Free Press Journal

The relive box and other stories by TC Boyle: Review


Title: The Relive Box and other stories

Author: T.C. Boyle

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Price: Rs 599

Pages: 272

Coraghessan Boyle is the New York Times bestselling author of sixteen novels and ten collections of short stories. His work has been translated into 25 languages. So here you are about to read short stories by a well-established American author.

In this collection, he gives us very contemporary twelve American stories which explain the dilemma of middle class American societies. He describes American weather very precisely and the predicament of their characters who are stuck between misery of middle class life and fury of nature. He also gives insight of middle class American minds about how they perceive the various issues and how they react.

As a Indian or Asian it is interesting to know what an ordinary Joe thinks about us. So from this perspective, the two stories She’s the Bomb and Warrior Jesus are very interesting. In first, a graduating girl student tries to push the system to camouflage her inabilities in name of terror. Sufficient to say entire project turned into tragedy. T.C. Boyle here ruthlessly examines the education system and how students failed to adept that system.

In more adventurous Warrior Jesus, author deals with personal trauma of terror and how the subject deals with it through comic Art. In this story, main character’s girlfriend’s name is Asia, who’s always trying to make him use politically correct words. And here Asia got white turban boyfriend. But essentially this is story about how ordinary American middle class reacts to international terror events through comic Art and how that attempt backfires.

As a author T.C. Boyle accomplished very interesting Triumph by these stories. In other story called The Designee he took us in world of Nigerian scams. He portrayed a very vulnerable American retiree who after death of his spouse was stuck by loneliness and how that loneliness became incurable. Basically, Boyle deals with the classic fight between an individual person and the ruthless system. And this comes out very well in last story of collection called the fugitive.

Marciano is 23 years old boy who’s trying to fend himself.

But one day he discovered that he is suffering from MDR tuberculosis. He is advised by nurse to Wear mask all the time and not to go in public places. But as a young boy he visited bar and with help of CCTV camera health system turns against him. He doesn’t want to confine himself to four walls and he is so poor that he cannot survive without work. But safety of community is Paramount and rules are against him. He tried twice to survive outside system but omnipresent system again catches him and puts him behind the bars. Here Boyle juxtaposed two important values namely safety of community and individual freedom.

In American value system individual freedom is very important, but when safety of community is at stake they do not hesitate to crush the individual with all might of the system. Tragedy is that Americans never realized that now superbug is far more dangerous than person who is infected by it. They refused to accept that their victory against deadly diseases is now no more relevant and they need more human approach to deal with personal tragedies caused by deadly diseases. In the name of community safety you cannot rob personal freedom of poor vulnerable immigrants. As a society, they should evolve and adopt more human approach. If that happen I will be happier than T.C. Boyle.

So to understand American ground realities this story collection is essential reading. I tried to give outlines of three stories which I liked most, but rest of stories are equally good.