In the title story of this rich new collection, T.C. Boyle has created so vivid and original a retelling of the story of Victor, the feral boy who was captured running naked through the forests of Napoleonic France, that it becomes not just new, but definitive: yes, this is how it must have been. The tale is by turns magical and moving, a powerful investigation of what it means to be human. There is perhaps no one better than T. C. Boyle at engaging, shocking, and ultimately gratifying his readers while at the same time testing his characters' emotional and physical endurance.
The 14 stories gathered here display both Boyle's astonishing range and his imaginative muscle. Nature is the dominant player in many of these stories, whether in the form of the catastrophic mudslide that allows a cynic to reclaim his own humanity ("La Conchita") or the wind-driven fires that howl through a high California canyon ("Ash Monday"). Other tales range from the drama of a man who spins Homeric lies in order to stop going to work, to that of a young woman who must babysit for a $250,000 cloned Afghan and the sad comedy of a child born to Mexican street vendors who is unable to feel pain. Brilliant, incisive, and always entertaining, Boyle's short stories showcase the mischievous humor and socially conscious sensibility that have made him one of the most acclaimed writers of our time.
T. C. Boyle missed his calling as a stand-up comedian or perhaps a first-rate dramatic actor. Because when Boyle reads, you listen. Hearing the award-winning novelist perform his latest collection of short stories, Wild Child, brings out the lyrical quality of Boyle’s writing. His timing is perfect. So is his tone. Boyle’s staccato, precise voice perfectly captures the rhythm of his writing and the often manic, possessed nature of many characters in Wild Child.
That sense of urgency comes through clearly in the stunning title story, which stands out as one of the best short stories of the decade. The long, multi-part story could easily be considered a novella on par with Herman Melville’s Billy Budd or Bartleby, the Scrivener. Boyle’s fictional tale describes in vivid detail the true story of Victor, the Wild Boy of Aveyron, who was discovered living in the woods in France in 1797. Boyle imagines what the boy’s life must have been like and the Herculean efforts of Dr. Jean-Marc Gaspard itard to assimilate Victor back into society. Like itard, Boyle approaches his subject with a clinical yet tender eye. Boyle manages to be sensitive towards his characters without being sentimental.
Boyle displays this same unsentimental sensitivity in the other stories of Wild Child, showcasing his uncanny ability to paint portraits so real, the imaginary characters and sometimes far-fetched scenarios feel completely plausible. Other stories that stand out in this stellar collection include “La Concita”, about one man’s heroic efforts to deliver a donated liver to a hospital; “Sin Dolor”, about a Mexican child who feels no pain; and “Admiral”, about a couple’s efforts to perfectly recreate the same environment for their cloned dog, right down to hiring the same woman to dog-sit the new animal. Humorous, insightful, nostalgic, slightly absurd these 14 stories illustrate Boyle at his best. Ken Ross
Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2010
“Superlative author T.C. Boyle is also an excellent reader of his own work. His voice is purely American West--flat-voweled, pleasantly modulated, with a hint of a baritone growl. He reads without vocal flourish, but with an intensity that captures the listener and won't let go. It's pell-mell without being rushed; urgent but not desperate; entirely articulate. And such stories…This is a mesmerizing audiobook experience.” ( AudioFile)
"One of the most inventive and verbally exuberant writers of his generation." ( New York Times)
"Boyle is a marvel at descriptive prose." ( Washington Post Book World)
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