Monday, July 27, 2009

Modern Love by T. C. Boyle

"There was no exchange of body fluids on the first date, and that suited both of us just fine."

How's that for an opening line? "Modern Love" is the first story in T.C. Boyle's 1998 collection simply entitled, stories. The book is divided into three sections: Love, Death, And Everything In Between.

In "Modern Love", an unnamed male begins a relationship with a hygienically obsessed editor of Anthropology Today magazine. On the first date she says,

"I usually bring a disposable sanitary sheet for public theaters - just think of who might have been on that seat before you, and how many times, and what sort of nasty festering little cultures of this and that there must be in all those ancient dribbles of taffy and Coke and extra-butter popcorn - but I didn't want you to think I was too extreme or anything on the first date, so I didn't. And then the ladies room ... You don't think I'm overreacting, do you?"

The man really wants to make this relationship work, so he is willing to take things slow and, eventually, even submits to a physical exam and barrage of tests from the woman's personal physician. Of course, this relationship is doomed to fail.

T.C. Boyle is such a readable author. His writing perfectly captures the emotion and motivation of his characters. Boyle, quite simply, gets it right. Stories is one of my purchases from Friday night's library sale, and I know I'll enjoy working my way through this huge collection!

Visit The Book Mine Set to see who else has a short story post today. You can leave a link to one of your own, too.


  1. I wonder the same thing when I go to the movies but I haven't resorted to bringing a sheet for the seat...yet. This sounds like a good one and a very interesting first date. I agree with you about Boyle...he is very good indeed.

  2. That sounds fascinating. I haven't come across Boyle before.

  3. Fabulous opening line! The only Boyle I have read so far is Drop City but I loved it; he is a wonderful writer. I have The Tortilla Curtain and The Inner Circle on the shelf waiting to be read.

  4. BookPsmith - One of my daughter's is especially conscious of germs/diseases, too, but she hasn't resorted to the sheet over the seat either...but I did think of her while I was reading this story ;-)
    I really enjoy Boyle's writing!

    Verity - You should give Boyle a try. Many people say he is best at short stories, but I loved his novel The Tortilla Curtain!

    Paperback Reader - An opening line like that really gets your attention, lol! The Tortilla Curtain was fabulous - one of my favorites last year.

  5. Very interesting. Did you see the David Sedaris story I reviewed a couple weeks back? In it, his sister mentions the movie seat as well, choosing to cover hers with a jacket, I believe.

  6. Not sure if I've read his short stories but I did have The Tortilla Curtain around here once upon a time.I'm a little germ phobic myself but make a conscience effort to ignore the tendency to keep it from becomingg obsessive:)

  7. He's an amazing storyteller, isn't he? Does that collection have "Chicxulub"? If not, I really recommend taking a few moments to read it online. It's one of the best short stories I have ever read.

  8. TC BOYLE-- have you read Tortilla urtain? Love that book --read it twice (something I rarely do).

  9. Now I'm not sure if I can go to the movies again without one of those sheets!!! I haven't read this author but your thoughts have got me interested!

  10. John - I do remember that story! I think Sedaris' sister is a bit of a germophobe, too.

    Bookbabie - If you still have The Tortilla Curtain around, you should give it a try. That was a great book!

    Nymeth - That story isn't in this collection, but I will definitely read it. That's a very strong recommendation - thanks for the link!

    Darlene - That sentence certainly gets attention - LOL!

    Diane - I LOVED The Tortilla Curtain! It was one of my favorite books last year and I have been looking forward to reading more of his novels/stories ever since.

    Staci - I find that it's better not to think about the seats too much! ;-) Boyle is an extraordinary writer that can put a voice/face to so many contemporary issues. I recommend trying a few stories just to get a sampling.


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