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T. C. Boyle
T. C. Boyle Stories II
Viking / Penguin Putnam
US Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-0-670-02625-8
Publication Date: 10-03-2013
918 Pages; $45
Date Reviewed: 12-27-2013
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2013

Index:  General Fiction  Fantasty

'T. C. Boyle Stories II' includes three previous collections of stories; 'After the Plague,' 'Tooth and Claw' and 'Wild Child,' plus one new collection of stories 'A Death in Kitchawank.' It's an interesting proposition for the prospective buyer. By any measure, 58 stories by T. C. Boyle are a great thing.

In one large volume like this, it's perfect bed stand reading, even if you already own copies of the previous works. Boyle's stories are entertainingly re-readable. At $45, it's going to set you back about the cost of two hardcovers, and you're getting the content of one new set of stories. The new stories have all the virtues of the old ones, and look in some new and very interesting directions. Pulling it all together is an equally entertaining and informative Preface by the author.

The math works out to "Buy one new; get three old for the price of one." It's sort of like a grocery store special for high literature, and one's inclination to spend the money is likely to be directly proportional to the number of the previous collections that are already in your collection. Completists will certainly want one, and if you've never read Boyle' stories, this is a great place to start.

Math aside, the writing is what matters. The three previous collections have aged well, with Boyle even showing a bit of prescience now and again. Go back for "Peep Hall," a 1999 tale about privacy and the Internet that still chills and cuts close to the bone. "Wild Child" even offers readers a nicely turned historical novella amidst the sea of stories. Just the three collections, in one well-produced volume, would be a treat.

Boyle's new work, here called "Part IV: A Death in Kitchawank," is in top form, from his preface through the final new story, "Birnam Wood," where we see life — and an offhand comment — take their toll on a couple. "Sic Transit" takes readers behind the overgrown hedges of the derelict-seeming, but still-inhabited house that you can find in every neighborhood. "Los Gigantes" is Boyle in his tall tales mode, a fantasy about a dictator creating an army of giants. On the other end of the scale, you find Riley, the technophobic recipient of "The Marlbane Manchester Musser Award." Life, in all its variety, real and imagined, runs riot here. The Preface, given that it is written by Boyle, is of a piece with the rest of what you find; funny, insightful, thought-provoking and slightly odd.

'T. C. Boyle Stories II' is not a book to be read from cover to cover. Boyle's aficionados are advised to give even the new work a measured reading, while novices should feel free to start anywhere. At one story per week, you have more than a year's worth of reading, which is an outstanding bargain. There's a lot of great reading in here. For those who prefer to listen rather than read, the new stories are available on their own as an audiobook. As a book lover, I'd be happy to see someone like Subterranean Press take a shot at a limited edition of the new work. That said, the only reasonable conclusion is that 'T. C. Boyle Stories II' is an all-around winner for anyone fortunate enough to find it close to hand, and well worth any effort to make that happen.

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