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World's End (Contemporary American Fiction) Paperback – July 20, 1990

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Editorial Reviews Review

T. Coraghessan Boyle, author of Water Music, a hilarious reinvention of the exploration of the Niger, returns to his native New York State with this darkly comic historical drama exploring several generations of families in the Hudson River Valley. Walter Van Brunt begins the book with a catastrophic motorcycle accident that sends him back on a historical investigation, eventually encompassing the frontier struggles of the late 1600s. Any book that opens with a three-page "list of principal characters" and includes chapters titled "The Last of the Kitchawanks," "The Dunderberg Imp," and "Hail, Arcadia!" promises a welcome tonic to the self-conscious inwardness of much contemporary fiction; World's End delivers and was rewarded with the PEN/Faulkner Award for 1988.

From Publishers Weekly

Boyle has been developing a growing reputation among lovers of rich comic writing for his handful of previous stories and novels. But World's End is one of those dramatic leaps forward that show an accomplished writer ambitiously and successfully lengthening his stride. It could easily be called a multigenerational saga, but that would give no idea of the depth of social and historical perspective Boyle brings to his tale. Set in the spectacular Hudson Valley country, an hour north of New York, World's End has all the elements of magic, fable, legend, and a sense of weather and landscape one more often finds in Southern writers. But it also shows a remarkable grasp of the continuity of culture over more than 300 years, effortlessly linking the stories of early Dutch settlers in the valley, the Indians they displaced and their descendants in the McCarthyite late 1940s and wild 1960s. The story, which moves with exceptional and convincing ease across the generations, is of the linked fates of the Van Brunt and Van Wart families. These have come down in modern times to Walter Van Brunt, a dreamer addled by drink and dope who loses both feet in motorbike accidents and who is haunted by figures and voices from the past, and Depeyster Van Wart, deeply conservative manufacturer and landowner, hanging on desperately to ancestral memories in a world he despises. Boyle is totally attuned to changing mores over the centuries, and broad enough in his sympathies to identify with the best in both conservative and rebel. Many of the book's central issues of loyalties and betrayal come to a head in a e riveting passage built on the Peekskill riots of 1949, in which leftists trying to attend a concert at which Paul Robeson was to sing were attacked by embittered locals inflamed by the presence of "niggers and kikes." Boyle, a native of the area, is so deeply steeped in its history that he can absorb a real incident and transform it organically into a horrifying episode in a novel. World's End is a triumph; resonant, richly imagined and written with unfailing eloquence. BOMC Alternate.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Contemporary American Fiction
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (July 20, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140299939
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140299939
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,713 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

