Monday, August 10, 2009

Chicxulub by T.C. Boyle

T.C. Boyle continues to fascinate me. I'd been slowly reading his collection, simply entitled stories, when Nymeth brought "Chicxulub" to my attention. It's not included in the collection, so I was very happy she also supplied this link to the New Yorker, where it appeared in 2004.

Boyle has me from the first sentence with this one:

My daughter is walking along the roadside late at night - too late, really, for a seventeen-year-old to be out alone, even in a town as safe as this - and it is raining, the first rain of the season, the streets slick with a fine immiscible glaze of water and petrochemicals, so that even a driver in full possession of her faculties, a driver who hadn't consumed two apple Martinis and three glasses of Hitching Post pinot noir before she got behind the wheel of her car, would have trouble keeping the thing out of the gutters and the shrubbery, off the sidewalk and the highway median, for Christ's sake. . . . But, that's not really what I want to talk about, or not yet, anyway.

There is an instant understanding here. I have three teenage daughters. I live in a safe small town. My daughters could be out walking too late at night...I don't want to continue reading this story! I think I know where it's heading.

But, Boyle is masterful. I can't stop. The story line above shifts back and forth with the narrator's musing about meteors - the Tunguska in Russia one hundred years ago, and Chicxulub on the Yucatan Peninsula some sixty five million years ago.

"Chicxulub" is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful short stories I've ever read. The story is gripping, but it doesn't end the way you would expect. I'm sorry I can't give much more of a summary - this is a story you need to experience for yourself. Boyle includes a sentence near the end that perfectly ties the two aspects of the story together. It made me pause and shake my head in admiration.

Thank you so much, Nymeth, for leading me to this story. It's one I doubt I'll forget!
John, our host from The Book Mine Set, is on vacation. If you've written a post for Short Story Monday, please leave your link in the comments so I can visit you!
(photo from the NY Times)


  1. Ooh, I had this downloaded anyway but you have spurred me onto reading it later tonight! Thanks for the review, JoAnn; I imagine you will be seeking out even more TC Boyle now? I loved his writing and depth of observation in Drop City.

  2. Can't wait to hear what you think, Claire! I just love Boyle, but keep hearing I'll be disappointed in any novel after The Tortilla Curtain (which I loved). Sounds like Drop City may be a good choice?

  3. I loved Drop City and I think you could potentially love it too. It's not so much plot-driven but atmospheric, compelling, and the writing is amazing.

  4. T. C. Boyle is a great author. I really enjoy the short story posts, I read and enjoy short stories but never remember that I could post about them. :P

  5. You're most welcome,JoAnn! I'm so glad you loved it too. It's also one of the most powerful stories I have ever read.

  6. I'm not familiar with this author at all but your review sounds gripping. It's so hard not to write about the endings isn't it.

  7. So now I'm going to have to read this one!! Sounds great. Thanks for including that first paragraph because I'm drawn into the story now!!

  8. Paperback Reader - I'll start looking for Drop City now!

    Icedream - Glad you like the short story posts. I just started reading them again last spring and have been loving them! T.C Boyle is amazing.

    Nymeth - I just loved it, but know I wouldn't have found it without your recommendation - thanks!!

    Darlene - The story is only 5 or 6 pages long if you ever want to sample his writing. Just couldn't give away the ending with this one - lol!

    Staci - Be sure to let me know what you think!

  9. How did I miss this review before? I'm only now getting to it thanks to your end of year recap. I'm definitely bookmarking the story. It sounds terrific.

  10. John - T.C. Boyle is fast becoming one of my favorites. This story was just amazing - enjoy! Maybe you were away on vacation when I posted this last summer?

  11. One of the best short stories I've ever, ever read. The way Boyle weaves the interlocking pieces into place for a killer ending is nothing short of masterful.


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