I m prone to think less of a book that I can read while in a room with a TV on Especially if on that TV is Kipper or Harry the Dirty Dog or Babar for the millionth time But then maybe after a million times it s easier to tune out And tune out I did, and tuned into Drop City This was my first T C Boyle For years I thought of him as some Tom Robbins type a cloying insubstantial stylist though I had never read even one of his words This prejudice was based upon an annoying jacket photo, I think, in which he was wearing an annoying jacket The jacket was an advertisement for cloying insubstantial stylist, with a magical realist veneer I never gave him a chance after that He even read once at a bookstore where I worked and I didn t even want to look at him I hated the look of him Even now after reading this I m not a convert, though I now have respect for his ability to write a longish novel, a longish straightforward realist novel without a magical realist veneer, that I couldn t put down, through sickness and through health, through Martha Speaks and through Curious George I admired this bookfor its details and set pieces than for its larger themes and messages In the larger scope of its themes there were few surprises Of course there s in fighting in a hippy commune, even as there are virtues that could recommend it Of course if that hippy commune moves to Alaska for the winter things will not go well So any larger intended social message was lost on me I didn t want to hear it or I had heard it all already But the landscapes described The atmospheres delineated And the storytelling from A to B to C And the researched minutiae These are what hooked me Even the characters didn t enthral me Or rather their development, or lack thereof, didn t For a 450 page book the characters remained remarkably undeveloped, at least within the nitty gritty of the actual words on the page, words applying specifically to them and their inner worlds The characters werelike parts of the overall landscapes described, hippy dippies and homesteaders inextricably linked to their environments merged with their environments.4 stars for sheer entertainment value and for its descriptions of hippy chick tits and grizzly bear violence trumping childrens programming. For me, some novels just blur after putting them down, and I don t remember anything significant about the book a new friend potentially I had spent hours with A lot of crime novels are like that, but with Drop City I recall almost all the plot and the details Such an interesting book about a class of people whom I especially loathed at the time, until I came back from overseas and got to know a few through work and friends of friends, namely, hippies, political radicals, religious nuts, females who seemed to be lost, macho men who were anything but Boyle was one of those Haight Ashbury types who kept one eye open while living high and produced a magnificent black comedic condemnation, which is compassionate also, of those times in the 1960 s when all of us were mixed up, lost and headed in every direction but head on Don t go to Alaska without first reading Drop City I will readT.C Boyle, because of his accurate observations of people I have known. Full essay can be found at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography cclapcenter.com Just like anyone else who is a lover of great books, I find myself sometimes with a desire to become a completist of certain authors that is, to have read every book that author has ever written This new series of essays chronicles that attempt So first, a confession, that I still have a long way to go before becoming a completist of author TC Boyle this is only the second novel of his I ve read, to tell you the truth, the other one being The Road to Wellville, possibly his most famous because of the 1994 movie version starring Anthony Hopkins, Matthew Broderick, Bridget Fonda, John Cusack andOh, but what a novel Who knew that a contemporary author could paint such a vivid picture of events that happened nearly a century ago in this case, the formation of the various health spas in the upper Midwest at the turn of the 20th century, which for those who don t know were the groups who accidentally invented our modern breakfast cereals In fact, this is one of the things that Boyle is most known for as an author for his meticulous and exacting research into whatever time period he is writing about, and whatever crazy events were happening during that time period Now combine this with Boyle s ability to effortlessly jump between comedy and drama, his masterful touch as a story plotter, and a personal writing style that is both unique and never manages to call attention to itself, and you ve got yourself one very admired and award winning novelist indeed.And of the eleven novels that Boyle has now written, arguably one of his best known ones is 2003 s Drop City, mostly because it s about the American hippie movement of the 1960s and 70s, of which Boyle was a part of himself in his own youth having gotten his Bachelor s degree in 1968, for those who don t know And yes, just like Wellville, this novel also features a semi wacky concept to propel the story forward in this case, it s about a group of young people who start their own free love commune at the end of the 60s the aforementioned Drop City , which gets its start in California after founding member Norm inherits a large chunk of land from a recently expired relative And yes, just like Wellville, Boyle uses this semi wacky concept for both humorous and dramatic purposes to sometimes viciously make fun of how unequipped most of these idealistic flower children are to actually live off the land, while still