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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Come to the Harder They Come

Author Alert Dept.: As I noted in this earlier post, novelist T.C. Boyle will be reading from his new novel Friday morning (April 24) at Troy’s Hudson Valley Community College. Details – and an interview – are below.


“IT’S ABOUT A TOPIC that has stirred me, and I presume most of your readers, through a long, long while: American gun violence. What is this all about? How can it be? So I wrote this novel to try to find out.”

T.C. Boyle | Photo by Jamieson Fry
T.C. Boyle’s fifteenth novel, The Harder They Come, opens with an unexpectedly violent event as 70-year-old retired ex-Marine Sten Stenson, with a group of vacationing oldsters in Costa Rica, confronts a trio of robbery-bent thugs. The novel follows the consequences – emotional as well as incidental – through the eyes of Sten, his troubled son Adam, and Sara, a 40-year-old farrier who too-fervently clings to a philosophy of contempt for the U.S. government.

Boyle will be reading from the novel in his own unique way at 11 AM Friday (tomorrow) at Hudson Valley Community College’s Bulmer Center Auditorium. 

“I love to perform,” he says, speaking earlier this week from a book-tour stop in Miami. “I love to turn people on, especially young men, who don’t necessarily know the joys of literature, because for them it’s only some horrible thing they have to read for the dreaded term paper in class.

“All art, at root, is entertainment. That doesn’t mean that it’s demeaning or has to talk down to the audience. Especially because serious literature is so much now part of academia that the average person shies away from it and thinks it’s some kind of burden that has to be borne – let’s go to a reading and suffer tonight. That’s not the way it should be. It should be a performance. It should be like theater. It should remind people why we like stories to begin with.”

Boyle’s novels and stories have explored an impressive variety of topics and viewpoints, ranging through the history and geography of this country but always exploring the question of what it means to be American.

“As this book developed, I began to wonder: What about this streak of anti-authoritarianism? It’s essential to us to be skeptical of authority, to think for yourself, but where does that coincide with building a democracy, with building a society where we can respect each other’s opinions – to work problems out rather than simply follow the old frontier mentality, where it’s just kill or be killed, eat or be eaten.”

Of the trio who drive the narrative of The Harder They Come, he notes, “Although they hold views and do things that are probably a little difficult for most readers to imagine, you still should have sympathy for them, because you see the world through their points of view.

“With Adam, I’m working from an actual story, a fifty-page police report and a bunch of press reports about the actual incident, so I’m using a bunch of those details to help create this character.”

When we meet Sara, she’s stopped for not wearing a seatbelt, an event that quickly escalates when she refuses to show her ID. “There is such a disparity between her views as a ‘Sovereign Citizen’ and the views of us other citizens ... I like to say that tax day has just passed and I know everybody who reads this enjoys paying their taxes, just as you and I do. On the other hand, if we didn’t we wouldn’t have a society.”

The reading is free and open to the public.

Metroland Magazine, 23 April 2015

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