The writer returns with ‘Los Terranautas’, another of his hilarious novels, this time, about a peculiar confinement
Between 1987 and 1991 another Earth was built in the desert of Arizona. Actually, it wasn’t exactly another Earth, but it was trying to look like it. If our planet was dying, couldn’t we, as in a story by Ray Bradbury, move to another? There was, in that biosphere, the so-called Biosphere 2 —today, a handful of ruins that can be visited—, a miniature ocean, with its waves and its marine species; a jungle; a mangrove; arable land and even an office area. The idea was that eight human beings, and another handful of species – this was a little Noah’s Ark, even mosquitoes were invited – would inhabit it for two years. The thing did not end completely well, and not only because the oxygen levels got out of control but because is the human being prepared for any type of confinement? Here is the actual starting point of The Terranauts (Impedimenta), the last literary vaudeville of Thomas Coraghessan Boyle, or TC Boyle, (New York, 71 years old), the most classic and outrageously funny of postmodern writers.
“Can I put that on a shirt?” He asks. It is the morning, and her house in Santa Barbara, the first designed in California by Frank Lloyd Wright, an architect to whom she also dedicated a delusional novel, in her case, about her unfortunate marriages – it is entitled,. Women– is surrounded by fog. “Fortunately,” she assures. “All of California is burning this little part less. If the wind blew a bit, this would burn in seconds. The whole house is made of red wood, ”he explains. She wears a leather jacket and a cap without a visor. Drink from a blue bowl. She says that she loves to be compared to Charles Dickens – because of the detailed detail with which she constructs the unfortunate lives of her characters, always traversed by hilariously absurd suffering – but that what she would like is to be able to be like Dickens on stage. “I went around the world reading her works! It was both the Rolling Stones and Fellini! It filled auditoriums! Today I have too much competition, “he says.
In his novels, including The Terranauts, the protagonists fulfill their dreams, and in a ridiculous reverse of the hackneyed American dream, they hate having achieved it. Or, better yet, there is no use for them having done it. “I stopped going to church at 12 years old. One day I told my mother that it didn’t make sense to me, and she told me that I didn’t have to believe if I didn’t want to. Five years later, in college, I fell into the networks of existentialists, and I’ve been miserable ever since. What to do with that anguish? Writing is my way of escaping that none of this makes sense, and if nothing does, why do we insist on giving it to them? ”, She assures. Hence, its characters are always at war with themselves and everything that surrounds them, and that they are often carried away by false gurus – as in Battle Creek Spa– they don’t even know what they’re doing. “I keep thinking that we are just animals that believe otherwise,” he confesses. “We have the same free will as a bird,” he adds.
His characters Ramsay, Dawn and Linda, narrate in the first person – “that was an experiment, to get even closer to them and see the different versions of the same event that can occur,” he explains – the story of the tortuous confinement in The Terranauts, and are carried away by instinct. In fact, in Boyle’s novels, the torments of his characters always have to do with sex, food, or the desire to obtain a certain kind of unattainable glory. “It’s something that haunts me. I consider myself an environmental writer. And someone who has assumed that we are animals and cannot decide our destiny. That is the central theme of everything I do. Explore over and over our animal condition. In a certain sense we are programmed so that nothing is as we expect ”, he says. “Evolution does not progress as it seems, it is something purely accidental. The human being has more consciousness than he can bear. That is why there is art, and drugs and alcohol. Because we need to get rid of that weight ”, he adds.
A student of John Cheever and John Irving in the mythical writing workshop of the University Iowa, and a friend of Raymond Carver, Boyle was clear from the beginning that realism was not his thing. If everything he does seems like a cross between anything that Donald Barthelme, Thomas Pynchon or Robert Coover could have written and the aforementioned Charles Dickens, it is because he was reading the former while completing his thesis on 19th century English literature. “I have a knack for goofy comedy,” he admits, and shrugs in amusement.
Do you think the United States has overcome the more or less cynical realism that was imposed after the experimental detour of the 1960s and 1970s? “I believe that today there is no type of literary aesthetic school in the United States. Everybody writes what they want, and it’s good that it should finally be so, ”he says. “Why should the writer refuse, to join a group, to use everything that is within his reach?” For him, writing, he has already said, is “like daydreaming,” he says. And who would want to daydream and not have fun? “Is not that. It’s that I like to laugh at horrible things, it’s a way to get them out of my way, “he concludes.