legitimately admiring their desire to do such a thing, and arguing why such a desire is ultimately a good thing that all of us should at least partly aspire to.And of course, this being Boyle, the fun doesn t stop there about halfway through the book, in fact, the residents of Drop City get tired of all the hassles of being in California the constant police harassment, the endless hippie mooches , and decide on a whim to move to Alaska instead, where Norm has access to yetland owned by a relative, a grizzled fur trapper uncle who has recently retired and moved to Seattle And thus does Boyle get the chance to expand the story even further, by introducing the existing population of that small Alaskan town as characters themselves, and by hopping back and forth between the two groups storylines until the moment the hippies actually get to Alaska and the plots suddenly merge.In fact The collapse of the sixties free love movement is perhaps the greatest defeat Western society has endured The flower children believed in a world unshackled to government control and white collar slavery, they believed in an autonomous collective of free love, drugs and sex By listening to the Doors and smoking hash in Californian tepees, they hoped to bring about a social revolution, to overthrow the squares by doing nothing whatsoever Then again, they only believed in this because their bourgeois parents had the misfortune to raise them in a time of plenty, giving them the freedom to run off and party in multicoloured pants with a wad of hard earned notes in their tote bags I hate hippies Drop City has little sympathy for the hippie movement as it cocks a snook at the idle brothers and sisters whose goal was, essentially, to avoid work at all costs and puff on drug pipes Nowadays, hippies are known as PhD or liberal arts students, and the drug consumption remains the same Centring on a large cast of caricatured free lovers, Boyle s detached narrative style has the surgical cynicism and breathless rush of Foster Wallace, with the compassionate satire of Kingsley Amis Although his narrator goes a sentence or three too far with each description, he hits a note of buzzy mania, perfect for the vibrant rush of the era, though obviously quite infuriating in its excess.As the commune based on this real commune in southern Colorado battles nasty Nam dropouts and a planned council demolition, the group hotfoot it to Alaska, where they take refuge in their iced out bus and numerous well insulated shacks Star, the least loose of the women, is somewhat the centre of the novel, though Boyle s narrator isof your top down move the marionettes model, less personally committed, and little genuine empathy is achieved for any of these freeloaders and grizzly weirdoes It s a fun ride, regardless. Already a clear cut five star, even before I finish, TC Boyle s ripe and agitated revisit to the hippie extremes of the late 60s offers both a celebration and a slam DROP CITY is the first novel of his I ve tasted in a while for years I d sampled only the sharply cornered ironies, their furniture often surreal, of his magazine fiction Those always cracked the imaginative whip impressively, and trapezed their way through some breathtaking analogies, but this novel puts both those gifts on display and , taking everything to sonar depths, scary depths, of character and culture What the novel has to reveal about the exploitation of the counterculture s women, for instance, would elevate Boyle to the stature of a feminist icon except he always couches that exploitation in painful individual weakness and drug addled confusion The way he dramatizes the inarticulate fumbling of adolescence, and the mistakes it leads to, could make the author some sort of Guide for Youth except his monosyllabic exchanges, freighted with hormones and unspoken private histories, are always so hilarious, as are swift, palpable, perfect descriptions Plus, jeepers, how the plot moils I m writing this shortly after getting through a central climactic brouhaha, bloody yet comic, each complication erupting out of the blue yet dead right for the moment and the people involved, and I had to sit back, yank my head out the 360 degree kaleidoscope, and ask what has he been smoking One of my very favorite comic novels, about a commune in Redwood City California, Drop City They say if you remember the sixties, you weren t there but Boyle clearly had both been there and remembered.I laughed until tears dripped down my face, remembering those days, both the charm and the not so flattering side of being free a time when boys browbeat girls into sleeping with them with philosophy and suggesting they were uptight, rather than sweet talking them How certain people could always be counted upon to shirk the hard labor, on some sort of philosophical grounds relating to freedom, or simply lying low, but to show up regularly at mealtimes with their plates out When the commune falls afoul of county Sanitation Department the downfall of many a commune , they decide to move to Alaska to live off the land These Drop City chapters are interspered with a whole second story about people actually living off the land in Alaska, showing us just how much skill and preparation and labor that takes, and how deadly serious that kind of life is, as opposed to the self deluded, chaotic, everything that is, is okay life of the commune A collision course with Reality seems to be the order of the day Great great fiction and a terrific gift I ve given over and over again. It Is , And A Down At The Heels California Commune Devoted To Peace, Free Love, And The Simple Life Has Decided To Relocate To The Last Frontier The Unforgiving Landscape Of Interior Alaska In