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Drop City Hardcover – February 24, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: Boyle, T. Coraghessan
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (February 24, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670031720
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670031726
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (167 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #902,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

With Drop City, T. Coraghessan Boyle offers proof that he has become one of America's most prolific, gifted storytellers. Set in the 1970s, Boyle entertains readers with the denizens of "Drop City," a counterculture California commune that welcomes anyone wanting to live off the grid, use drugs, and practice free love. Boyle sublimely captures the sociology of its rebellious members, who doubt the sincerity or beliefs of newcomers, express some insecurity about nonconformity, and chastise outsiders while remaining oblivious to their own hypocrisy. Marco, Pan, Star, and other "cats" and "chicks" live hassle-free until dissention and cries of racism mount amid increasing run-ins with the local government (a young girl is raped, installation of a sewage system is mandated, a mother lets her toddlers drink LSD-laced juice). Seeking refuge, the citizens move north, to Alaska, to reinvent their utopia, but soon learn the natural environment is more unforgiving of a lackadaisical lifestyle.

Drop City is funny, evocative, and well-paced, shifting between the hippies and the Alaskan locals--primarily Sess and his new bride Pamela (a city dweller who arranged stays with several trappers over a few weeks to determine whom she would marry)--until the two cultures collide. Balanced between plot and character, Boyle excels at describing the physical world and his characters' interaction with it, whether portraying the harshness (or sheer beauty) of the Alaskan wilderness, the simple survival routines of its grizzled inhabitants, or the sounds wafting through Drop City: "the goats bleating to be milked or fed, the single sharp ringing note of a dog surprised by its own hunger, the regular slap of the screen door at the back of the house--and underneath it all, like the soundtrack to a movie, the dull hum of rock and roll leaking out the kitchen windows." Truly American in spirit, Drop City is a strong novel of freedom and those in pursuit of lives of liberty. --Michael Ferch

From Publishers Weekly

Boyle has a wonderful eye for the comedy of imposture when the self-deceived themselves practice deception. His ninth novel, which centers on the travails of a hippie commune, Drop City, in the early '70s, gives him plenty of poseurs to work with. Drop City, in Sonoma County, Calif., is run, in a manner of speaking, by a gold-toothed purveyor of Aquarian notions, Norm Sender. The Drop City family includes Pan (aka Ronnie) and his high school pal Star (aka Paulette Regina Starr), who have fled from the East Coast together; two rather predatory black dudes; and a variegated crew of longhaired "cats" and flower-child "chicks." Star, sweet but often naive, is the opposite of Pan, beneath whose free love patter lurks an unnerving rapacity. Star soon hooks up with Marco, whose solid virtues are concealed beneath his veil of hair. When "The Man," in the person of the Sonoma County sheriff's department, condemns the property, Norm, who has inherited other property far away in Boynton, Alaska, proposes a tribal migration north. Meanwhile, the news in Boynton is that local trapper Cecil "Sess" Harder is marrying Pamela McCoon, after an eccentric courtship ritual. Sess's major problem lately has been a violent feud with Joe Bosky, the local bush pilot. When the Drop City hippie bus rolls into Boynton, a comic clash of civilizations ensues. Building utopia upriver from the Harders, Drop City's denizens discover that polar climes demand rather drastic behavioral adaptations. Boyle understands the multitudinous, sneaky ways innocence insulates itself from ambiguity-but in this novel he leavens that cynical insight with genuine sweetness. While the Day-Glo of the hippie era has long since faded, this novel brings it all back home-and helps us see how much in the American grain it all really was.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

T. C. Boyle is the author of eleven novels, including World's End (winner of the PEN/FaulknerAward), Drop City (a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award), and The Inner Circle. His most recent story collections are Tooth and Claw and The Human Fly and Other Stories.

Customer Reviews

I finished the book very quickly, and wanted it to last even longer than its 497 pages.
Daniel Wolfberg
There they encounter a group of locals who are well-accustomed to the harsh winters and rugged living, and not at all eager to have new neighbors.
Matthew Krichman
I found the characters to be so well drawn they seemed very real, particularly the primary characters in the book.
Jennifer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 92 people found the following review helpful By G. Bestick VINE VOICE on December 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
Several years ago, I saw Welsa Whitfield perform show tunes and torch songs at a cabaret. She sang arch renditions of sentimental ballads, drawing out the emotion in the songs and mocking it at the same time. Her act didn't really cohere because you can't have it both ways. You can't be ironic and sincerely poignant at the same time.

