Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: Stories from Without a Hero by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Without a Hero is a short story collection by T. Coraghessan Boyle, published in 1994. I bought this book five years ago at the annual Planned Parenthood Book Sale. I hadn't read any of the stories until this week, and this was the first time I read anything by this author (more commonly known as T. C. Boyle).


The first story I read was "Big Game." At 22 pages, it was one of the longer stories in the book. It is about a man who has set up a wild animal area near Bakersfield, California, where the rich can pay to shoot exotic animals. The owner, Bernard Puff, buys old or injured animals from zoos and or circuses and allows them to be "hunted" for a fee. The story was hard to read because it was about killing animals and the people who want to kill them, but, ignoring that, it was a good story, and had an unexpected ending.

I also read the next three stories in the book and they were all good reads.


List of stories:

  • "Big Game"
  • "Hopes Rise"
  • "Filthy With Things"
  • "Without A Hero"
  • "Respect"
  • "Acts of God"
  • "Back in the Eocene"
  • "Carnal Knowledge"
  • "The 100 Faces of Death, Volume IV"
  • "56-0"
  • "Top of the Food Chain"
  • "Little America"
  • "Beat"
  • "The Fog Man"
  • "Sitting on Top of the World" 


Of the stories I read, three dealt with the obsessive or excessive acquisition of material things, to a greater or lesser extent. I find that an interesting topic, which is probably why I liked them. The fourth story was about a couple who was very concerned about the extinction of frogs and toads all over the world. 

My first reaction to these stories was that they do not inspire me to read any of T. C. Boyle's  novels, but the more I think about it, the more I think I might try one.  

Have you read his short stories or his novels? And if you have, what did you think of them?



21 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have tried and never make it through his novels. But I know many people who are fans.

George said...

I'm like Patti. I've tried T. Coraghessan Boyle's novels and couldn't make it to the end. I might give Boyle's short stories a try after reading your review.

Margot Kinberg said...

If I'm being honest, Tracy, I've never really been tempted by Boyle. I ought to try something by him, just to be fair and give his work a chance, but I haven't done that yet. I may at some point...

Steve A Oerkfitz said...

I'm a big fan of Boyle. My favorite novels of his are Water Music, East is East, Drop City and The Road to Wellville.

Sam Sattler said...

I've read some of Boyle's short stories but not any of his novels. It's not so much that I dislike the man's writing, though, just more that it does not particularly excite me or make him stand out from the crowd. He has a good literary reputation, making me wonder sometimes what I'm missing.

Rick Robinson said...

No, and that first story, just the premise, makes me want the jerk involved get eaten in a slow painful gruesome way. I’d probably throw the book at the wall. Sorry - I’m angry today (see my blog) so that may have affected my response.

TracyK said...

Patti, That doesn't bode well for my chances of find a novel I will like, but on the other hand I rarely give up on a book once I start it.

I have never been interested in trying any of his novels, but I think that is because until the last few years I read crime fiction / espionage almost exclusively.

TracyK said...

George, of the four stories I read, I thought the writing was good. He does seem to be preaching on various subjects and of them, three had nebulous endings, which always bothers me. But I still am looking forward to reading the remaining stories.

TracyK said...

Margot, there are so many authors to read, none of us can read them all and I am sure you are way ahead of me. But I would love to hear what you think of him if you do try him.

TracyK said...

Steve, I am glad you gave me some suggestions to look into. I have checked them out briefly and notice two things. All of them are a bit longer (400-500 pages) than I like, especially for an untried author. BUT, all of them seem to be historical fiction going back to some interesting times to visit. So, definitely some possibilities there.

TracyK said...

Sam, It surprises me that I haven't tried something by T. C. Boyle over the years, because he is a local author, has lived in Montecito for over twenty five years, so I notice when I see his name anywhere. But, like I said above, mostly I have stuck with genre fiction and if I stray out of that, it is usually to classic novels (by my definition anyway).

TracyK said...

Rick, in that first story, all of the characters are pretty disgusting, with the exception of a teenager who is only smart-aleck and irritating, but has a better excuse for her behavior. I would guess that T. C. Boyle would be against game hunting of any kind, but don't know for sure. Regardless, Boyle doesn't seem to be an author you would care for.

Todd Mason said...

Boyle has annoyed the hell out of me, and not in anything like a good way, since I began reading his short stories in 1978...and that I've read as many as I have, probably a dozen or so over the years since, is a tribute to his being collected or published in fiction magazines that I (otherwise) like...of all those stories, beginning with "Descent of Man" (involving a man worried about losing his romantic womanfriend to a language-experiment gorilla, which for specious reasons he does--writer/critic Joanna Russ in reviewing later noted it was very much a part of "his is bigger than mine" kinds of narratives that were popping up in those years), which he was so proud of he named his next collection for it, I've mildly enjoyed one of them. Snark and preachment have indeed abounded. Harland Ellison once commented that he liked Boyle's work, and I suggested in response that Boyle often read like a clumsy attempt to imitate Ellison, albeit usually in slightly more formal prose.

As you might guess, I've never tried his novels. Hope your experience of his work continues to be better than mine, not least because he does tend to pick interesting topics to address...usually, for me, poorly.

TracyK said...

Todd, now that you mention it, I do remember a comment you made at Patti's blog comparing T. C. Boyle to Harlan Ellison but not as good. Now Ellison, I really need to read something by him. I did when I was younger and I remember enjoying what I read, but can't remember specifics.

Todd Mason said...

Indeed...it's a tribute to my fine typing and the unfortunate distractions yesterday that I typo'd his name as "Harland"...Stories such as "The Deathbird" and "The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore" and collections such as STALKING THE NIGHTMARE are definitely worth seeking out, or finding again.Even some deeply flawed stories, such as "Strange Wine", have passages, such as the opening to that one, which make the effort worthwhile.

TracyK said...

Todd, I knew it was a typo. Although I always have a hard time with his name.

As always, thanks for the additional information, and I will be looking for some Harlan Ellison to read.

CLM said...

I read Boyle's book World's End in manuscript without knowing who wrote it and hated it. However, Nancy Pearl and others I respect are big fans. It may just be that literary fiction is not my thing.

TracyK said...

Constance, I recently read the post (again) that you had written about that book.

Boyle does seem to have fans and then those who dislike his work. Which is normal but more pronounced with him. I haven't ever read much literary fiction. Back when I did read books like that more often, I found that I was frequently very disappointed in the books, that they often seemed to have no point. But I did like these short stories, so who knows?

col2910 said...

Pretty sure I have something by this author on the pile, but can't remember what at the minute. I'll be surprised if I get around to reading it any time soon. Thanks for the reminder.

TracyK said...

I would not mind reading something by him, Col, just to see what I think, but I just bought tons of books at the book sale, so maybe I will cut back on getting more books for a while.

Todd Mason said...

FWIW, he started tagging himself "T. C. Boyle" in the '80s, apparently tiring of the typos in his ridiculous middle name. He spelled it out in the '70s and some '80s publications.