The Ultimate Expression Of Going Back To The Land Armed With The Spirit Of Adventure And Na Ve Optimism, The Inhabitants Of Drop City Arrive In The Wilderness Of Alaska Only To Find Their Utopia Already Populated By Other Young Homesteaders When The Two Communities Collide, Unexpected Friendships And Dangerous Enmities Are Born As Everyone Struggles With The Bare Essentials Of Life Love, Nourishment, And A Roof Over One S Head Rich, Allusive, And Unsentimental, TC Boyle S Ninth Novel Is A Tour De Force Infused With The Lyricism And Take No Prisoners Storytelling For Which He Is Justly Famous This book is fuelled by flower power Sadly I prefer books which are run on rocket fuel so this one did not deliver enough blast for my buck This is the third TC Boyle book I ve read and although I keep meandering back for , I m still yet to understand why Two tales make up the central thread of Drop City Like two parallel spinal cords they prop up the floppy central core of the book The first spine is the flacid, soaked in acid, hippy fuelled hurrah of Drop City Most of the people residing in the collection of yurts, tree houses, flop houses and tents are a fairly reprehensible group of individuals who have a mild work allergy and are so lazy they re happy to live in a green and pleasant land surrounded by their own chickpea laden bowel eruptions People When you are content to camp in fields of your own shit it is probably time to have a little word with yourselves By stark contrast, the second spinal cord propping up the book is one of ice and iron The residents of Boynton, Alaska are survivalist, self sufficient and living off the skinny of the land Alaska has very little fat Life is hard and if you can catch it then you can stew it, eat it or wear it Those who choose to live along the 30 mile river are spikier than snow shoes and harder than a frozen sliver of moose jerky You know at some point the peace and love lives of the dippy hippies of Drop City are going to collide, entwine, enmesh and embed in the peace but a lot less love filled lives of the trappers, hunters and self sufficient men on the 30 mile but it is just a matter of waiting and maybe tie dying a few t shirts until the story ponderously climaxes The two parallel tales finally collide where and when you might imagine and hippy v trapper hijinx ensue The hippies generally come out of it all looking half arsed, self absorbed and clueless Kind of inexplicable, kind of predictable but still kind of readable. TC Boyle s novel about the Northern California commune hooks you from the start The carefree lifestyle, readily available drugs, open sexuality and irresponsibility of this motley mix of nature loving misfits carries a heavy cost Bills have to be paid Toilets overflow Young children are neglected Freeloaders show up and take without giving As I read the first part of the book set somewhere around Sonoma I recalled Peter Coyote s autobiographical Sleeping Where I Fall, about his own involvement in the Haight Ashbury scene and communal living in the 60s.When the government finally moves in the commune whimsically decides to relocate to the wilds of Alaska Getting back to Nature can be prove to be pretty daunting in a harsh, unforgiving environment This is not Northern Exposure More like a collective group version of Jon Krakauer s Into the Wild or Golding s Lord of the Flies On the edge of civilization, day to day living can be treacherous and nasty Well written, graphic in its sketches of the Alaskan wilderness and engaging in its depiction of the rivalries and tensions within this remote Alaskan outpost the hippies attempt to infiltrate, this novel is a gem. Drop City is a book, above all else, about adventures You could say that Drop City is a book about hippies, a surprisingly sober insight into the inner monologues of a gaggle of full fledged flower children as they celebrate free love under the summer sun of California and in the dead serious beauty of the Alaskan middle of nowhere You could say that Drop City is almost as much about trappers, about a society of hard men and women who live off the grid, driven there by fear or stubbornness or madness, surviving and thriving in a place most civilized folks actively avoid bothering with You could say it s about the wacky, tragic Far East philosophy meets American North West Wilderness antics that the book promises early on and delivers in spades in the second half, but the sense of adventure that runs through it, of life s little hopes and great expectations and the sudden shock of carrying through with any of them its grasp on the monotony of downtime and the uncomfortable disbelief of the morning after of the scattershot miracles and tragedies that come time and again, and the fragile fear and anticipation that accompanies a conquered goal when you suddenly understand that you re expected to defend it now, and the way some people treasure that peace above all else while others seem unable to trust it or are even sickened by itYeah, adventures Woo.Give it a go It s an excellent and endearingly written novel by someone I ve been told to attempt half a dozen times from just as many sources Expect love, drugs, sex, bears, beauty, tragedy, and all that jazz.
T Coraghessan Boyle also known as T.C Boyle, is a U.S novelist and short story writer Since the late 1970s, he has published seventeen novels and eleven collections of short stories He won the PEN Faulkner award in 1988 for his third novel, World s End, which recounts 300 years in upstate New York He is married with three children Boyle has been a Distinguished Professor of English at the
- 497 pages
- Drop City
- T. Coraghessan Boyle
- 28 September 2017 T. Coraghessan Boyle