Greasy Lake

Critical reception

Greasy Lake and Other Stories was first published in 1985.

The main characters in the stories are, according to Larry McCaffery, "typically lusty, exuberant dreamers whose wildly inflated ambitions lead them into a series of hilarious, often disastrous adventures." [22] Though most stories are set in twentieth century America, some are set in other parts of the world. "Beggar of Sivani-Hoota" is set in India in "the remote Decan state of Sivani-Hoota," and "The Overcoat II", a reworking of Gogol’s classic short story, is set in the Soviet Union before the fall of communism.

In stories set in America, life is depicted as "a roller coaster ride, filled with peaks of exhilaration and excited but also fraught with hidden dangers and potential embarrassments." [22] The story "Greasy Lake", whose title and epigraph are borrowed from Bruce Springsteen, tells the story of a group of wannabe “bad” kids who come to the lake hoping to "smoke pot, howl at the stars, and savor the incongruous full-throated roar of rock and roll" but find themselves facing a vicious thug who drives the main character into the murky lake where he has a "grizzly encounter with the corpse of dead biker and is forced to endure the whomp-whomp sounds of his family’s station wagon being demolished." [22] In "The New Moon Party", a presidential candidate promises to replace the old moon with a glittering new moon. He is successful in capturing the imagination of the country, restoring the average working man’s faith and progress, giving America a cause to stand up and shout about but only to see his new moon “blamed for everything from causing rain in the Atacama to fomenting a new baby boom, corrupting morals, bestializing mankind, and finally to see the moon obliterated by a nuclear thunderbolt a month after the new president takes office.” [22]

In "The New Moon Party" the narrator describes his dull aides as “a bunch of young Turks and electoral strong-arm men who wielded briefcase like swords and had political ambitions akin to Genghis Khan’s.” [22] "The Overcoat II" uses a capitalist lens to describe life in the Soviet Union. The image of the nawab’s household in "Beggar Master" of Sivani-Hoota has undertones of Orientalism.

According to The New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani, T.C. Boyle has "a limitless capacity for invention and a gift for nimble, hyperventilated prose to delineate his heightened vision of the world." [23] Kakutani continues, “Though the tales share the author’s distinctly manic voice, a voice, pitched just this side of hysteria, they remain remarkably eclectic in form, disparate in subject matter – a testament to both Mr. Boyle’s range as a storyteller and to the reach of his ambition.” [23]


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