three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
19-Nov-Dec-2005
By: 
T. C. Boyle
user_rating: 
0

A-ToothClawThese 14 short stories generally cover two topics: animals and disaster, and sometimes both. In "Jubilation," New Urban visionaries in Florida come head to head with alligators and bugs. "Up Against a Wall" takes readers into addiction—in this case alcoholism, familiar territory for Boyle. Another story introduces us to a man who wins a giant African wildcat in a bar, with unforeseen results. "Dogology" brings together the story of two girls raised by wolves in India and a Connecticut doctoral student who starts out studying dogs and eventually more or less becomes one. Overall, these stories ruminate on the difficulty of connecting meaningfully with another person.
Viking. 284 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0670034355

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"T.C. Boyle, a virtuoso craftsman, is one of the reasons readers do love short stories, and Tooth and Claw will give devotees of the form much pleasure and an occasional frisson." E. Annie Proulx

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Boyle succeeds in creating a world where scientific determinism plays a part, but the characters go on living as if they had a choice and a chance. That he makes their predicament not just compelling but often exuberantly amusing is a tribute to his talent and proof of John Cheever’s claim that good prose can cure anything, including the common cold." Michael Mewshaw

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"T.C. Boyle could probably spin a riveting story out of the contents of a seed catalog. He is a writer of astonishing range and imagination, fierce intelligence, and trenchant wit. Those gifts are dazzlingly displayed in this collection of 14 short stories, each a fully realized world shot through with perils either natural or man-made." Whitney Gould

Cleveland Plain Dealer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"As in a lot of his work, Boyle toys with surrealism here (could high winds really make an ornithologist fly?), but he never goes too far. And even if the reader doesn’t buy a particular scenario, well, the underlying truth it illustrates is hard to deny." James F. Sweeney

Boston Globe 2.5 of 5 Stars
"There is little doubt he is one of the most inventive writers of our age. If only he felt more for his characters, and flogged the language less on their behalf, he might also be one of our finest." Steve Almond

New York Times 2.5 of 5 Stars
"[A]s accomplished as these stories are, it often seems hardly worth finishing a particular specimen, given that it’s obvious how things will turn out. . . . That said, Boyle provides ample delights—a robust sense of place, crackerjack dialogue, real stories—on the way to his expected endings." Laura Miller

Critical Summary

Boyle—beloved author of The Inner Circle and Drop City—is a masterful prose stylist. This volume showcases his skill, hurling such wonderful phrases as "face that was like a dried-up field plowed in both directions" at the reader. But the reviews of this collection were mixed, suggesting that Boyle is a bit too enamored of his own wordsmithing. A few critics claimed that he was so busy making it rococo and perfect that he failed to develop characters that readers care about. Still, the collection is clever, creative, and inventive in the dialectic it poses between nature and civilization and will engage and even delight all but the most finicky readers.