Tag: T.C. Boyle

The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle

April 10th, 2015 — 12:55pm

The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle

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In this novel by T.C. Boyle, we are presented with a handful of people who fall on a spectrum in regard to their feelings about the United States. They are the hardworking guys who feel that the Mexicans among them are up to no good and are probably drug dealers who should be arrested. They are also people represented by one woman who feels that the US Government has made life too restrictive and that they shouldn’t be required to register their cars, get a driver’s license, and follow other laws which they believe abridge their rights. Then there was one character who has gone renegade and acts as if he still is one of the early American settlers who is battling various Indian tribes and feels that everyone is against him. This character is clearly psychotic and has lost touch with reality. Perhaps this is the point that the author is trying to make about such political views. He seems to be saying that any extreme repudiation of our form of government is “crazy” and unrealistic.

Boyle’s writing style in this book matches his hard-assed defiant view that is presented in it. It sounds like John Wayne at his toughest,  continually talking and narrating a book. It begins to feel unrealistic as nobody we know talks in this tone all the time.

The only other book which I read by this prolific author was Tortilla Curtain. In that book, he conveyed an empathetic, understanding of the undocumented Mexicans who had come across the border into California as well as the other Californians who were trying to respond to them. In this more recent book, it was more difficult to identify with the “oppressed citizens” who felt that their rights were being taken away from them. The writing style mentioned above while intense and engaging made this reader feel that he was up against a dangerous enemy which was an uncomfortable experience. It may be that that was the point of this book.

There is another dynamic here that is really quite powerful and poignant. That is the relationship between Adam, the psychotic young man who runs amuck, and his father Sten who had been a Vietnam marine. Early in the book, we see an incident where Sten and his wife are on a tour in Costa Rica where there are threatened by some thugs with a gun and a knife who want to rob them. Sten grabs one of the would-be attackers from behind and kills him in a chokehold as the others flee. This becomes a salient moment for Sten as he has to deal with the adulation he gets from the public as well his own guilt feelings. This incident also provides the readers with an insight into his mind and the struggle that he has within himself as he sees his own son developed into a dangerous threat to society. The murderous rage behavior that we see periodically in the newspapers (i.e. the suicidal pilot who brought down a plane load of innocent people) is reminiscent of these kind of feelings. How often do we contemplate the dynamics of the family of that man and the struggle that the parents must have in coming to grips with this child’s action. Boyle hits us with such insights as the beat of his writing reverberates in our minds.

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Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle

May 29th, 2012 — 1:25am

Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle– In the past few years I have read various books about the plight of oppressed immigrant groups as they struggle to make it in America at different times in our history. This includes, Chinese, Japanese, and of course European immigrants including Holocaust survivors. However this is the first book that I have read about this subject in which most of the action takes place in locations, which would be less than 15-minute drive from my home in Woodland Hills California. Tortilla Curtain is the story of Mexican immigrants struggling for a foothold in the America, which happens to be near and about Topanga Canyon in the San Fernando Valley. A young Mexican woman interestingly named “America” and her slightly older husband Candidio are smuggled across the border in in an effort to do what so many of our ancestors have done. That would be to attempt to achieve some version of what they see as the American dream. The other main focus of this story is Delaney, a self proclaimed liberal who lives with his wife Kyra, a successful real estate agent and her son Jordon from a previous marriage. They live in a spacious community that progresses from a gated community to a walled community because of the real and the perceived dangers from coyotes as well as from some of the Mexican immigrants. The author T.C. Boyle allows the reader to know both sets of characters and their back-story. We come to appreciate Delaney and his wife’s frustration as they see their beloved dogs snatched away by coyotes who follow their own natural inclination to survive. They also have a run in with some of illegal Mexican immigrants who we come to know as honest, hard working people who are following their own natural instincts to survive. They want to earn a living and provide for their themselves and ultimately for their family. Delaney is turned into an angry, revengeful, vicious man and his wife is depicted as a self-indulgent women.  As the story progresses the reader loses any empathy or identification, which they may originally, had for them. I neglected to say that Delaney by occupation is a writer who studied and wrote about nature and all it’s little creatures with special emphasis on the environment. This becomes an ironic point because it is the natural instincts of America and Candido as well as the other immigrants who are just also trying to survive in their environment which brings them into conflict with Delaney and his neighbors. Even a cursory study of the natural climate factors in this area would lead one to understand that FIRE is required to keep nature in balance but when a fire is accidentally set by those trying to survive or by  just by lightning, it becomes the immigrants who are blamed. This probably is not very much different than when the Jews are blamed for bad economic times or when any other persecuted group is blamed for the frustrations of the group in power.  This is a powerful story and if you live near where the story takes place, it feels more personal even if you truly believe that we are past most of this type of thinking

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