Monday, July 19, 2010

Wild Child and Other Stories by TC Boyle

Reviewed by Kiran Manral

This fabulous collection of short stories from author T C Boyle is a study on how the perfect short story needs to be crafted. The stories move from California to South America to France, from the here and now, to Napoleanic France and all connect themselves to each other with the primary element of nature being the principal over riding character across all the stories.

In the story, The Unlucky Mother of Aquiles Maldonaldo, we see how a mother can convert even a band of hardened guerrillas who kidnap her in the hope of a ransom from her Venezualan pitcher son by her taking care of them. His much valued pitching arm comes in handy at the end to lob a grenade in order to rescue her from the bandits. In the end, the mother and son realise that ostentatious display of well

The characters in Boyle’s short stories are everyday people, who are just that little bit strange. We see how a tiny lie, in the short story, The Lie, told by a film editor who just cant bear to get into work changes his entire life. Like the film editor, we see a man who conveniently temporarily discards the values and beliefs he holds good just to get close to the person he lusts after in ‘Bulletproof’. The animal instinct of man to survive against all odds is a recurring motif. In “La Conchita, we have a courier man transporting a liver from a donor to a recipient for a transplant, stuck in a mudslide on the Pacific Coast Highway and concentrate on digging out the victims of the slide rather than seek ways to get around the mudslide and deliver the organ to the critical recipient in hospital. His Glock-9 does not come handy in the face of nature’s fury and he is compelled to accept his competitor coming in to transport the liver to its destination. Finally, the story of the title, Wild Child, is the true tale of a jungle child, eventually named Victor, found in Napoleanic France who was brought into civilization and slowly taught how to be part of society. The narrative is a fascinating account of how he might have been taught the culture and mores of the time, and how his instinctive animal side was eventually subdued to so-called normality.The stories are kaleidoscopic, incisive, empathic and occasionally twisted just enough to keep you hooked. Not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination. But a compelling one.