Author Interview with T.C. Boyle

Is there an underlying theme that makes your body of work particularly relevant to the Community and All Campus Reads audiences?  

Author T.C. Boyle

As an artist, you don’t know what your themes and concerns are when you begin your career, but you follow them, just as you follow—and are part and parcel of—Jung’s universal unconscious. Art is magic.

That said, I can look back and see that right from the beginning my principal concerns have been biological and environmental (my first book, a collection of stories, is called Descent of Man, after all). On the surface, The Tortilla Curtain, may be about illegal immigration from Mexico, but the subtext explores our species’ impact on the environment. And, of course, in 2000, I published A Friend of the Earth, which deals with global warming and the ethics of ecotage.  

There are many, many more examples in my novels and stories, but I leave that exploration to the readers. Finally, to answer your question specifically, what could be more relevant than the future of our existence as a species?

T.C. Boyle's The TerranautsHow does The Terranauts relate to college freshman and campus communities with whom reality television and social media are normal, everyday influences?

Again, art is always relevant because it shoots a flaming arrow right into your soul.  In the case of The Terranauts, we have a committed private group (cult?) trying to find an alternative to environmental collapse. Of course, this is elitist and exclusive, and the novel’s wicked undertow should provide a comment on it.  

Freshmen, rally!  This is your world now and The Terranauts (or the Biosphere II experiment on which the novel is based) is an attempt to address the environmental degradation that is threatening us with extinction in the near future.  Further, this is a very, very sexy book. Four men, four women, locked inside for two full years.  Whatever are they going to do in there?

Art is always relevant because it shoots a flaming arrow right into your soul.

Would you share some notable experiences you’ve had at the literary events?

Wow. Staggering question. I could list at least 10,000. There is no joy equal to performing for an audience (and this is what I do, becoming an actor and acting out my stories). Example: performing my story, “Chicxulub,” a grindingly horrifying story about the apparent death of a teenage girl, to a huge audience at an Arts & Lectures event in Seattle and the next day to a very small one in Miami. The thrill of the large audience? There is a point in this story that is so horrifying that no one moves or breathes, twelve hundred people too riveted even to cough or sneeze or moan or wheeze. What power!  And the small audience?  Fifty people in a bookstore.  Lights down, very intimate.  One third of the way into the story, one of the women in the audience began to sob.  And she sobbed throughout because the story had happened to her, in real life, the life we live outside of the page and our own cloistered brains, and there was no hope and no consolation for her.  What power!

P.S.  My chief object in life is to give love and receive it in turn.  See how it works?

T.C. Boyle, courtesy of The New York Times

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