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
T C Boyle's Pen/Faulkner Award winning novel "World's End" looks like a daunting read. It's after all over 450 pages long and boasts a cast of characters that spans several generations and makes Tolstoy's "War and Peace" seem like a cosy family drama. It's hard work initially figuring out who's who and this is complicated by Boyle making us jump backwards and forwards alternating between the 17th and 20th Century, but once you get into a groove, it's no sweat. "World's End" is a multigenerational family saga with all the pyrotechnics you'd expect but Boyle expertly skirts and avoids melodrama. The themes of real estate, power, race, class and betrayal are worked to their fullest and the effect is nothing short of stunning. All quite old fashionedly powerful stuff except for Boyle's quirky sense of humour (eg, Walter van Brunt's accidents) that nudges the novel somewhere left field. Boyle's own empathy for the hippy movement of the 1960s also lends an authencity to the "present day" developments. The novel is really about Walter's search for his mysteriously missing black sheep of a father, Truman - an enigma till the end - and as he drives himself and others crazy discovering his past and how the histories of three feuding clans are inextricably bound by blood, hatred and deceit, he comes face to face with the shocking truth that in three hundred years, nothing changes and humanity is powerless against the forces that threaten to engulf them. Boyle is a great storyteller. His prose is exotic, colourful, always compelling and a joy to read. Reading "World's End" takes commitment and dedication but the reward makes it all worthwhile. This is one novel nobody who loves serious literature should miss. Highly recommended.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
Boyle shows us with breathtaking style how the powerful stay powerful and the powerless stay powerless. By writing about the same two families in both the 17th and the 20th centuries and spelling out in shattering detail how little changed their social relations are, Boyle gives the American Dream a good dope slap. Anyone who finds this book boring or hard to follow needs to stop watching so much television and get an attention span.
Boyle was one angry young writer and I think his venom has ebbed somewhat over the years, which is a good thing for him personally, but might cost his writing. I stopped reading him at _Road to Wellville_, which I thought was silly, but after hearing a recent interview with him about _Riven Rock_, I may try to catch up.
I think that _World's End_ is his best book because it is about his hometown. Maybe he has lived in southern California long enough now to write about that area and its people just as well.
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32 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Paul McGrath on November 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
Here's what you get with this one. You get a narrative about an aimless twenty-year old of Dutch descent in late sixties, upstate New York. He's conflicted and anxious for reasons he can't understand, not to mention that he sees ghosts. He loses his foot in a motorcycle accident at the site of an historic Indian marker. You also get a narrative about his mother and father in the late forties who take part in what is seen by the locals as a communist rally, and that has tragic results for both of them. Lastly, you get a narrative about his forefathers in 17th century New York, the most important plot-wise of whom loses HIS foot in an accident.

Intermingled in these narratives are the stories of those who interacted with our twenty-year old and his family--primarily a wealthy Dutch family and the local Indian tribe--and all those in the present story are descendants of those in the past. In general, the wealthy family is cruel, the regular family is cowardly and the Indians are oppressed. Oh. And there are a number of striking--if not improbable--coincidences between past and present of a kind similar to the amputated foot thing.

This really isn't as confusing as it sounds, although it helps that there is a two page list of principal characters at the beginning. You may find that you don't have to refer to it after every page, but refer to it, you will.

They're all pretty good stories, though, and despite the obvious forays into magical realism Boyle mostly keeps it real. The characters are distinctive and he is very good at maintaining narrative tension. It is one of those books in which you find you regret that a chapter has come to an end, only to become completely immersed within a few pages of the next.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is all about the struggles of mankind. In a way it is about class struggles, family struggles and life through the generations, but it doesn't read that way. It comes off as a great depiction of two notable dutch families in the hudson valley. It has engaging characters which keep a sort of continuity through the generations. Very well done, and especially interesting if you are dutch, live in the hudson valley region in new york, or have other ties to colonial america or earlier.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By T. Engle on July 30, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book a while back. I continually refer to it as my favorite TCB novel,and I think I am going to re-read it to make sure it really is better than "Drop City," "Riven Rock" and "When the Killing's Done." It has stayed with me so strongly, years after reading it.

I think Boyle is as iconic and American writer as I can think of. His writing is completely centered on the USA, and whatever region or time period he is describing, he immerses the reader, he makes the place and/or time come alive and that's why he is my #1 favorite writer.

No book is as American as this one, it's practically a history book. That can, indeed be challenging. It also shows Boyle's typical view: Everyone is messed up, and some people at least try to do better, but we all fail. That is how he writes about individuals, and that is how he writes about America. Some people probably have a problem with that. But I love it.

My best friend is a lazy reader. I mean, he doesn't seek out books, he picks from the many books I read and refer to him. He never picks up books unless I recommend them, and he loved "Budding Prospects" but didn't like "World's End." I think because the structure of "World's End" is rather daunting. It is mentioned that there is a three-page list of characters, from three different time periods. That about sizes it up, I had to refer to this list over and over again while reading. I enjoyed the challenge of keeping up with all of these people and how they fit together. My friend did not. I imagine many a reader would be put off by the structure of World's End.

And that's fine. Boyle has written lots of straightforward books, (such as "East is East which is also excellent) and this is certainly the most convoluted.
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