and we were all, equally, prepared for infection, which, I suppose, is the basic form of democracy,” Boyle wrote in “The Thirteenth Day,” which is set on a quarantined cruise ship.

The Thirteenth Day serves in many ways as a central focus of I walk among the raindropsAnd not just because it’s located exactly in the middle of the book. Rather, it is due to Boyle’s decision to take on the coronavirus, which is now a defining presence, yet has been largely absent from the literature. How many stories and novels were written during and after the lockdown? However, reading much of this work means encountering what almost feels like an alternate world, an alternate history, in which people interact with one another as if the virus had never been transmitted. I understand the problem: Who wants to read about COVID as we struggle through it? What could there be to say? At the same time, if the echo of literature (or one of them) comes from depicting what it’s like to live in a particular moment, contemporary fiction – in this respect, at least – fails us.

For Boyle, there is no such reservation. The Thirteenth Day was written in March 2020. Perhaps to highlight that immediacy, it is the only story in I walk among the raindrops To be accompanied by the expiry date. The title offers an ironic twist on the original duration of the COVID quarantine: 14 days. This becomes a setting for Boyle’s absurd feelings. Throughout the narrative, the Quarantine Clock is reset repeatedly on the day before the fourteenth day arrives.

Such a move is reminiscent of Boyle’s early story “The Big Garage,” where a character known only as B. (Kafka’s Shadows) has to wait endlessly for his car to get repaired. There are other precedents: Katherine Ann Porter, for example (What cruise is involved if she’s not angry ship of fools?), and Roberto Bolano (the ship has 2,666 passengers, until they start to surrender). And of course there’s the author and his torn eye. Boyle (or Narrator) notes that “Americans, in my experience, are not accustomed to deprivation of any kind, and we expect to ride this wonderful globe that we ride collectively to deliver exactly what they want, when they want.”

The line can apply to many characters in this group. Take Eric, who’s in “What does love have to do with that?” Sitting across from the narrator, Sarah, is in the food cart on a train from Los Angeles to Dallas” and [runs] A hand across his shirt again, which I now saw, appeared on a single word in letters three inches high – INCEL – which I took as the name of one of the ten thousand new rock bands I had never heard of, thinking my daughter would know (and look after me for being out of it) ).”. that we understand how out of touch increases the tension of the scene. Or Justin in The Shape of a Teardrop: “Thirty-one.” He frantically responds to his parents’ efforts to kick him out of his childhood room. “I have to bite my tongue,” says his mum. “I must remember what it was before, the way life was before everything that happened to him—us, all of us, him, Doug and I—were screwed up.”

Here we see the other side of Boyle, blocking the depths of our desire and desperation, all the ways we can’t connect. This appears not only in these two stories, but also in the title effort, which involves a couple in retreat from their California hometown, devastated by a stream of debris. Boyle is a master at writing about disaster – both in its details and in its aftermath. In the 2004 story “Chicxulub,” which may be his best, the middle-aged father contemplates the ancient asteroid that killed “at least seventy-five percent of all known species, including dinosaurs,” and sees it as a metaphor for turmoil that does not We can anticipate them and not protect ourselves from them. “There was no warning,” the narrator in I Walk Among the Raindrops tells us, “There was no eviction notice, nothing—just rain, that was it—and there was no way to predict what would happen next.”

This kind of fatalism is the flip side of Boyle’s perspective. It is an invigorating force throughout his work. You can’t have one without the other – a sense of existence and existential risk. In other words, time and eternity. Existence and non-existence. Or, as he wrote in “The Dog Lab,” the closing story of this interacting group: “One minute you’re alive, the next you’re dead—that were the conditions of the world, even trying to figure out what logic for them to fall into the deep and dark vessel of religion and forms Others related to witchcraft. •

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I walk among the raindropsWritten by TC Boyle

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