Saturday, February 27, 2010

T.C. Boyle

In his story, “Chixulub,” Boyle presents a fascinating dual narrative, one in which the world ends for the all humanity and another in which a couple’s child is killed in a car wreck. Aside from the narrative aspects of this story, what I find fascinating is in how they are related. Of course there is the idea that your children are your world and their death is the metaphoric death of you, yet I think that there is some further underlying criticism of our modern America in this story.
James Kunstler, in a speech a few years ago, said that the reason that you don’t see windows on the sides of houses in our modern subdivisions is because we don’t want to see each other. I think that this is the point of this story. I feel very lucky to live where I do, where I know my neighbors and in fact almost everyone on my street. A few weeks ago, I was in the back yard of a friend’s house sitting around a fire having a beer. This friend, Shawn, got married in December and he and his wife moved into a nice two-story place in a newer subdivision just outside of town. I was telling him about Mary, the crazy cat-lady that lived across the street from me who’s recently announced that her two furball dogs are going to have puppies. As we were speaking, he asked me a disturbing question: “Do you know your neighbors?” I told him that I do and asked him the same question in return. He said that he didn’t even know the name of the couple living across the street and that he’d only had a couple of casual encounters with the family next door (the lot on the other side of his house is an overgrown field with nothing built on it yet).
This is what this story feels like to me. The loss of a child once affected entire communities because of the bond between the families within them. Today, we only think about ourselves; we don’t want to know our neighbors.

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