What the best order to in which to read T. Coraghessan Boyle's novels?
February 14, 2005 1:04 AM   Subscribe

T. Coraghessan Boyle. I've never read any TC Boyle, but I want to begin reading his novels. What's the best order in which to read them?
posted by NortonDC to Media & Arts (18 answers total)
 
I don't think there is any particular order. He's one of my favorite authors, and I would say just jump in anywhere or maybe pick a book that has a plot that sounds interesting. "Budding Prospects" was my first read since the subject sort of interested me. Riven's Rock, World's End, Wellville, they are all good. "Tortilla Flat" was so-so. Maybe "Greasy Lake and other stories" just to get started?
posted by fixedgear at 1:39 AM on February 14, 2005


I've read a few, but not all, of TC Boyle's novels and I don't think you'll miss anything by not reading them in a particular order. His novels are quite good and function well independently...
posted by kittyoneil at 4:26 AM on February 14, 2005


Water Music was the first I read, and it made me want to read more. I believe it was also his first book.
posted by gai at 5:30 AM on February 14, 2005


Yuck. I read the "Tortilla Curtain" and loathed it...Boyle spent the whole time trying to point out how clever and politically insightful he was...without actually being clever or politically insightful. YMMV, of course, but I wouldn't start there--it put me off Boyle forever.

fixedgear, is "Tortilla Flat" different from "Tortilla Curtain?" If you really think that was one of his worst books, maybe I should give the others a try.
posted by equipoise at 6:00 AM on February 14, 2005


World's End is the best by a long, long way -- if you read it and nothing else you'll probably be fine. Equipoise is right about The Tortilla Curtain; that put me off so much that I haven't read any of the more recent books (Riven Rock, Drop City, etc.)
posted by escabeche at 6:09 AM on February 14, 2005


Tortilla Flat is an excellent John Steinbeck book, equipose.

As for Boyle, I've only ever read The Road to Wellville and some of his short stories, but liked all of it.
posted by saladin at 6:20 AM on February 14, 2005


Water Music was a tremendous first novel, so I would tend to agree that you should start there. As for the others, everyone above is right on - I think you can pick and choose the order based on your own preference or other's recommendations. Oh, his newest novel, The Inner Circle about Dr. Kinsey and crew is outstanding in my opinion. You've got many hours of good reading ahead of you!
posted by brheavy at 6:30 AM on February 14, 2005


I'm reading "Budding Prospects" right now and loving it. Aside from a few short stories, it's the first time I've read any of his stuff.
posted by greasy_skillet at 6:32 AM on February 14, 2005


Not sure if you've interested in them, but his short story collections are good too: Descent of Man and If the River was Whisky.
posted by drobot at 7:17 AM on February 14, 2005


My favorite is Drop City. I also liked Tortilla Curtain a good deal. The new one, about Kinsey (The Inner Circle) isn't quite as snappy as some of the others, but worthwhile if you're interested in the topic.
posted by muckster at 8:14 AM on February 14, 2005


Boyle has a sort of hyperkinetic energy, and the subjects of the novels tend to range quite a lot. So, I don't think there really is one place to begin. What I'd do though, is pick up his collected short stories volume, which should give you a bit of an idea of the range & depth of his work.

(and for what it's worth, I really enjoyed Drop City, but then again, I thought Tortilla Curtain was better than most have been saying.)
posted by .kobayashi. at 8:15 AM on February 14, 2005


I've read all of his books (but the most recent; it's in the queue) and believe that Boyle is a better short-story writer than a novelist. His novels are quite good (my favorites are Water Music and The Road to Wellville, and would have to agree that The Tortilla Curtain is among his weakest), but his short stories are much better. All or most of them appear in this single volume, which I'd highly recommend.
I know you asked about his novels, but his short stories were my introduction to Boyle's work, and I believe they serve as a very good one. They'll give you a really good feel for his style, and are the perfect jumping-off point to get into his novels.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:49 AM on February 14, 2005


I don't mean to imply that I'm was concerned about any narrative thread that I wanted to encounter in order (that didn't occur to me, frankly), I just want to know if there are clunkers that would put me off the rest which therefore should be avoided, or if there were solid but simpler novels that should be read first so that the reader tracks the growth and expansion of the author's technique along the way.

Also, I am specifically interested in the novels, at least for now.

Keep those good pointers coming, folks; I've got orders to place!

(preview: Thanks Dr. Wu. I am open to exploring the short stories later, but for now my interests are in novels.)
posted by NortonDC at 10:58 AM on February 14, 2005


No sweat. Hope you enjoy his stuff - he's a great writer. I've been to a reading or two of his, too, and he's got a nice voice and presence, and his interaction with the audience is among the best I've ever seen. Go see him if you get the chance.

I'd be happy to discuss Boyle further with you if you want to email me - I like his writing very much.

Happy reading!
posted by Dr. Wu at 11:12 AM on February 14, 2005


Avoid "Friend of the Earth" at all costs. It was utter tripe. So disappointing, particularly after reading some of his better work like "Road to Wellville" and "Water Music."
posted by pomegranate at 11:15 AM on February 14, 2005


I don't think there is any particular order to reading his novels but he is one of my favorite authors.

I was introduced to Boyle through his short stories in the New Yorker and Granta and I liked what I read so I started looking for his novels. The first novel of his I read was "The Road to Wellville" which I really enjoyed. I did not like "Drop City" I liked "Riven Rock and I just got "The Inner Circle" which I can't wait to read.
posted by govtdrone at 12:15 PM on February 14, 2005


The votes:
Thumbs up:
Budding Prospects
+ +
Riven's Rock
+ +
World's End
+ +
Wellville
+ + + + +
Water Music
+ + + +
The Inner Circle
+
Drop City
+ +
Tortilla Curtain
+ +
Thumbs down:
Tortilla Curtain
- -
The Inner Circle
-
Friend of the Earth
-
Drop City
-
Combined:
Wellville
+ + + + +
Water Music
+ + + +
Budding Prospects
+ +
Riven's Rock
+ +
World's End
+ +
Drop City
+
Friend of the Earth
-
posted by NortonDC at 7:22 PM on February 17, 2005


It's been a long time, but I remember "World's End" as being excellent, especially if you've spent any time in the Hudson Valley and have a taste for the eeriness of the river and fog there. Most of the others weren't as interesting (Wellville), and some downright awful.

And incidentally, yes, "Tortilla Flat" is a Steinbeck book involving drunks whose noble search for alcohol subtly parallels the adventures of King Arthur and the knights of the roundtable. Everyone should read it immediately.

If you ever read "Cannery Row," you no doubt think Steinbeck is an idiot who can't be trusted to describe a turnip without waxing pretentious and making awkward references to Indian religious concepts he doesn't understand. That's a shame; please throw away your copy of that monstrosity, and read "Tortilla Flat" instead.
posted by Polonius at 1:24 PM on February 20, 2005


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