Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Talk, Talk the Peggy Lee of novels

73. Talk, Talk, T.C. Boyle. Fiction, 7-31, p. 340

T.C. Boyle’s Talk, Talk is the Peggy Lee of novels – it leaves you asking, “Is that all there is?”

It’s the ending that’s disappointing, especially because Boyle’s takes the reader on a stomach-churning ride of anxiety and anger in the first couple of hundred pages. The opening, when the novel’s protagonist, Dana Halter, is hauled to jail, is particularly squirm inducing. It is Boyle’s skill at enlisting our identification with and sympathy for Dana, who is deaf, that makes his finish feel so incomplete. Cast in today’s psychobabble: There’s resolution, but not closure.

Dana is the victim of an especially pernicious form of identity theft that includes the theft of her “base identifiers.” In effect, the thief has adopted her identity as his own. An outraged Dana and her boyfriend, Bridger, track down the thief, following him as he flees from California to New York. The thief, whose real name is Peck Wilson, is off-the-charts disgusting. A former restaurateur, he’s smooth and smart and displays genuinely good taste in food, clothes and cars. He also exudes a sense of entitlement and has very real anger management issues.

Dana and Bridger ultimately confront the wayward Peck outside his mother’s home in upstate New York. Bridger winds up hospitalized, while Peck – incensed by this violation of his privacy (I said he had an air of entitlement) – stalks Dana, determined to exact his revenge, setting up a final confrontation.

But the conclusion, which the reader has been anticipating since the early pages of the novel, is flat and unsatisfying. Boyle mails this one in. I know that he can do better (see Drop City). After I’d put down the book, I wanted to call in Carl Hiaasen to wrap this one up. No one – absolutely no one – punishes their bad guys in a more satisfying manner than Hiaasen. And to this reader, that’s what was needed here. Someone needed to put a hurting on this creep.

1 comment:

  1. I tagged you to make a book list like the one at my blog. Peace.