T. CORAGHESSAN BOYLE acknowledges that writing was an unlikely choice of career. He grew up in the Peekskill, N.Y., area, he says, “mainly interested in vandalism, fast cars and drugs.”
But don’t expect a run-of-the-mill reading. “I like to put on a show,” he says with a laugh. “It even becomes a stand-up comedy routine at some junctures.”
Even the prospect of an audience of tweedy academics doesn’t daunt him. “I love that. Love to entertain them. And sometimes they’re in the most need of entertainment.”
He acknowledges that a reading can’t always do justice to a written work, “but there’s a magic to a good reading that’s different from the magic of seeing the words on a page.”
Boyle’s first novel, Water Music, attracted critical attention when it was published in 1982 for its outrageous and funny reinterpretation of the travels of Scottish explorer Mungo Park.
Budding Prospects, from 1984, was the tale of a loser who ends up growing marijuana in California and watching a costly crop succumb to victimization by staff, neighbors and police.
But it was last year’s World’s End that really showed the Boyle stuff as he took on Dutch history, ghosts, cultural conflict, and predestination in the Hudson Valley in a virtuoso job of storytelling.
“I like to be pretty audacious,” he says. “And I like to invent things. The writing classes tell you you should stick with writing about what you know, but I say that’s a lot of malarkey. I write any goddamned thing I want.”
A new novel-in-progress titled East is East is the story of a Japanese man in the state of Georgia, giving Boyle another opportunity to work with the theme of cultural clashes. He points out, however, that the Georgia of the story is to a large part his own creation.
“I spent a couple of weeks in Georgia earlier this year, picking up some of the background I’ll use, but I don’t require much. I’m not trying to write about the state in the way that Harry Crews does: I’m not trying to rewrite the southern novel. I’m inventing my own Georgia.”
And a trip to Japan is in the offing. “I’ve always wanted to this, to travel and write about it. Except for some doubtful reactions from the tax people, it’s pretty nice.”
Boyle’s previous entertainment experience came as a musician in several rock bands. “And I’m a natural ham. I was a drummer at one point. I played saxophone and clarinet. I was a front man for a while and also lead singer.”
Although he grew up in the Peekskill area, Boyle now makes his home in Los Angeles. He spent the summer teaching at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, sharing with students both his insights and irreverence.
“I discovered writing as the result of a graduate course in college,” he says. “The instructor liked what he saw of mine and encouraged me to pursue it. And I’m glad of it, because otherwise I’d probably be a second-rate musician today, burned out by now.”
The reading, which is free and open to the public, is being presented by the New York State Writers Institute.
– Schenectady Daily Gazette, 14 October 1988