‘When the Killing’s Done’ by T. C. Boyle
Monday, November 21, 2011 at Mulligan’s
The recent Apes meeting featured discussion ranging from Boyle’s narrative style merged seamlessly with gluteal conformation and the vocabulary that has inspired. Regarding the former, the 7 Apes on site, and at least 1 in IL, generally agreed that TCB’s latest novel was overall entertaining, provided historical perspective on the CA channel islands, illustrated the paradoxes and dangers of human zealotry, and was perhaps overly driven by multiple calamitous events. Yet some of the vignettes were high points of the novel. Great Apes agreed that TCB still has considerable prowess as a writer who can keep the readers in the boat.
One of the interesting juxtapositions in the story was the contrast between the happy free-ranging lives the protagonists wished for their species of interest vs. the constrictions in love, understanding, and happiness they felt in their inner/personal lives…..these perhaps being the risks of zealotry? (and maybe to some degree of passion?) While it was recognized that the primate group had read perhaps enough Boyle during its lifetime, such that this will likely be the last, nevertheless, the characters, events, and human actions and contradictions fueled considerable discussion.
Some of the critical commentary centered on the degree to which the characters lacked sufficient authenticity to convince discerning Ape readers to care about or believe their lives and actions. In particular animal liberator and appliance magnate Dave LaJoy failed in this respect. Likewise, aspects of Alma were at times hard to reconcile as real, e.g. her relationship with the fleeting eco-adventurer father of her child, her victory lap around the island after the disaster during the LaJoy party assault on the cliff. Anise presented believability issues as well. But the Apes did enjoy and TCB’s quirky sense of humor, such as the inclusion of the suburban reporter in the raccoon and snake seeding foray. Of course Boyle might plausibly argue that humans are nothing if not emotionally illogical and dominated, thus these characters are not as cartoonish as we might think.
Another point of discussion was the frequency of foreshadowed calamity used to fuel the plot and keep the reader in the kayak. However, some of these vignettes were imaginative and very well done, e.g. the events in the opening chapter leading to Beverly’s arrival to the island. All agreed, however, that some episodes seemed without point or connection to the story line, e.g. the boorish 30-somthing drunken dickhead piloting the boat and abusing all present—causing question as to the attentiveness of the modern editor of a successful writer. But the book’s dedication, quoting Thoreau, was well chosen given its story.
Some final discussion referenced Boyle’s brilliant early works and his evolution to the present. Over such long and uneven terrain it was acknowledged that Boyle, while having less of his early distilled Steinbeckian impact, still has some chops as a writer of fiction.
From here the logical concluding remarks, as one might expect, focused on masturbation, and the descriptors calipicious (spelling still unclear to this writer) and zaftig. Thus closed a meeting marked by many points of discussion contributed by all Apes.