IF THE RIVER WAS WHISKEY by T.C. Boyle

IF THE RIVER WAS WHISKEY

By

KIRKUS REVIEW

From the winner of the 1987 PEN/Faulkner Award (for World's End) comes this third collection of stories, most of which are as slick as the magazines in which they first appeared (Playboy, Harper's, GQ, etc.). Boyle levels his satire at a number of familiar targets. An anxious lover in "Modern Love" is spurned by his absurdly antiseptic girlfriend who insists on using "body condoms." A talented and struggling chef in "Sorry Fugu" must romance a notoriously cranky food-critic. A show-bizzy fast-talker in "Hard Sell" is hired to remake the Ayatollah Khomeini's image for the West. "The Devil and Irv Cherniske" tells of a greedy stockbroker who strikes a Faustian pact with the Devil. Two tales concern loony characters who identify with bugs: in "The Human Fly," an L.A. agent down on his luck agrees to represent a crazy Hungarian who pulls off incredible stunts in order to become famous, which he does, posthumously; the bee-boy of "King Bee" is a nine-year-old sociopath adopted by a childless couple who witness his suicide by bee attack. Heavy-handed drama. tic ironies mark the endings of "Peace of Mind," in which owning an alarm system causes a family's victimization, and "The Ape Lady in Retirement," in which a renowned primatologist meets her death by trusting a chimp spoiled in Western captivity. More than a little blarney explains the wild "Miracle at Ballinspittle" and "Zapatos"--the first an apocalyptic vision of a "common sinner's" life as it miraculously appears before him in Ireland, and the latter the tale of an enterprising shoe-importer in a mythical Latin country who cleverly subverts the government's expensive regulations. The best stories rely on more recognizable characters and subjects: the loneliness of a newly widowed woman ("Sinking House"); relations among a group of antisocial types who live year-round in a resort town ("The Hat"): a profligate lover ("Thawing Out"); and, in the title story, a father and son torn apart by alcoholism. Though some of these 16 pieces display a depth of feeling and a complexity of vision, they're mostly glib and gimmicky, relying on one-liners and one-dimensional plots.

Pub Date: March 24th, 1989
ISBN: 670-82690-1
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:




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