T.C. Boyle at UEA’s literature festival

T. C. Boyle, author of 23 novels, returned to UEA after his last visit in 1993. At the beginning of the evening, Boyle apologised for his appearance saying, “usually I’m an elegant professor; I blame this look on my Ryanair flight today”.

Despite his rather sarcastic tone, he greatly emphasised the importance of deep research when writing. The Chanel Islands off the coast of California formed the basis for his novel When the Killing’s Done, where true events, such as an animal activist who was highly against the idea of killing the diseased rats infecting the islands, took place. Despite the rats eradicating the bird population, the activist chose to liberate the rats, destroying the birds as a consequence.

When referring to the issues attacking our earth today, Boyle says “There is nothing better for fiction than misery”. Boyle follows this theme in his novel, A Friend of the Earth, where he highlights the commotion we have caused to our precious planet. Similarly, in Drop City he highlights the urgency to slow down our consumption of these resources.

He asks “Can we escape these conditions?”, “Can we control the environment?”, “Are we all doomed?”. His fiction provokes us to answer these questions for ourselves. Indeed, Boyle was eager to recite his short story, The Lie. His highly descriptive style was a first person narrative asking us to think about the way we handle our mistakes and how we often hurt or exploit others.

Boyle certainly has no interest in transforming his books into films, explaining that he wishes only for his fiction to live within our imaginations. That said, many a student have interpreted his works on film, and The Lie has been transformed into a fiction film.

After a successful interview and reading, Boyle was asked by a member of the audience “how novelists deal with lack of hope?”, so which he replied, “art, creativity, music. How does any human being deal with the absence of hope?”.


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January 2022
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