This same issue - the messy conjoining of irony and sincerity - affects much of T.C. Boyle's fiction. Boyle is probably the most talented of the Boomer-generation fiction writers. He can do novels of epic sweep as well as pointillistic short stories. He's a fiendishly imaginative plotter, a supple stylist, and can assemble big casts of eye-catching characters. And he's laugh- out-loud funny. Boyle is also the most frustrating writer of his generation because he uses all this talent for the ironic take, the quick score, the easy laugh. Capable of being our Dickens or Balzac, the writer who defines his time, he mostly settles for being a deft satirist.

Which brings us to Drop City. The plot is straightforward enough. A group of hippies wear out their welcome in Sonoma County, California. Their leader, the quasi-charismatic Norm, owns some land in Alaska his uncle left to him. The hippie cavalcade moves north, where their goofy communal hedonism smacks up against the harsh realties of life in the Alaskan bush. The counterpoint to the hippies is a young trapper, Sess Harder, and his new wife Pamela. Sess and Pamela befriend the hippies, and the lives of the hippies and the locals mingle with some comic and some tragic results.

There are easy targets here, and Boyle hits them without overly straining himself.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
I've admired Boyle since his debut novel, Water Music, but I admit being let down by most of his later work--the themes are great, but their execution left a bit to be desired. His talent is enormous, his ambition's contagious, his ideas are fertile as ever. But does he have the discipline to make it into the highest ranks, whose eminence I believe he can reach if he toughens up his attitude? He's the boy who likes to act the rebel, the drop-out he once was, but all along he has the makings of the PhD he became. This contrariness still simmers.

As others have noted about Drop City, Boyle's talent shines, but he's capable of much more. I do find that his ironic style has in recent work subsided a bit, giving way to measured compassion in his stories, such as many of those in After the Plague. One of the stories in that collection dealt with a serial test of potential mates in Alaska, which may be the origin of what here is the Sess and Pamela plot.

[...]. His love of boastful fakes and the ensuing macho punchouts continues here as in his other fiction, but it does get tedious even if he's good at it. I have taught his story "Greasy Lake" to college students, and much as I enjoy his bravura narrative in small doses, it can become "testiduneous"(to use a word from GL I found again in DC) over the long haul.

The two brawling contingents, hippie "grasshoppers" and sourdough "ants," do not even meet until the 280's in pagination. Lots of exposition precedes, often the most interesting feature of Boyle's writing being the details: how a commune tries to feed the folks, how you trap wolves, what a dark winter feels like in Alaska, how hippies need foodstamps and welfare to "live off the land.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By D. F. Norris on December 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I was not familiar with T.C. Boyle, and therefore had never ready anything he had written. I chose this book because I was a young woman during the 70's, and was very much a part of the hippie movement in California. I hoped this book would be a bit of a walk down memory lane. How delighted I was to find it was so much more. In the first part of the book, the members of the "California" Drop City so accurately represented people I knew. Idealism overrode reality, fueled by a drug-induced sense of invincibility. But the real impact of this book hits when the Drop City members move to Alaska, with their naive belief that living in the untamed Alaskan wilds would be the ultimate adventure. But they found that the "free love" and "living off the fat of the land" philosophy did not work in the harsh Alaskan winter. Contrasted with this loopy group of people are Seth and Pamela, Alaskan natives, who represent the salt of the earth folks, who's contact with the Drop City inhabitants clearly demonstrates the clash of cultures between good intentioned idealism and harsh reality. All the characters in this book are finely etched. The transition from carefree love children to frightened, unprepared hostages of the Alaskan wilds, is at once predictable and heartbreaking. Several of the Drop City members defect: the original founder takes his allegedly sick girlfriend and bails; Pan becomes a victim of his own materialism and suffers the ultimate consequence. The juxtaposition of the Drop City inhabitants and the lives of native Alaskans Seth and Pamela, is what makes this book so incredibly moving. I found Mr. Boyle's understanding of the 70's insightful and realistic. The plot and characters are not the only strength of this book. Mr.Read more ›
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