A fine, fat gathering of 68 stories, including the contents of Boyle's four collections (Without a Hero, 1994, etc.), four...


T.C. BOYLE STORIES: The Collected Stories of T. Coraghessan Boyle

A fine, fat gathering of 68 stories, including the contents of Boyle's four collections (Without a Hero, 1994, etc.), four more, uncollected, tales, and three previously unpublished. The pieces are grouped thematically, under the conveniently broad headings ""Love,"" ""Death,"" and ""And Everything in Between."" Even this organizing device carries a whiff of Boyle's ironic sensibility and bold, resonant voice. He's a satirist, of course, with a deadly eye for faddishness and pretension, but he's primarily an inventor whose outrageous narrative premises pay homage to the spirit of Groucho Marx and the examples of such predecessors as the British fantasist John Collier and our own Donald Barthelme and Robert Coover. The volume begins with ""Modern Love,"" Boyle's triumphantly wry take on contemporary sexual timidity, and ends just as enjoyably with his loopy burlesque of conspicuous consumption and suburban guilt, ""Filthy with Things."" Along the way, it's fun to re-encounter his mischievous revisionist portrayals of well-known figures: Dwight Eisenhower fixated on Mrs. Khrushchev (""Ike and Nina""); a retrograde Lassie (""Heart of a Champion""); Mao-Tse-tung in fine physical fettle (""The Second Swimming""); and Carry Nation in full eruption (""John Barleycorn Lives""). There are also acute comic distortions of politics (""The New Moon Party""), pop culture (""All Shook Up""), the sex wars (""A Woman's Restaurant""), and science and technology run amok (""Descent of Man,"" ""De Rerum Natura"")--as well as pitch-perfect homages to Kafka (""The Fog Man""), Hemingway (""Robert Jordan in Nicaragua""), and Gogol (""The Overcoat II""). Of the newer stories, ""I Dated Jane Austen"" is in Boyle's best gently mock-heroic vein, and ""Little Fur People"" observes with bemused tenderness a spinster's passion to save her beloved ""pet"" squirrels. Boyle is of course too young for a summing-up, but this seems as good a time as any for a mid-career display of the antic wares of our most versatile and prolific radical comedian.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 1998


Page Count: 690

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998

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