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Tooth and Claw...and Other Stories Paperback – June 27, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The threat of imminent demise—whether self-inflicted or from an ungentle Mother Nature—hovers in Boyle's seventh collection (after the novel The Inner Circle). Ravenous alligators make a memorable cameo in "Jubilation," in which a divorced man seeking community and stability moves into a "model" town erected in a Florida theme park (think Disney's Celebration), only to find that benign surfaces conceal dangerous depths. This theme of civilization versus wilderness also underpins the weird and wonderful "Dogology," in which a young woman's frustration with the accoutrements of the human world compels her to run—on all fours—with a pack of neighborhood dogs. "Here Comes"—one of the collection's more realistic pieces—describes the anxious circumstances of a suddenly homeless alcoholic poised to slip through the cracks for good in a Southern California town. Substance abuse figures again in "Up Against the Wall," about a young man seduced by a dissolute new crowd, while his parents' marital discord and the Vietnam War tug at the edges of his drugged-out awareness. The wired rhythm of Boyle's prose and the enormity of his imagination make this collection irresistible; with it he continues to shore up his place as one of the most distinctive, funniest—and finest—writers around. (On sale Sept. 12)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Boylebeloved author of The Inner Circle and Drop Cityis a masterful prose stylist. This volume showcases his skill, hurling such wonderful phrases as "face that was like a dried-up field plowed in both directions" at the reader. But the reviews of this collection were mixed, suggesting that Boyle is a bit too enamored of his own wordsmithing. A few critics claimed that he was so busy making it rococo and perfect that he failed to develop characters that readers care about. Still, the collection is clever, creative, and inventive in the dialectic it poses between nature and civilization and will engage and even delight all but the most finicky readers.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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Five of the fourteen stories are set in bars. They feature precariously-balanced young men being swept toward the realization that something has to give or change. Boyle shares this space with Richard Bausch, another fine short story writer. If Bausch's stories have the fiery burn of raw pulque, Boyle's go down like high grade tequila: the kick comes later. Given his storytelling skills, one suspects that Boyle could spin out guy-in-bar tales as effortlessly and endlessly as a spider can drop silk filaments from its abdomen.
His comic gifts are on display in Swept Away, a roistering tale of the affair between a visiting ornithologist and a local farmer on a bleak Scottish isle, and the satirical subset of those gifts is evident in Jubilation, which chronicles the natural disasters that befall a man trying to start a new life in a housing development built by a theme park company. Dogology, about a woman who wants to be one with the animal kingdom, and The Kind Assassin, about a drive-time DJ's attempt to set the record for going without sleep, show Boyle turning intriguing concepts into stories peopled by characters who engage our feelings.
Several of the stories revolve around nature. The Doubtfulness of Water takes us on an adventurous journey from Boston to New York in the year 1702. Tooth and Claw, a combo bar and animal story, gives us a lost young man trying to cope with a feral pet. In Blinded by the Light, a Patagonian rancher is afflicted by the visit of an environmental doomsayer obsessed by the ozone hole over the South Pole. In Boyle's fictional world there are two broad classes: those who know we're headed towards some sort of environmental catastrophe and those who are trying not to think about it.
Two of the stories could be prequels to Drop City, Boyle's novel about young people who head out west in the late sixties to join a hippie commune. All the Wrecks I've Crawled Out Of and Up Against the Wall are both narrated by young guys scrambling for purchase in the adult world. They're looking for answers in the emerging counterculture of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. These two stories deliver the strongest emotional punch in the collection because it feels like there's something more at stake than a verbal frolic. Boyle seems to be trying to nail down an American moment -late sixties/early seventies- in which he's emotionally as well as intellectually invested.
This collection shows yet again that Boyle is a brilliant stylist who moves nimbly over a broad swath of American terrain. If his jazzy riffs haven't yet achieved that higher synthesis, that reordering of our perceptions, which we ask of our greatest fiction writers, it's clear that he has the talent to get there.
However, one person's chocolate mousse is another's mousse au chocolate .... So you will have to read this book and judge the stories for yourselves.
This is both a blessing and a bane.
Boyle works on his craft constantly, so he can put out a quality story in no time; but this is a problem, because I don't feel like he takes the time to fully form his characters. Often different characters in different stories seem like the same person: they all speak in SAT words, they always seem to go to movies alone, they often speak with irreverent interjections while thinking to themselves. These drawbacks, especially in the stories with weak plot, produce a variable overall output, which is indeed also seen in this particular collection. TOOTH AND CLAW has some gems, but also some losers. Four of the fourteen stories I couldn't even make it through.
Another four I rated 7/10 or above -- they all had engaging plots, well-formed characters, and ringing metaphor. The best story of the collection was "Chcxulub," a tale of a teenage girl's night out and her parents' worry over her safety, with the parallel telling of the history of tragic meteor impacts on the earth. Another masterpiece is the title story, "Tooth and Claw." A young man's quest for a girlfriend is symbolized by his win of an exotic wild cat in a bar bet. When he loses one he loses the other. This is classic Boyle. (Yet, this young man, despite his participation in such a symbolic and well-told tale, goes to the movies alone. Couldn't he just do something different? Doesn't Boyle remember he used that personality trait in a different story? I guess not.)
Overall, a nice addition to one's library.
Most recent customer reviews
I like that Boyle is believable. His stories make me feel like I was there. Did these things really happen?Read more
also be outstanding ("Drop City" is probably the book to
read, even if you never open anything else by him).Read more