T.C. Boyle's World's End

By Jason Wojciechowski on July 29, 2003 at 4:46 PM

World's End has one of those kooky, time-hopping plots where we follows the stories of a few families in upstate New York in a number of different periods and wonder at their similarities. It isn't as hokie as it might be; in fact, I really liked it. I think I used to have some kind of prejudice against obvious devices, whether plot or structure or anything else. I've started to fight back against that prejudice, though, realizing that even if a device is obvious, if it works and the storyteller can still get his/her story and point across, then who cares?

I found myself enjoying the parts of the book focusing on Jeremias Van Brunt in the early days of America more than any other. He had some of the bitterness and anger that the more modern characters had, but his seemed somehow more justified and his reactions to the things that angered him were more satisfying.

I couldn't really tell you what the book is about. Maybe it's mostly about class struggle, since that is the fight that shows up the most, and the motivation of the protagonist is to find a father who disappeared after a Communist-party rally.

I think Boyle is, more than anything, an excellent story teller. I say the same about Stephen King sometimes, so perhaps those who don't appreciate King's work might take that as a slight toward Boyle, but it isn't meant that way. Boyle is not only an excellent story teller, but I think that's one of the things that makes his writing so compelling. There doesn't have to be a grand theme, a theory of the universe, or a message to take away. The story is so enjoyable that anything from the above list that you can glean is icing.

I've moved on to Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay and I'm enjoying it greatly thus far. I think I connect a little with Sammy Klayman (Clay) a little more than with Josef Kavalier, but I think that's the point: we all do. Kavalier is really something out of a comic book.
Immensely talented, charismatic, and on a noble quest. Sammy is basically a schlub, his writing talent aside; he's even less than the usual sidekick, less than a Robin-type character, who is often heroic, talented, and on a quest himself, though less so than the protagonist. Sammy is no hero, has a questionable talent, and has as his quest to make lots of money. He's more than a regular guy, but he's not so much more that we can't see a lot of ourselves in him, and realize that we can aspire to conquer the world (and succeed!) just as he does.