Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Talk Talk

T. Coraghessan Boyle is one of my favorite writers.

He is a master craftsman in the world of fiction. Boyle has a loyal following but skirts the mainstream. He is immensely talented, and prolific. I have read all of his novels, and am a couple of volumes shy of reading all of his short story collections.

For previous BillyBlog posts about Mr. Boyle, go here (a pic of T.C. and me) and here (#6 on my favorite books list).

Last Thursday I finished Boyle's last novel Talk Talk. Incidentally, when I announced to Melanie that I was ready for the new Harry Potter book because I had "just finished the Boyle," Shayna squeamishly asked, "Ewww, Daddy, you had a boil?"

Click here for a brief introduction and an excerpt from the official T.C. Boyle page.

Boyle writes compellingly, creating characters that are memorable and cinematic. Only one of his books, The Road to Wellville, has been made into a film. It fared poorly at the box office, which I think has caused Hollywood to balk at producing more of his work. His novel The Tortilla Curtain is just one of his books to have had its film rights optioned. Apparently the project never came to fruition.

Talk Talk is about identity theft and the impact it has on the life of the ordinary person. But it goes deeper than that, and delves into the idea of identity. It is no coincidence that one of the main characters works at a CGI special effects lab, painstakingly altering each frame of film by computer to alter the appearances of the actors therein.

I had a slight problem with a significant plot device that propelled the narrative earlier on. A character tracks down the identity thief, or at least gets a lead, after a cell phone company calls about a past due bill. The whole process of the call, the demeanor of the cell phone company representative, the threats he makes, and the sheer fact that the customer is being called and harassed about a payment while the phone in question is still operational, all rang untrue to me. Granted, in fiction, the reader is asked to take a leap of faith. But knowing the collection industry, this incongruity with reality bothered me when it happened, and dogged me to the end of the book.

I still enjoyed the story and the way it was told, but I would have liked it much more had Boyle come up with a more convincing method to propel the narrative.

T.C. Boyle writes darkly, and he gives even the most villainous characters compelling back stories that stir the reader's sympathies. This skill, along with his ability to not end a book neatly, but leave the reader wondering, is what I like about his fiction. He is definitely not a "happily ever after" writer. As in life, loose ends are rarely dispatched neatly.

My mother-in-law told me that she thought this was Boyle's most accessible book. I tend to agree, although I wouldn't want anyone to forgo reading other work by him.

Check out his website and explore the world of T. Coraghessan Boyle.

For a positive review of the book, go here. Other reviews can be found here.

1 comment:

Lynn Barry said...

Another BOYLE fan here...good blog entry. I came here via the TCBoyle site, where a link to this blog was posted. GOOD WORK, Boylehead!