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Drop City Hardcover – February 24, 2003

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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.

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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: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #704,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 97 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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21 of 23 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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35 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
T.C. Boyle is one of the most technically gifted writers in America, as the present volume bears witness to. His descriptions, characterizations, and flights of lyricism are almost without peer.
But Drop City is a quickly tedious and predictable book that's been written many times--by Denis Johnson (*Already Dead*), for instance. Boyle seems self-consciously smug in his own brazen mediocrity at times, going for adolescent gross-outs and tired narrative scenerios.
Drop City is, most of all, a book about the waste and decay and lassitude of a certain segment of the author's generation. If that "does it" for you, read my 2 stars as 5. But the arrested emotional development of the novel's characters, so clearly described, seems to be the end in itself here--more than any other American author I've read, Boyle seems to take a perverse glee in demonstrating his virtuosity and then not going any further. I used to think he just wasn't writing up to his potential. But maybe he is.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Boyle has the most fun here when he forces his California-conditioned hippies to endure the endless winter of the Alaskan wilderness. It's an interesting premise, and occasionally it hits the mark, but it still leaves the reader feeling "so what?", because ultimately these are just a bunch of unlikeable layabouts. His descriptions are uniformly excellent, and one can't help but wonder whether he rather wasted them on the characters here, but Drop City is quite readable in a voyeuristic, zoo-type way.
Better than a lot of counterculture portraits because it has its tongue firmly in its cheek, but unless you really care about selfish pothead pseudo-spiritualists and their helpless struggles you're not going to find the Great American Novel here.
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