By Jay Parini
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CORAGHESSAN BOYLE Assuming they are simply harassing one of their friends engaged in a sexual tryst while parked in his car, they find themselves confronting a truly dangerous character. After the narrator nearly kills the stranger with a tire iron, he and his friends set upon the young woman with the intent of raping her. They are driven into the woods by another carload of delinquents and forced into a swamp where the narrator encounters a floating corpse. He survives the encounter and matures considerably, from a would-be murderer and rapist, “dirty, bloody, guilty, dissociated from humanity and civilization” (p.
Boyle’s 2005 story collection, Tooth and Claw, reprises a number of his themes, but concern for the environment remains at the top. One story, “Blinded by the Light,” is set in Argentina as the ozone hole rapidly grows. The narrator is isolated by his own denial that the hole is causing his animals and even his loved ones to go blind. There is little hope for humanity in the face of such denial; the crusading scientists are our only hope. Boyle manages to treat the end of the world humorously in the title story of his 2001 collection After the Plague.
After years of caring for Stanley, O’Kane comes across a brief chronicle of his employer’s illness: “O’Kane felt himself oddly moved. The poor man, he was thinking, the poor man, and he wasn’t thinking only of Mr. McCormick” (p. 374). O’Kane realizes that, just like the man he looks after, he has not developed into a man beneficial to society over the years. Reviled by the women he loves, The tragic counterpart to this happy ending is the story of George Kellogg. Will’s rebellion against the sadistic Dr.
American Writers, Supplement XX by Jay Parini