12 September 2010

Writing a Novel and T.C. Boyle

So, I've been taking this workshop on writing character and I'm really enjoying it.  I'm in the midst of writing a post-apocalyptic type novel that is really atypical for the genre, and someone suggested today that I should read "After the Plague" by T.C. Boyle, so I came right home and read it.

I've had the book on my shelf for some time now; I picked it up for a quarter at a thrift store.  I've never read a complete collection of Boyle's stories, but every time I run across one in an anthology, it knocks my socks off (not to be cliche or anything).  I know I'm working from a small pool of evidence here, but T.C. Boyle may be one of the best living short story writers. 

So, this particular short story takes place after a flesh-eating Ebola-like plague kills off most of the world's population.  The narrator has survived only because he has sequestered himself in a remote cabin while on sabbatical from teaching at a preparatory high school near Santa Barbara.  So, as the world falls apart, he cooks eggs and reads National Geographic.  So what comes next?  Zombies?  Pillagers?  Nope, not exactly.  It's kind of a love story, but I'll let you read it yourself.  It's not very long.  Trust me, it's worth it.

This novel that I'm working on is also kind of a love story, and there are no zombies, and things after the apocalypse are kind of back to normal (but with fewer people and less food, no plants).  Anyway, this story was great inspiration for me, and besides that Boyle is an exceptional dark humorist, who uses adverbs well, and most writers can't do that. The imagery is amazing and every story I read I ask myself: How the heck did he think of that? 

Final evaluation:  Great stuff and an inspiration for me personally.  I'll keep reading these stories intermixed with my other reading. 

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